Training, racing, gear, facial hair styles and thoughts from my push to become an elite cyclist.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Hampshire 100 Race Report

On August 18 I completed my fourth consecutive Hampshire 100.  It was hands down my hardest race of the season.

It was only a few short weeks ago, but in many ways it feels much longer than that.  Leading up to the race I'd had some awesome days out, like the Catamount 6 Hour race.  I'd had some breakthroughs at races and was riding really, really strongly.  My goal was to carry that form through August, but a series of events, fatigue and an especially intense weed pollen season made that very difficult.

Since the flood we had some drainage issues around the house, and during one particularly intense rain storm (the day after Catamount, believe it or not) we got about 4" of rain overnight and had some water in the basement.  It wasn't that much water, but I went into full-on PTSD panic mode.  In short, it consumed me.

On one of the hottest days of a very hot summer Ben, Carrie and I worked for 10 hours to move 7 yards of gravel with shovels and a wheelbarrow to sure up the ground under the bulkhead and raise the driveway up a little further.  Our work paid off, but it was a very arduous task that took as much out of me as an endurance race.

The next weekend we went camping, which was fun but robbed me of some much needed sleep.  I never felt right that weekend and was having a hard time getting out of my own way.

Leading up to the race I got some decent sleep, ate well, but felt beat up.  My last Wednesday night race was fine but not awesome as I got tangled up with an overly aggressive single speeder who crashed into me as he tried to pass at an inopportune moment.  The Saturday before the race I felt inexplicably terrible.  I didn't want to get out of bed, and I certainly didn't want to race.  By late afternoon I decided to make the trip and after an inadvertent detour I got the venue, set up my tent and went to sleep knowing I was going to give it a shot without expecting a great outcome.

Stsrtline 2011- I'm the third white helmet in from the right.
You may be thinking that I went into it with a defeatist attitude, but in truth I was just being honest with myself and what I thought was possible.  When I got up Sunday I felt alright, and after the gun went off I had a solid first 2 hours on the mostly flat, wide open dirt roads and rec paths.  I was still not pushing the pace too much as I knew I wasn't ready to let it all hang out, but when I got to the Hedgehog climb with its 28% grades I ran out of power.  It wasn't that I was tired, fatigued or otherwise beat up- I just couldn't get my heart rate up, and I certainly couldn't pedal with any force.  Shit.  I knew at the race didn't start until that climb, and I was staring down the barrel at a long day without my diesel climbing legs. 

A little further along was the Powerline climb which is steeper still than Hedgehog and approaches 30% in spots.  Nobody rides the whole thing, but I rode more than most.

I rode this unnamed section, but I wasn't fast.  Photo jacked from have2run blog
Believe it or not I pass most people in endurance races on the climbs.  For whatever reason I can stay smooth and aerobic when others have a hard time keeping their bikes moving, and by doing that I can move up.  The same was true at Wednesday Worlds at Catamount this year- on climbs under about 5 minutes I was able to maintain my gap or even close them down slightly.

And none of that was with me on the course.  Every uphill was a struggle, and as soon as I felt like I was finding a groove my heart rate would drop.  I decided to settle in and push along with what I had.  By riding smart and pacing I figured I'd be able to at least finish, even it wasn't going to be the inspired ride I was hoping for.

My edge over last year's finish was that I have been working extensively on my handling skills.  It wasn't that I could ride anything that was super difficult, but I rode almost everything I felt comfortable on, and I was maintaining what speed I did have on more of the course.

At around mile 50 things started to even out.  My lack of early horsepower meant that I couldn't dig deep, which meant even though I had less to work with I was far more fresh than I would have been if I could have put the power down.  It was weird.  I wasn't really able to pass people, but I was ready to get the race over with so I did most of the remaining climbs standing in the big ring.

What I wanted was a Coke.  As I rolled into the last aid station a handful of women ..."manning" the station were buzzing around offering chain lube, snacks, etc.  Then she said it- the blond haired ring leader uttered the words I'd wanted to hear all day.  "Do you want a Coke?"  "Fuck yes I want a Coke!" I exclaimed.  In the next 40 seconds I drank about 20 ounces as another woman politely lubed my chain.  I have no idea who they were or what they looked like but they were all absolutely awesome and made my day.

From there it was mostly downhill, and damn it felt good to finish.  Remarkably enough that sub-par performance was good for 6th which made it all worth it.  My streak of finishes is still intact so that I can go for my Hampshire Hardcore next year if I can finish 5 years in a row, so that's definitely a goal for next season.

Maybe I'll even go for the full 100 miler. 

For more perspective check out Graeme Street's race report podcast.  

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