Thursday, August 18, 2011

Rockwall Criteriums

If you missed the recap of day 1 of our epic weekend then follow the link to read all about our experience at the Hot Rocks Bike Ride.  Fair warning about day 2 though ..... it's a long one.

The Beginning
Day 2 of our epic weekend didn't exactly start as planned.  The first event on the agenda was a 10k for Angelia at the Hottest Half & 10k.  This was a big event for her but she elected to skip it.  Why?  Well, here's a clue .... when she got out of bed and made her way to the kitchen she was wearing sunglasses.  Not a good sign.  She had a wicked headache and every sight and sound meant pain.

While the 10k was a lost cause, the rest of the family still had the Rockwall Criteriums to look forward to.  The itinerary included my first ever race at 10:55am (35+ 4/5), the Kids Showdown at 12:20pm for the boys, and another race for me at 3:30pm (4/5).  Have you ever tried to prepare yourself for a race while trying to keep two hyperactive boys from screaming constantly, and thereby adding to your wife's pounding headache?  Not easy.  In fact, I failed miserably at managing the situation.  The one smart move was enlisting the help of my dad as Angelia still wanted to watch me race and the boys needed to get there with their bikes.

Men 35+ Cat 4/5
Unfortunately, I got ready a bit later than planned, took a big longer to get my number and pin it than planned, and before I knew it I had practically no time to get warmed up.  Ideally for a short intense race like a crit you want a nice long warm-up.  Instead I rolled up to the line in the back of the pack with only several minutes in my legs.

Don't bother looking for me.  I'm in the back.
Once we started I thought I'd probably be ok.  Sure, the pace was quick and I was at the back of the pack but it didn't feel insane.  I played it a little too cautiously on a couple turns and 2 laps in, I was off the back.  At that point the wind became a factor and I just couldn't close the gap.  There were 3 of us popped off and we managed to hook up.  I spotted the pack at one point and realized this was going to be very short lived at our current pace.  I wanted to make something out of this race so I started thinking about where to put in an effort and distance myself from the other 2 riders.  I sat 3rd wheel after turn 1, drank a bit of Heed, and caught my breath for a bit.  Just before turn 3 I broke to the left and took the turn a bit wider putting me in a sheltered position from the NE wind.  That little relief allowed me to crank the cadence up and clear both riders in time to take an aggressive line on turn 4.  I got out of the saddle for part of the frontstretch to make sure the gap stuck.  I felt really good about this - it kept the race from feeling like a total waste.

Taking a short pull before recovering and
finally dropping these 2 guys for good.
A couple laps later the scooter was coming up on me and I knew I was about to be swallowed by the pack.  I kept the effort up the best I could including a leg-searing out of saddle effort up the hill.  I remember thinking, "Well, that's a new kind of burn."  I staved off my demise by more than a lap finally succumbing on turn 2 of lap 8.  I pulled off at the completion of that lap because I didn't see the point of killing myself for another 20 minutes in the heat when I was going to do another race in the afternoon.  With the way the morning had been, I thought it best to take what little opportunity I had to reset my brain, rest a little, and come into the 2nd race better prepared.  In the end, I was disappointed to be lapped only 20min in but was glad I salvaged part of it with 2 efforts in particular - my planned move to drop the other 2 stragglers and giving it that one last shot to hold off being lapped.

Kids Showdown
After watching the Womens Cat 4 and Juniors Cat 4/5 race that occurred after mine, it was time for the Kids Showdown!  The event was changed up a bit at the last minute and both the big and little kids did 1 lap of the mile long loop.  For the big kids, this was shortened from the expected 2 laps.  For the little ones it was suddenly much more challenging than the 1/4 lap they've done in the past.  This race story is best told in pictures:
Julian gets caught in a chaotic start. Lining up the little ones.
Looking like a future cyclist.
Julian challenges for 2nd at the finish. Connor up the final hill in a clear 2nd place.
First cycling medal! 3rd for Julian and 2nd for Connor

Mens 4/5
After the kids were done we loaded up and went home (a whopping 1-1/2mi away).  Sitting in the air conditioning with a little food and a chance to dry out my race kit were all beneficial.  I pulled out on time and got a better warmup than in the morning.

Unfortunately the race wasn't much different.  I did stick with the pack a little longer but it wasn't in an efficient manner.  A couple of those laps were spent "tailgunning", getting gapped every straight and closing it each turn.  Eventually I failed to close that gap and it was back to soloing in the wind.  There was no help this time around.  There were others popped off but the gaps remained.  This became a gruelling hot workout and not much more.  Just like in the morning race, I was lapped 20 minutes in.  I tried to hook on to the pack but no such luck - missed the train.  The solo laps were a struggle but eventually I was able to close a gap on another dropped rider that had consistently been 300m in front of me.  It didn't seem like he wanted to work together but he grabbed my wheel and I just couldn't find the energy to shake him.  After a while I started pulling a bit to the side and letting up hoping he'd pull ahead of me.  He would slow as well and made an obvious comment on how totally cooked he was.  Translation:  No way in hell was he pulling.  That bugged me enough that I found the small bit of extra oomph I needed to finally shake him.  By the time the race ended I was 2 laps down.  Heck, I didn't even realize when the race was over!
No-one around me.  Not a good sign.

I was a bit more disappointed in this race.  I thought it would go better than the first one and I was shocked at how slowly I was going towards the end.  I realize that was partially the product of the heat and wind which definitely picked up throughout the race.  In fact, towards the end I had a close call thanks to a swirling wind.  There were 3 of us, all 1 or 2 laps down, and you could see a swirl of leaves to the inside of the course just after turn 2.  That swirling mass of leaves started moving right for us and when it hit, all of our bikes were moved sideways.  The only thing that kept it from being a disaster was we all saw it coming and were able to space out and brace ourselves.

The End
With that, the day's racing was over.  Both boys were happy with their rides and medals.  Connor absolutely loves racing and getting bling.  Julian was a bit bummed about the shaky start and the shortening of the race but was pleased with how he rode, especially the sprint up the final hill.  Meanwhile, I got 2 official races under my belt, albeit with significantly less pack time than I hoped for.  There's a lot of work to be done before my target event in 4 weeks.  Connor gave me a tip that should help me get to the front of the pack though .....

"You know what you need to do better in your next race, Daddy?"
"What do I need?"
Connor rolls up the right leg on his shorts, points to his quad, and proclaims,

Good advice little man.  Good advice.


TRI714 said...

Congrats to all of you. Now you know. Crit racing is an ongoing series of mind games, followed with fried quads and calves, again followed by extreme oxygen depletion. It never gets easy, you just get wiser at where to put in hard efforts and more of an understanding that interval pain will end. Oddly enough, teaching your body to recover quickly after those efforts at 28-29 mph is as important as anything.
Remember when you made the comment about any rides less than 40 miles was a waist for you ? I digress, 20-30 mile rides with constant intervals a couple days a week with your normal training will keep you in the game. As far as contending at primes and sprints, that just comes with time.
Lastly, thanks for sharing. And I have never meet anyone that didn't get there ass handed to them in there 1st crit or more. Present company included. DAMN HUMBLING !

Tri4Success said...

@TRI714: Thanks for the comments. It is a definite adjustment but that was the point of doing these races before my target race. I don't remember making that 40mi ride comment you referenced, at least not in that context. Maybe I did and my brain was fried from training. Who knows. Anyway, I wasn't surprised to get my ass handed to me. After all, what kind of idiot does his first 2 crits in Texas summer heat the day after a 100k? Yep, this idiot.

Lesley @ said...

I totally don't get it. Maybe this is why I don't cycle. But I think my nephew's advice is BRILLIANT. I need some of those too little man.

Miguel Vieira said...

Heyyy.. I havent been here in a while but I need to stop by more often to see the next Crowie and Macca in the making!

Congrats on all your efforts.

Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year.