It was early June when I started really thinking about training plans for CycloCross season: What training and races should I do that would get me competitive in the 45-open CX group this year? The weekly Boulder Time Trial series came to mind immediately, as there is nothing like exploring the depths your own pain cave for 25 minutes every week: I ended up having time to do two. And maybe a few crits: I did two of those too and it felt great to win in the first but was not nearly so confident or competitive in the second.
Hum... what else besides solo intervals and training rides? Core/Yoga classes offered by our own Andy and Jen! Last year this helped immensely and I do want to continue the strengthening and flexibility this year. So I gotta do the core/yoga classes (highly recommended)!
All the while, the occasional email would pass through the BSV email groups about the Centurion. "Who's riding?" "What category?" "What's the club password." Another Hum... It's been 20 years since I had done something that long and intense and then it was just a organized and supported ride, not billed as a race. Then again, it looked like there were ~10 other BSV riders so I guess I'll do it as it should be another good training ride...
I emailed a simple question: "Who's riding and who's racing? I'm riding this one just to finish"...
I did say it was going to be a good training ride, right?
It's a bright and beautiful Colorado Sunday morning, and by ~6:45 we're all congregating in the back of the front coral (the "race" group). The announcer is blathering on about the weather, talking about the contenders, and starting to get us pumped up for the start of the "ride". KevinA wants to know why we're in the race corral and not the ride corral. I say "we're REALLY near the ride corral" and after a brief discussion we all turn our attention back up front. Then the adrenaline starts to pump as the PA is cranked and someone starts singing the Star Spangled Banner which silences the rider. About that time a helicopter comes into view and hovers high overhead.
That’s the moment it suddenly strikes me: This Centurion "ride" is going to be really something!
The announcer tells us right before the start that the red flag in the pace car means we’re still in the neutral zone and when it disappears the race begins! We start a riding shoulder to shoulder for few hundred yards till a guy locks up his front wheel with his timing chip, which caused a bit of jostling and swerving to avoid hitting him, but then it’s smooth sailing through Lions. Somewhere after we get out and take the turn onto HW36, the red flag must have been pulled cuz the pace finally quickened and the race was on. Er, I mean RIDE…
So I’m riding behind Kevin Abraham purposely, cuz I know he’s probably one of the most seasoned pack riders in our club and I was hoping to learn from the master. Learn I did! That Kevin guy was so smooth in the pack it was truly a marvel. Keeping gaps closed, moving in front of this guy and around that one. Staying out of trouble when a few riders got way too far into the brakes. Smooth as butter!! I ended up tailing Kevin for ~30 miles. Thanks for the lessons, Kevin!
Did I say the pace picked up? BOY, what a ride! I've never been in a pack that size at the speeds before. As long as the gaps were small, the efforts were too. Ok, so there was the little dip and climb coming back up Nelson to 36 that sent the heart rate up, but quick recovery cuz the draft of 80 or so riders was incredible. Then it was the drop down 36 to turn up Left Hand Canyon and the King of the Hill climb was on. The group quickly begins to thin as the effort continues to increase. Ok, for the record, the effort shot my heart rate well over my intended limit, but then I knew it should drop a bit as thing settle down as long as I really stick in the draft. The draft was truly a dream as we continued at 20+mph up the canyon for a while, but I realized the heart rate wasn't dropping back down. One more bend, another corner and it kept ticker kept climbing. Somewhere between the turn-off and the steep section (mile marker 13?) I finally had to admit that I was not just “riding” but truly in race mode cuz I never push myself that hard except in a race…
Race or ride, we hadn’t even gotten through the first hard climb and I knew if I didn’t say goodbye to the train I’d never make it up SuperJames on the next climb. The time had come to find my own pace, I dropped quietly off the lead group and gradually fell into my own rhythm. Then I discovered a very important thing: There were quite a few other riders that had the same rhythm. Probably 8 or 10 of us took even pulls all the way to steep section with a great rotating pace line. Then the last few miles to Ward was another solo event as the grade of the road crept up, but I got to the top without burning too many matches and felt really good. Grabbed the outstretched bottle of water and sports drink and headed down the highway.
Descending was another treat in that all the riders I was with had riding skills and manners that helped me feel much more at ease, and they were all cooperating by taking pulls when the speed slowed and we had a safe but very fast ride all the way back to Lyons. Then it was back up 36 to Left Hand Canyon and a much needed water station. I stopped just long enough to fill the water bottles, and grab some extras to stuff in my jersey. I quickly downed part of the first one and dumped the rest over my head to cool off. Then same with the second. The third bottle helped me get some more gel energy stuff down and I was set for the second King of the Mountains climb up to Jamestown.
So what I didn’t realize is that while I was drinking a lot, it was soon 95+ degrees climbing up SuperJames and as you may know, that climb is really a killer without the heat. Have you ever had a leg cramp so bad you fell off your bike? I had last year, so when the little cramping twinges started shooting down my leg I knew I would be in very serious trouble if I didn’t do something quick. I backed off the pace and kept drinking, and the legs started feeling better but that was about the time when the pitch was so steep I was out of gears to spin in. Ended up standing for the last few miles to be greeted in one turn by a small kid with a squirt gun asking “want some?” and I got a cool stream and a smile from the ~4 year old. Fun and refreshing!
Finally after trying every climbing position imaginable, I found the top of the hill above Jamestown and started to descend dirt section. Having ridden up the dirt only a few weeks before, it's funny how I didn’t remember how much more climbing there was in the dirt! This brought on more standing efforts cuz the legs were mostly spent. Then more standing, and even more. By the time I got to the feed zone my lower back was killing me! No energy left and major back spasms. Great, well at least it was mostly downhill from there. Fueled up and ended up coasting the better part of 10 miles down before the legs started to turn over again. Got passed by a big group of guys and I couldn’t make the jump, but a few moments later I was able to jump on a small group of riders and pace line the rest of the way to the finish line in Lyons. And I finished the Centurion 2010 ride under my 6 hour goal (5:33:12.09 to be exact)!
So what did I learn on this ride?
1)When there is a timing chip and a start gun, for me it’s a race whether I want to admit it or not.
2) Would I do it again? MOST DEFINITELY!
3) Will it help for my cyclocross season? Don’t know and don’t really care.
It was a blast and a great way to celebrate turning 50! Even if you’re not into racing or feel more comfortable doing 100 miles, try the 50 or 25 mile route! I’d encourage you all to “Just Do It” in 2011!
PS: Our most wonderful Blue Sky Velo sponsors down at Peak Sports Chiropractic did a wonderful job to relax those back muscles that were still very tight next day...Regards,
C. Doug Richards