Before I talk about the race –
Thank you to everyone who supported me and read what I wrote this season. It really means a lot knowing you are out there following along. I don’t know how many of you there are, but even if there were only one, I would give just as much, which is everything I have.
Thank you to my wife Kristen, who puts up with so much every year just so we can chip away a little more each time. She’s out there driving vehicles to the summit in every kind of weather, taking photos, chalking pavement, usually freezing her ass off, and staving off hours of boredom.
Thank you to my sponsors this year, nuun active hydration and American Classic, who have taken a chance on a very ordinary person with very big aspirations. And to Herb at Revolution Cyclery for teaming up with AC and sticking his neck out for me.
And to all of my friends, my riding partners, my teammates – I am obviously not even in this sport without all of you and all of the unique and specific things that each of you contribute.
So, breaking down this years race.
There are a few ways I look at this time:
- It’s about 20 minutes faster than last year. However, last year I was in horrible shape for the race, it was very hot, I bonked super hard with half the race to go, and ran out of water. So I know that last year was an anomaly.
- It’s 1 minute off my race time from two years ago, when I believe I was in terrific shape. At that time I weighed 2+ pounds less, and my bike was at least a pound lighter with slightly easier gearing. So I must be as strong, if not stronger. I think I’m stronger now, but less confident.
- If nothing else, I am in terrific shape, in spite of not having done the practice ride or 6 Gaps of Vermont this year, which I believe is a ride I need to do to set up a PR on Washington. I believe a lot of confidence comes from 6 Gaps.
- It’s 6 minutes off my PR of 1:35:01, which I did two years ago at the practice ride. There’s zero pressure at the practice rides, so I think those times are always going to be faster than the real thing. If I were to guess, I’ll have a practice time safely under 1:20 before I do it for real.
Here is how my mile splits stacked up against my 2008 PR. These splits are in red. The green markers represent the average grade of the auto road for the prior kilometer. These grade splits are taken directly from the race guide. The analysis is pretty straightforward – 2008 me was better every step of the way.
My easiest gear combination was 22×25, and it felt pretty strong until mile 4. Then it was just horribly inefficient. Mile 4 is also where I felt a bonk coming on, dialed it way back, ate a gel, and proceeded with caution until I felt the energy stabilize. I think overall, one or two more gears would have given me a better cadence and preserved some energy. If it would have been enough to stave off the near-bonk, who knows how 4-7.6 would have turned out. Probably better than it did. You can see I lost big up there. And losing 3/4 of a minute in the final six tenths – that is just inexcusable. I couldn’t remember the way that stretch of road unfolded and I held back far too long before going all in. No question I need to know the road better. Definitely plenty learned on this attempt.
I’ve got to stop the caffeine before these intense events. I can’t hear what my body is saying at all. Less intense events and it’s ok, but stuff like this – this ain’t working. I have no sense of what I really have, or don’t have. I just kind of vibrate and go go go. My legs don’t feel like anything, unless they’re on the verge of cramping up. I need more feedback.
If I had another gear or two, and had taken the lightest bike I could have, I probably could have taken 2-3 minutes off my time. Had I not slept like shit the week leading up to the race (and endured that g*ddamn migraine in the process), maybe I get a few back there too. So at that point, maybe we’re flirting with a PR. Which if I have my logic correct means I would have had an even better practice ride.
Which, if my logic also works, means that if I had a practice ride this year (it was cancelled) and a 6 Gaps ride (I couldn’t find time) this year, better training specificity overall, I would have done even better. Probably flirting with 1:30 at that point.
So regarding next year…
I am considering not doing the race next year. Sometimes I feel like I have a really long way to go to get to where I want to be, and I feel like no matter what I may change for next year, maybe I just need some time to get much, much stronger. The race is extremely expensive. It makes it hard to justify when you know before you even register that it’s definitely not the year. I feel like my best year is still at least two years out. At least.
I’m also getting a little worn out of the routine, but that is my own doing. I can modify the routine of the days I take off around the event, where I stay, and what I do when I get up to the area. I’m not, however, getting worn out of the mountain. 6 times later it is still amazing, and a completely epic experience, and there is absolutely nothing like it anywhere.
Which leads me to a thought Kristen had as we were driving. Do it all four times in one year. Newton’s Revenge, its practice ride, plus the race proper and its practice ride. This would culminate in the race, and you’d have three runs under your belt. The best possible training. But still, very expensive. If I leaned on family nearby for lodging, that could be a big help, but I’d still have to find a driver four times, which would not be easy to orchestrate.
I’ve been a periodization subscriber for three years now, but I don’t think it’s working for me. My YTD training volume is only 141 hours. And that’s the most it has ever been for me from January to August. With a volume that low, I don’t think tearing the motor down every year and starting over makes sense. I don’t have the time for that to work the way it is intended and have any quality of life. So I’m considering making this much simpler for next year, and I’ll leave it at that for now.
In parting, I feel like the biggest hurdle I have to overcome to make this happen is psychological. It’s not allowing me to rest in the days and nights before the race, and it’s keeping me from unleashing my potential on the bike while I’m racing. I know this for a certainty. I need to figure this out.
Lots of great photos on the way – stay tuned.