It has been a tough few weeks for some reason. I’ve been extremely tired. That would have a lot to do with some really tough efforts finally catching up with me. As a result, I was off the bike completely for a week before this race. I thought that would either make me extremely rested and ready to go, or on the edge of falling out of shape. As it turned out, I fell somewhere in the middle. Legs didn’t feel particularly strong, but my energy level was pretty good.
It was warm, humid, and bit overcast, and I vowed not to sit on the trainer and cook. I didn’t even take my trainer actually. I warmed up on nearby roads for about 20 minutes or so, and did an okay but not great amount of stretching. It’s only my second time here and I’m still working the nerves out. Nerves tend to curtail my warmup.
We line up for the start, and I move right behind the guys who are going to win this race. I know I’ll never hang with them on the climb, but my plan was to draft them for the 2 miles it takes to get to Okemo Mountain Road. We neutral start, roll down to Route 103, and it’s on.
My race strategy had three parts:
1. Mile 0-2: Draft the leaders until the base of the climb
2. Mile 2-4: Ease into the effort up the mountain
3. Mile 4-6: Pick it up and dig in
As it turns out, part 1 of my plan was ridiculously simple to execute. Whereas last year I pulled the train for probably half the field on this section of the course, burning fuel, this time I did almost zero work. It was simple matter of staging at the front, and then holding a wheel.
Part 2 started at the base of the climb. As I settle into my climbing ring – 24t – nearly the entire field blows past me. Literally. I’m like – no problem, let them all go, they’re all fired up and they’ll fade, just ride your own pace.
Yeah sure. Problem is, only about 100 people sign up for this event. Most are really strong, and most of them know the hill really well.
I took a triple drivetrain up the mountain this time, and I was in the minority to be sure. Interestingly, I saw a lot of people running the combination I ran last year – compact with a big cluster in the back. While that didn’t work for me, it sure as hell worked for them, as I’m not sure I reeled in a single rider over the course of the climb.
I did follow my plan though, easing into things, and by mile 4 I was picking up the effort and working steady at 180bpm. I know the hill a little better than last time, but still not as well as I should. Even still, I had some bandwidth to pick it up when I needed to. I crossed the line in 47:06, an improvement of 4’28” over last year. A major chunk of progress I think, especially considering I felt very average in terms of strength. Still a long way to go to be competitive here, but definitely on the right track.