SERRL Chilham 123

Well, after a bit of a result the previous week it was time for me to test myself out against the ‘big boys’ – or rather first and second category riders.  I’d already had SteveS and AndyC whittling on about this race and this had rubbed off on me a little and I was actually a little nervous.

Conclusion

My goal really was to just finish.  And, to cut a long story short, that’s what I did.  Unfortunately, however, only two thirds of the way through the race.  Naturally this was pretty disappointing but there were two really big positives to come out of the race

  • I think I finally ‘get’ racing.  Despite the less than mediocre result something in my head finally clicked.  The last couple of seasons have ended with me being a bit unsure about my ambitions for the following year.  As a consequence I’ve ended up having half-hearted attempts at racing and 90% efforts at the Marmotte.  Next year will be different.  Racing really is the pinnacle of cycling and, nice though it is to rock up to Sportives and kick a little ass, this is rather easier and less satisfying than doing the same at a race.
  • In addition to, and partly as a consequence of I suspect, my epiphany was the brilliant performance of my team-mates who all did the jersey rather more justice than I did.  ReubenE did a sterling job supporting the team, AndyC rode to a frankly amazing 5th, SteveS a brilliant 8th and PaulS a sterling 15th.  Martin Brundell would have said that this was a ‘stellar performance’. 

 

The Actual Race

In a slight break with convention I was partnered by PaulS for the journey down.  Naturally I couldn’t get the phrase ‘twice your age’ in every 10 minutes or so but the experience was only slightly diminished by this fact.  One thing I definitely got right was my new trainer purchase; bright yellow with blue trim Onituska Tigers.

The weather looked pretty shit but I was reluctant to make any judgements; the previous couple of week’s I’d moaned like hell and it had turned out OK.  We were nice and early and the arrived at the 3* village hall in Godmersham.  In another slight departure from the norm there were actually team vans; not least the Orbea ForGoodness Shakes team.  This new level of professionalism should have made me think about a nice, conservative ride.

That’s pretty much as it started.  I expected to be on the rivet from the off but actually the ride was pretty comfortable.  In contrast to the other SERRL races I’ve done this year I actually disliked the course.  Firstly the roads were a bit busier than usual and more, well, ‘major’.  Second there was a long, steep descent which, in the dry would have been fine, but in the wet pushed me well outside of my comfort zone.  Third the lap was relatively long at about 20km or so.

I was comfortable going up the climbs and only struggled on the downhill having to really push when it evened out to recapture the places I’d lost as I gingerly (no offence) made my way down.  I suspect I had too much pressure in my back tyre as, even when the road levelled out a little, I could still feel my back wheel dancing and skidding beneath me.  Terrifying.

This went on for an hour or so I guess before my pecker started to go up.  I was still feeling very good and comfortable with the pace and decided that perhaps life in the peloton was not for me.  I enjoyed periodically checking that SteveS still wasn’t enjoying himself which was the main thing and made my way to the front of the bunch.

All I can now remember (time has passed) is that I seemed to be involved in break after break.  Or chasing another break.  Killing myself.  Wondering what happened to the simple formula of peloton and breakaway.  And riding this race like I do the third and fourth cat races.  For nothing.

Like a little puppy in attitude.  But, alas, my body is still that of a mediocre 39 year old cyclist.  And, an analogy I’ll borrow from PaulC, riding is like eating a cake.  Each time you dig deep you have another bit of the cake.  And eventually that cake runs out.  And if it runs out before the end of the race well that’s just tough titty.

The onset of fatigue was swift.  I looked down at my computer and realised that 2 hours was up and I had only managed 1 gel for the whole of the ride.  Not enough I think.  The energy slowly ebbed from my body and I decided to call it a day on the big climb and the bunch drifted away.  Luckily it was only about 15km back to the start!  Still, it was nice to have some time to think about my failure and to heartily thank the marshalls with a big smile.

I did finally get back, met up with ReubenE, got changed and had a Diet Coke and some banter.  Unfortunately my t-shirt of choice was the ‘shut up legs’ one.  Oh, the irony.  More like ‘oooh, my legs hurt, I’m going to stop, ooh, it hurts’.

On the plus side I got a ringside seat for the last lap or so.  Seeing AndyC kicking arse at the front of the breakaway on the last lap was an inspiration and as the peloton came through both SteveS and PaulS were looking great.

Rubes and I drove up to the finish line.  One of the Orbea Shakes guys came over first with a huge gap (insert own jokes here) followed by a couple more riders.  Then delight; AndyC in 5th.  Then more delight SteveS in 8th.  And again as PaulS came in in 15th.  Any small amount of envy I might have had vastly overshadowed by the respect for such great rides.

Another Conclusion

That’s it.  Should have eaten more and should not have ridden beyond my ability.  I think I could have stuck it out in the bunch.  It’s so hard to resist chasing away when you feel good.  Inspirational ride by the others and oddly a dubious result for me has left me more motivated than ever.

SERRL Kenardington 15 Aug 2010

 

My third road race of the year – and third ever for that matter.  The other two went really well and I scored 5th and 2nd places overall.  After an indifferent – at best – run in circuit races there was a little bit of pressure to a) score a couple of points and b) prove the other outings weren’t flukes.

Outset

No doubt about it; the SERRL races are fantastically well organised and run.  Support vehicles, motorbike outriders, rolling road closure – the cycling peasants can briefly ride like kings.

So I line up with 59 or so other riders who are variously better trained, in better shape, have better genetics and physiology, aren’t pushing 40 and have more time to train.  You get the idea.  Getting a result is somewhat against the odds.

I promised myself I would not repeat the mistakes of yesterweek and respond to and try and get in to every break.  If I was going to do something it would be in the last 10km – the last thing I wanted was a repeat of last week which was a severe arse-kicking at the start of the race with nothing to show for it at the end.

First Half

Four other Bigfoot riders were also at the race; DaveM, ReubenE, PaulS and recently crowned 2nd Cat veteran SteveS.  Steve got in an early break whilst I was quite content to stick in the peloton and generally chill,  barely getting a workout.  One of the cruel travesties of cycling is that riding in the bunch is largely un-taxing at this level, but getting and staying away is very hard work indeed.  There are no prizes for doing something in-between these two extremes.

I was finding time for regular doses of “humour” directed at my teammates.  Average HR for the first half 155bpm.  Tempo at best.

Second Half

This all stopped abruptly when I ended up off the front of the bunch.  I can’t remember what precipitated this madness – it was only half-way through the race and the very last thing I wanted to do was spend the last hour killing myself.  I did my oddly normal trick.  Have half a go off the front.  Realise I’m not going to make enough gap.  Back off.  Realise that the peloton hasn’t made an impression and think ‘fuck it’ and have a proper go.  Weird.

I spent about 25 minutes in no-mans land.  Between a breakaway of two riders and the bunch.  At one point the game was nearly up as a furtive check behind revealed a looming shark of riders.  However I pressed on and caught the two-man breakaway. 

I got my breath back and we started working.  One of the guys was shot and couldn’t contribute to the pace-setting so it was down to me and a guy from San Fairy Ann CC rider to stay away.  We took good turns and at one point I thought I might be able to take the win feeling pretty decent on the small climbs on the circuit.

We had about 40 seconds gap for the last lap; not enough to relax and enjoy the moment that’s for sure. I had one last push on the last climb to see if I could put a gap into the other rider.  No chance.  And no chance of me producing a sprint at the end either.

So second place over the line.  I get the nasty feeling that, in my confusion, my celebration crossing the line might have been a lame thumbs up – I hope there’s no photographic evidence!

Average HR for the second half – 174bpm.  Threshold.

Conclusion

SERRL road races are great.  It was terrific to get another decent placing.  It would have been nice to have got the win of course and it did cross my mind.  But much better to guarantee 2nd place than take big risks and end up 25th.  First of the losers again!

Great to ride with the other Bigfooters who finished in the bunch.  SteveS did a job for me apparently marshalling the bunch but alas out of my sight.

Fowlmead 7th August 2010

It’s been kind of quiet round here for a while.  I had a couple of chilled weeks after the Marmotte – eating a lot of what I fancied and generally recuperating whilst I considered my strategy for the rest of the season. 

Problem…

I’ve had very little joy going round in relatively small circles (ie crits and circuit races) and after a fractious but productive meeting with my some time coach Jo McRae I confirmed my plan to have a proper go at this type of riding.

I have a pet theory that I need to dispel; or at least confirm either way. I have a seemingly limitless capacity for endurance riding which makes me believe that I’m blessed in the Type I fibre department. Which would mean that I’m less well blessed in the Type II fibre department which is precisely what I need for shorter races.  However, I have not trained at intensities much beyond threshold – ever – so who knows?  Maybe I’m a brilliant all-rounder that just needs to adjust his training slightly. 

Planned Solution

So my plan is to do a bag load of HIT (high intensity training) specifically targeting my MAP (max aerobic power).  So I did an arse-kicking test and confirmed this to be about 420W or so.  Ever since then my training looks a little like this.

intervals

If I’m racing then so be it, if I’m not then I do blocks of HIT followed by rest.

Anyway, the race…

Fowlmead’s a nice little circuit.  Not much in the way of altitude changes but a good, long, well surfaced, fast lap.  And windy.  And you can see the sea.  After a bit of a tedious pre-amble; the race was delayed by about 30 minutes without warning, we were off.  My first ever 3rd cat only race.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect so I set off without too much hope although anything resembling a Cancellara-style solo break would have sufficed.  DaveC was also doing the race which was a bonus – “stay off the front was his advice”.  Two minutes later, who was engaged in a heroic solo effort off the front?  DaveC.

When Dave was caught another break went.  For some reason I went with it.  The pack bought us back in.  Then another, stronger break went immediately.  Still out of breath from the first effort I doggedly got involved in this one too.  And so we stayed; 3 of us for 30 minutes.  It seriously hurt – post-ride analysis showed that my heart rate averaged 180bpm for the duration of the break.  My max is meant to be 185bpm although after this race this has been revised to 189bpm.  But still.  Hard work.

And… all this was before Rach, Annabelle and an old (and wonderful) family friend turned up to spectate.  Eventually we were caught and absorbed back into the peloton. Great.  Half an hour killing myself for nothing and surely having compromised any hope I had of a decent finish.  And still 40 minutes of racing to go!

Still, best put on a show.

paul-fowlmead

I then switched to my standard strategy of endlessly working  on the front of the bunch.  Unwittingly chasing down breaks and generally exhausting myself.

Naturally after all of this nonsense I didn’t place very well.  A successful break went at some point and I trailed in probably around about 15th or so – comfortably out of the points.

Result

Consolations.  A very good workout.  And it was great to see DaveC – who had a good energetic race but with a similar result to me. 

dave-fowlmead

In the end, as I routinely find in these races, I was strong but unable to translate this into a meaningful result.  But what I do know is that it’s easy to convince yourself you are strong when you’re pissing around for the first 95% of the race – strong people actually do well in the last 5%!