Starting with this past weekend, and for the next few weeks, I'm in experimental territory, or perhaps it's normal (this is all new to me!) and I'm just fine tuning for the Green Mountain Stage Race coming up over labor day weekend. This weekend started out with a a 2.5 ride on Saturday with 2x10 at what we think is my threshold (since learned it's a bit higher) and then 1 hour at 320-330 watts with a few breaks mixed in to make the hour a bit more enjoyable. On Sunday, I headed up to East Hartland, CT for a race where I was supposed to break away early and hammer away until I couldn't hammer any longer - hopefully that's at the end of the race!
The distance was 66 miles with about 6,000ft of climbing on roads ranging from smooth to very bumpy. Fortunately the bumpy roads were mostly climbs. It seemed to me like the race would be very similar to the Pawling Mtn Road Race I did about a month ago, but with a deeper, stronger field. The course was basically down a hill then up a smaller hill then back down then up a bigger hill then back down then up a big hill then back down. Repeat 3 times.
My lovely wife, looking dapper in her new hat, was there to feed me bottles so I was able to have a nice, cool, fresh bottle each lap! Very much appreciated and it’s noticeably more refreshing to have a cold liquid entering the system. The race started with the sun at its hottest, around 12:55 with temps in the low 80s. I was near the front from the beginning, and had plans to up the pace at the first big climb and see who decided to come along with me. When we hit the first long climb I cranked it up to about 450 watts, in retrospect probably too high, and quickly separated the field. A four man break was formed with me, Emerson Oronte from Team Ora, Justin Lindine from BikeReg, and Jeremy Powers from Jelly Belly. I’ve raced against all these guys a few times now and Emerson I knew to be as strong or stronger than me over a long, hilly endurance based course. Jeremy I knew would eventually drop off – something I should’ve dwelled upon a bit during the start of the break – and Justin was the wild card although I knew he was a strong rider in the hills.
We worked well together, non-stop cranking out the power, and Jeremy was the first to pop leaving us after the first lap. That left the three of us so almost no time for recovery and the course was such that it required nearly constantly pedaling even on the descents. The pace was incredibly high. My average watts for the first 44 miles, about two hours, was 373! I was pretty sure I could not maintain that pace for much longer, and was also wondering how the hell the two of them were managing it, too. Emerson seemed strong and Justin I could not tell. I was beginning to struggle to maintain the pace and was wondering how long I could hold on. Sure enough about eight miles in to the last lap we hit the steep, short hill and my legs said no mas. I was still able to hold about 300+ watts ascending, but I needed 400+ to stick with the two of them. They quickly pulled away and I was on my own. After about 5 minutes I was caught by the chase group of roughly 10 guys. I hopped on the back and was looking for a free ride to the finish. I felt like crap. I managed to stick with them and had enough time to recover so when they quickened the pace I could still hold on. We hit the last climb and there appeared to be no one in site behind us so I just plugged along at a comfortable pace not contesting for 7th place. I’m not sure I could’ve had I wanted to, but I didn’t try. I was shelled. A few guys dropped off but the majority were relatively fresh and pulled away a bit. I finished. That’s about all I can say about that! I was glad it was over.
In retrospect, I see a few things I should’ve considered during the race, and think I could’ve done better had things gone differently. One, when I saw Jeremy was one of the guys in the break I should’ve thought ahead and known he would not be able to hang with us in the hills, so did I want to ride with just two others for 50+ miles at a very high pace? I think it may have been better to ride with them a bit to set them up enough where they would not want to drop back then just fall off the pace and return to the chase group. There I could’ve drafted most the race and really cranked it up in the last 10 miles. We almost caught the two of them near the end so I think I may have been able to do more damage and even pass them for the win. But, it didn’t happen and of course this is only speculation so who knows how it would’ve turned out. Two, I have this fancy power meter so I should pay more attention to it. I know what I’m capable of for an hour at full speed, although perhaps that needs a minor adjustment after yesterdays performance, but, anyways, when I’m running at 100%+ going on two hours I should sit back and think, hey, wait a second, you can’t do this for another 45 minutes!! After the first lap average of 380w, and still only a less than two minute gap on the chase group, I think, again, it would’ve been smart to just fall back to the chase group. With just the two of them out front they would’ve had to work even harder to stay away. And, finally, a major factor to my petering out, perhaps even the factor, was my nutrition. I did not consume enough calories the day before the race for a few reasons, and then I did not consume enough for the first hour of the race. I must focus on calorie consumption in the future!
So that’s it. I’m glad I went, I learned more, and got a great workout that should only make me stronger. Normalized power of 330 watts for 3 hours. 50 watt drop due to the last 45 minutes of poking around the roads of East Hartland, drafting, struggling to maintain even that connection to the guy in front!
An addendum to this, a few hours after writing the bulk of this report, after speaking with my coach, it's been pretty much confirmed nutrition was my downfall and not my legs or the high, constant power output.