Hog Hill 25th April

Another first for me; a 3rd/4th category race at the Redbridge Cycling Centre AKA Hogs Hill.

This is the circuit that was in the press recently that replaces a circuit called Eastway that was demolished to make way for the Olympic developments.  It’s a custom-built, 2km or so track which is twisty and has a nice climb at the end of each lap.  In addition to a great track surface there also changing rooms, a cafe and timing chips and… well, everything really.  Brilliant.  Well worth the £4.5million spend!

I was a bit iffy about the race having pulled a muscle in my calf this week. It doesn’t hurt that much but I was worried about making it worse and hampering my training – Mont Ventoux looms (literally) in a couple of weeks time.

Anyway, I thought I’d go along all the same.  I took my big camera so that, at least if I had to bail, I’d be able to use my time effectively by getting some decent pictures of the race in general, and two club mates – Steve and PaulS – in particular.

PaulS picked me up and we headed up to the track.  It was a bit of a trek but there’s always plenty to talk about cycling-wise so it we had a good catch-up. 
We arrived at the track in good time and found Steve in the car park.  We cast admiringly glances at each other’s equipment, then checked out each others bikes.

A quick swap of race license for race numbers later and change into kit and we were off for a quick couple of warm up laps of the track.  Fantastic.  Windy.  But fantastic.

I had an endless stream of piss coming out, probably due to the ‘mental powder’ High5 Extreme energy drink.

We lined up for the race; probably about 40 of us I guess and we were off.  The early pace was reasonably relaxed, at least compared to the madness of Crystal Palace during the week.  I felt a bit more confident amongst the other riders as we made steady progress around the circuit.  The race would be run for one hour and then 5 further laps.

My plan was simple; tuck in, stay out of trouble and get a nice high intensity ride in.  However noble or otherwise my intentions I was not able to stick to them.  I found that, as the pace was just below my ‘all out’ pace I was constantly tempted to ride on and off the front.  This meant riding at or beyond my threshold pace for large parts of the ride.

I managed to push myself pretty hard, increasing my recorded maximum heart rate to a whole new level – 193bpm or 3.75% higher than my previous ‘best’.

I kept expecting to hit the wall, but when really fatigued I tucked back into the bunch to recover which happened reassuringly quickly.  Meantime Steve was spending a good deal of time at the front end of the bunch and PaulS riding a good conservative race staying out of trouble.

A few breakaways were attempted by none successful – not least my own ridiculous hubristic efforts.

With an hour done the 5 lap marker was displayed which was something of a relief.  The big hill before the start/finish line was starting to hurt.  PaulS was starting to make regular appearances towards the front of the bunch as was looking pretty fresh. 

I found myself at the front again, unintentionally, and again tired.  On a straight bit of the circuit I thought I’d treat myself to a little drink before re-composing myself for the hill.  At which point Steve screams ‘put that down’ and zoomed off into the distance – the implication clearly that I was somehow meant to follow!  Duly chastened I calmly replaced my water bottle and set about trying to chase him down.  Already knackered this was no mean feat and it didn’t really happen.  Either way we were quickly caught by the bunch.

With one lap to go I was convinced that the whole bunch was going to come zooming past me.  Instead I found myself pretty much at the front all the way to the last climb of the day.  At this point I got my arse roundly whipped and ended up finishing, well, just about nowhere which was rather amusing.  Steve also, probably fatigued from our ill-advised attack, didn’t have much left for the last climb.

I parked up and chatted to Steve who I think was a bit disappointed in the end – an hour and twenty minutes of pretty solid effort to be outgunned in the last 30 seconds can do that I guess.  PaulS rocked up a couple of minutes later saying ‘what happened to you boys?’.  He’d only gone a finished 4th!  Brilliant effort at the end of the race.

All in all a good ride.  Great training for me.  Racing is very much a secondary goal this year – not least as having lower expectations leads to much less disappointment when the inevitably indifferent results start rolling in.

Having said that, 2 races in one week, and I’m starting to get a bit hooked.  Suddenly pottering around doing 100 mile sportives seems a bit unambitious.  Maybe it’s the endorphins…

Stats here.

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