Thursday, April 19, 2012

Battenkill: Old Rob's View

First Maurice, then Capers, and today we have Rob, the older of the Robs on the team, thus the name. After surprising himself the year before with a 6th place finish Rob was eager to get back and improve upon that. But as with many things Battnkill-related, nothing is as you expect it. If nothing else, this is the race that keeps you guessing. 

This is a really tough recap for me to start. I have so many different ways of looking at this that I feel like I have a pinball banging around the inside of my head. I felt like I was pretty well prepared for this based on my experience of what the race was last year in my group. Right off the bat this is lesson 1, “EVERY race is different, even if it is the same class, venue, weather etc, you can not assume that the effort and dynamics will be the same”. :Last year was my first time up there I was really surprised at how tame the pace was in my group on the flats, except for 4 guys that went off the front after the first major climb. Other than that it was a controlled climbing race and who could out last the next guy and the groups just got smaller and smaller as it went on. Well this year was the opposite. I’ve gotten ahead of myself already.

Friday I made sure I was hydrating a lot as I saw that temp was going to be around 68 and felt that this was going to be a factor. Because of this I got up like 3 or 4 times in the night to pee. Got up early and didn’t feel like I had a fantastic rest but really not that bad. I do normal routine stuff, stretch, dog stuff, etc and go to bathroom one last time before I head out. While in the bathroom the light goes out. I figure the bulb just blew but get this weird feeling like that scene in Apollo 13 when the guy is in the shower the morning of the big launch and his wedding band comes off and goes down the drain. I comfort myself by thinking that although a lot of crazy shit happens between that scene and him going to outer space and getting back to earth again everything turns out ok. Get out of the bathroom and realize that the power for the whole house is out. Ok this is strange.

Take my stuff out the front door instead of the garage as opener won’t work of course and head over to Paramus where I am meeting Jeff (Gratefulrider) and will ditch my car and go together. He makes the trip go fast by good conversation and also doing like 90 the whole time except when slow down to pee 2x. His BMW suv thing is smooth. I think we got there in like 20 minutes even though it should have taken 3.5 hours.

We pull in to park next to some Tenafly guys I know and the 4 of us reg then back to cars for a really slow prerace routine as Jeff’s race is in like 2 hours and mine in 3. I eventually get my stuff on after eating a little bit, Jeff is ready before me and rolls off. I am very indecisive on what to eat ( major mistake?)I then roll out just to coast around and look at the start area and then over to the finish and expo. I see Zach Coop right after his finish and he is sitting on his bike with his legs dangling down and leaning against a pole in pain. He says his both legs are cramped and he can’t move. I give him a few sportslegs that I had in my pocket and made a friend for life. With an hour to go I head back to the car, eat a clif bar and drink some more, and do my pre race warmup on the trainer. I feel good and my heart and legs are responding and I feel I have good power with less perceived effort actually. I’m thinking systems are a go. Get race ready and head over to start with about 20min to go.

Watch the women pros go off while talking to some of the guys lining up for my race to try and get a read on people. I don’t recognize anyone from last year. We roll out behind the pace car and I can feel the front group coming into shape and who will likely be doing most of the work. Pace starts to build much quicker than I expect so early but I figure some of these guys may just be feeling it out. Within minutes I get hit in the face with a big black bee that I guess is a wasp and it gets stuck in the small space between my helmet and glasses and as I quickly pull off my glasses to give it room to escape the bastard stings me right at my eyebrow over my left eye. Next time I will hit myself with a tennis racket and knock both of us out. I let out a couple of choice words and the guy next to me asks if I was ok and if I was allergic which I am fortunately not. It hurt though and I felt with my finger like there was something in there and got it out and see blood on my fingers. Great. Now I am just hoping it doesn’t swell up and or affect my vision, which fortunately does not.

Through the covered bridge I’m in the front few and nothing really changes just the same guys up front taking unorganized turns although pace is still much faster than last year. A few guys ride off the front a little for no reason and no one even discusses it. They all wind up in the back at the next climb. Finally at Juniper things get more exciting and pace picks up a lot near the top and I am right there and this is the move and I am right in the center and we are gone. About 7-8 of us off the front and we drop the pack like a rock. I am working but nothing crazy and wasn’t even like the super hard Rocket Ride sections in my mind. I do my share of work and am cautious of not overdoing it however totally out of the blue after a while on a very minor rise in the road I feel a twinge in my right calf. Alarm bells and whistles go off in my head screaming DANGER DANGER, I’m like WTF???? I have never ever E V E R cramped on my road bike. EVER. Of course on the MTB I have and it was always hydration issues so I instantly started downing my bottles thinking it must be the issue. I am unsure though because I drank a ton the day before and all day. I start hiding right away to conserve and loosen this up very nervously. I am more than a little concerned as they come and go but eventually the calf seems ok. About 30 mi in we are climbing and I get a twinge in my right upper quad climbing muscle and now I am really concerned. I feel it contract a couple of times and feel that it is going to lock up on me and I have to back off about 50’ from the top. And there they went. I get over the top and it is a long rolling section that even though I try and think I can hammer it I know I am not getting back on and the gap gets bigger and bigger. Train is out of the station.

I know we had a big gap on the field but I am thinking this is bad. 32mi to go and I have to manage my body totally different from normal. I do 12 miles solo in the wind and then on a flat dirt section 5 guys come up on me and say join on. At that moment it felt like an oasis in the desert. I hop on and say thanks by telling them how many and how far ahead the leaders are hoping that will count as payment to the cause rather than take any pulls. We go for awhile and on another climb we lose 2. So the 3 of us crank on through the worst of the bad dirt road sections. I tend to be the fastest downhills and get ahead but that’s only because I am looking for every bit of help from gravity I can get. One section where the dirt was super loose and washed out, (you know the kind where you don’t really steer and just let the bike go where it wants to) my momentum carried me all the way across the road onto the grass and I just rode on the grass. The 2 guys I was still with followed me on the grass and thought it was intentional and said that it was a great idea. I didn’t tell them I didn’t get there on purpose.

Approaching that double tiered dirt climb that crosses a road the stronger of the 3 of us moves ahead and I can’t stay on his wheel and neither can the other guy (in green). I think he realizes he is doing all the work and that we were not going to be much help anyway. I see him go over the top as green guy and I start to climb it. My quad starts twitching really bad here and when the second tier starts I am feeling it increase. Then right in the middle of that second tier BAM! Full out mandatory Alcatraz style FN lock down. Can’t move right leg but somehow get my foot out of the pedal and get my foot down without tipping over and just stand there afraid to move while grinding my teeth. I grab my quad and it feels like concrete. There were some spectators and a woman runs over and starts to tell me to walk it off but I know if I move a smidgen right now it will be worse. I ask her to fill my bottles as she has a big Poland spring bottle. I don’t move for about 4.5 minutes (according to my Garmin) and finally it releases and I can walk. She tells me if I can just get to the top there is a downhill and recovery time afterwards. I walk to the top and eat a bunch of gels and wash it down with almost a full bottle and remount.

While in lock down mode I notice a few guys pass me but I have no idea if they are my group or some of the previous that we had caught when I was in the lead group but truthfully I don’t care. I am just trying to figure out how to finish this without another massive lock up like that as it is terrifying to me. I still have decent power amazingly when on the flats and can carry some speed. I make it to the last feed station and toss all my bottles again and take a bunch of the green ones at the top of the zone. Now all I can think about is Stage road and how the F am I going to make it up that without cramping. I am with a couple of guys at this point and I shift into my easiest gear even before the climb starts and they take off up it. I concentrate completely on just turning the pedals as easy as I possibly can and amazingly I am passing people who had attacked this and are blowing up. I even see a guy zig zagging the road. I get to the top and I am just so super happy to not have cramped. Coming down the other side feels great and I am really relieved. When the road straightens I can see far in the distance the green guy from before and I know he is in my group. I watch him from a distance and realize that very slowly but surely I am closing the gap on him. 

I get in the drops and concentrate on maintaining the best pace I can and although he is still far off I am closing on him. When I get within a couple of hundred feet I am just hoping he doesn’t’ turn around. I get about 20’ behind him and ease up a drop because I don’t want to get on his wheel and turn this into a final spring as I am not sprinting, no damn way. But I am thinking I don’t want him riding my wheel either and passing me at the end so I stay back a bit and then increase my pace so that when I pass him it is fast enough that if he doesn’t see me coming he won’t be able to surge and get on my wheel. This goes exactly as planned and I am dangling like 20’ in front of him and I hear him shift and breathing hard but I keep him off my wheel and I basically outlast him to the finish.

11th place in 3:25, this is 10 min faster than last year even wth the near 5 minute stop.
I am still trying to figure out my cramping issue. Now I think it ended up being a serious nutrition F up and I was carb depleted. I felt a significant change after downing those gels and heading into Stage road. I did not eat enough “real food” the day of the race as it was really tough timing with the early drive, the drive itself and then not wanting to eat a real meal 2 hours before the race and feel like I was full. I also reviewed my Garmin info and even though that fist 1.5 hours had a pretty hot pace and my HR was pretty up there for a road race especially, I never really felt like I was even close to the edge. This definitely was not like one of those times where you are riding with much faster people and you say to yourself, no way can I maintain this I predict blow up in x minutes or seconds. My perceived effort did not feel at the max. The next day my entire body felt like it had been through the ringer. This is another clue that it was not just legs getting tired. In fact my legs aren’t even super sore today except where I think my groin muscle got a little tweaked during the big lock down cramp. So we live and learn yet a little more….

The takeaway: so this is the part that I am now really kind of confused about. Last year I knew that my plan for this year was to make sure that I was ready to go with the breakaway group which I was and did. However the irony is that (yes this is Monday morning quarterback talk) had I just stayed with the pack and outlasted others (like last year) I would have likely wound up with a similar or possibly better result actually with a lot less pain and suffering. Granted my time would have been slower. I guess here I am making the same mistake and assuming again that next year will be just like this year which was supposed to be lesson #1 in the first paragraph. I do fully understand now why the pack stays together in these kind of races the same way Zebras do…. Survival. 

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