It’s been over a week since the 2011 Chain Drive and I’m just now getting a chance to write up the report. I put a preliminary report up on the Twin Six team site, but this one gets to be longer and a little more narcissistic.
I had done two solid pre-rides of the old 2010 course and was putting down better times in those training rides than I had put down in previous races. I did one pre-ride with a Red Jacket teammate who was pretty certain I could take top 5. I didn’t have quite that much confidence in myself, but felt like I could do something solid.
My race prep was a little different this year than in previous years. I was riding the same old HiFi, but had a Specialized Renegade in the back and a Captain in the front, both set up tubeless. I had also ditched the idea of extra bottles or a hydration pack in favor of a single Specialized Purist bottle (in pink, for my girls). I made a point of getting down to the race by 9:30 AM instead of 9:45 and found a spot in the initial lineup much closer to the front than I ever had.
Consequently, when they let us go, I kept the front of the race in my sight. Usually I struggle with the accordion effect, bouncing between speeds where I can barely keep up and speeds where I’m frustrated by all the people in front of me going so slowly. That was a good sign. The next good sign was when we got onto M203. There’s a decent little hill heading past the Hancock Beach where people ahead of me were slowing down — too much. I got on the outside of the group and hit the gas. The hill felt flat and I just left the group behind. The 32-milers were a ways ahead and that was the last time I saw them.
Cemetery Hill wasn’t terrible. There were a handful of riders who pulled ahead on the first pitches as I was finding my way down into a smaller gear to spin a nice high cadence, but as soon as the steeper sections came, my higher cadence let me pull back ahead. Onto the singletrack we went, without any chance for recovery. Things were going very well through the singletrack and doubletrack except for a couple of singlespeeders who couldn’t climb hills in a straight line.
At the 16/32-mile split, I found myself riding alone for a while. I hate this, because I can’t keep myself motivated to ride hard. But fortunately, I finally saw a pair of riders up ahead that I started chasing. A rider behind me started pushing me and we got into a routine of attacking each other for the next 7 miles. One younger rider got a good gap on the rest of us and I couldn’t pull him back. I eventually crossed the line third out of our little group of four.
I stopped the clock at 1:14:29.5, good for 11/165 overall and 3rd in my age bracket. I got to take home a medal for my efforts, the first time in an MTB race I’ve ever gotten to climb the podium. While I raced in Red Jacket kit, I donned my METAL jacket and Twin Six cap for the podium ceremony.
I have to praise the Time Crunched Cyclist plan, as I think it was completely responsible for the fitness that got me across the line. The equipment, nutrition and preparation were as good as they could be. I’m not sure I am capable of riding this race any faster without completely dedicating myself to cycling.
I think it bodes well for cyclocross season. I can push myself hard for 75 minutes, so hopefully I can push myself really hard for 30-45 minutes. The harder question is what I will do next year. Should I go for a top-10 in the short race or go back to the longer race? We’ll see what happens after ‘cross.
For now, I’ve been trying to hold on to my fitness until this Saturday for the Stony Creek Marathon. Then, I’m going to drop into a base-training kind of mode, just putting in long steady rides until September. Then I’ll get back onto some kind of structured plan to prep for ‘cross. But the 2011 racing season seems to be off to a great start.