Sunday, May 10, 2009

Front Range 50

The first race of the year is now in the books and given that yesterday was a big goal for me for the season it was tough to have the Front Range 50 as my first race. Had I been able to sneak in a race, either on the road or mountain bike prior it would have been nice. I clearly have no speed right now and the competitive juices have been laying low for a long time, but getting out and racing felt good.
Late last year I made a decision to focus on endurance races more so then cross country. Races in the 50+ range (and hopefully at some point a good 100 miler) are where I want to really race. Part of this is from years of racing and knowing I lack the fast twitch muscles that are needed in shorter races. I just don’t tend to have the top end speed needed, but I’ve always had solid endurance, though prior to yesterday I’d never finished an endurance race (two previous attempts). Over the winter I focused on time on the bike, nutrition while riding and getting comfortable with long days riding. Early on I put an X on the Front Range 50, it is a race close to home, early in the season and as far as the local endurance races go an “easy course” since there are no long climbs. I figured it would be a perfect race to build confidence in the longer distances, practice nutrition in a race and learn.
With five laps of a 10 mile course feeding was easy, I set up a cooler with the masses of others and planned to stop for a brief period each lap to take on water or energy drink and if needed extra food. In the end I went through three bottles of water, three bottles of Gatorade, nine gels and four Hammer Endurolytes in the race. Looking back I need to increase the Endurolytes but overall my nutrition plan seemed to work. My goal for the race was to ride steady and complete all five laps in equal time splits. Based on previous results on the course in cross country races I wanted to finish in 4:00 hours, equating to 48 minute laps or so. I knew steady would be the key to finishing and that was the main concern.
The first lap of the race was crazy, with 200 or so racers, lots of single-track and various skill levels the course was tough. I settled into a nice pace, tried to drink every 10 minutes or so and made sure to eat 1 gel in the first lap. Coming through I finished my first bottle of water, stopped to pick up another and saw I had ridden a 44 minute lap. This was faster than planned and given the traffic pretty good, also I didn’t feel I had over-extended myself. On lap 2 I stayed with a group most of the time, focusing again on eating and drinking and keeping the effort steady and 5-10 beats below my threshold level. Lap 2 was completed in 42 minutes with about a minute spent pitting for more drink. At this point I was well ahead of the pace I had planned but still feeling good. I started to think a time of 3:45 was realistic, this was kind of my best case scenario time and now I was thinking it would happen. Lap 3 was again steady; I was making good time on the single-track, riding the climbs well and not getting dropped too bad on the downhills. At the pit on the third lap my race time was 2:11 for the first 30 miles. Last year in the 30 mile cross country race on the same course my time was 2:15, yet this year I wasn’t feeling near as bad. I took a longer break after three laps, dipped into the Endurolytes for the first time (I should have been steadier with eating them and taken a few earlier) and switched glasses. My first pair were so sweat covered I couldn’t see anymore so I was glad I had put an extra pair with my food.
Lap 4 is where the mental game began; I was moving into new ground on distance in a race and needed to remain steady. The climbs were tougher at this point, moving down a gear or two from the first three laps. I was still riding well on the single-track and felt I had maintained a consistent pace for the race thus far. At the end of four laps I grabbed a last bottle and glanced at my heart-rate monitor 2:58. Four laps down and all in the 42-45 minute range, well above my targeted pace. Lap five started with a cruel reality, the cross country race for the pros and experts had just started and I was soon being passed by some of the fastest racers in the world (JHK, Georgia Gould and others) starting their race of 30 miles while I was slogging along in the 40+ mile range of mine. While thoughts of glory came to mind, like trying to stick with my peers in the expert category as they passed I knew that would kill me so I kept riding and let people pass, though some of those who passed me on the single-track were soon passed back on the one major climb up Mt. Carbon. Even with 45 miles in me I was riding strong and was able to repass a few racers from the Expert group. Coming down from the second climb I knew that 3:45 was possible if I didn’t let up. On the last steep climb I could feel my energy leaving and I struggled over the top, shifting to the big ring and pedaling all the way down the descent. A mile or two of rollers and the clock was nearing the 3:45 time, as I jumped out of the last corner I saw my clock at 3:44, sprinting as hard as I could to the finish line I crossed at 3:45:26.
I learned a lot in the race, especially about pacing and eating. I still have a lot to learn in endurance racing but it was fun, a far different challenge from cross country. Right now I’ll take a few days off then start to train and focus for the other races I have planned later this year.


Anonymous said...

nice result, good call on the electrolyte. are you going to gunnison in a few weeks?

Racing Green said...

No Gunnison for me, the next race will be Winter Park, next endurance race Firecracker 50.