Sunday, May 23, 2010

Capital City Criterium

You never know what kind of shape you're in until you push yourself.

I entered the Capital City Criterium cat5 race. Six left turns and two right turns makes for an interesting mix. Considering it's a Cat5 race (beginners and those who want to test the waters), I thought there might be some crashes.

My last mass start event was in 1994. I've raced the Cornhusker State Games Time Trial for the last three years. I'm a bit green when it comes to these things.

My goal Saturday was simply not to crash. Keep it upright.

I had some nerves going in to Saturday's race. My resting heart rate is 61bpm.
I got my bike down off the j-hook, threw my leg over the bike and synched up my HRM: my heart was pounding at 103. I've seen it as high as 85 before, but that's because I'm running late or because I want to beat the rain clouds. Not on a slightly overcast and windy morning with temps in the upper 60s.

After getting checked in, saying hi to some friends and installing my timing chip, I did some practice laps on the course to find a good groove and rough spots to avoid. My heart rate was at 160, and I was plodding at 15mph.

Not good. That kind of a pace during my commute typically yields a heart rate of 145. Most days I have to be going 20 to get to 170. Yeah, I know I'm not in the best shape, but 160 still high for me at 15mph.

Except that when I commute, I hardly touch my brakes. More on this later.

As soon as the first lap was in, I looked down at my HRM. 185. That's creeping up on "redline".

I backed it off and just "raced the course". I kept one other rider who fell off the back after the first lap in my sights throughout the race. He was my "not going to come in DFL" insurance. I was going to keep a little in the tank and punch it on the final lap and pass that guy.

"The Distance" started playing back in my mind after I got lapped (the first time). Two of the folks I said hi to prior to the race with came up behind me and gave me words of encouragement. You both lapped me. No really, I started behind you guys, you just lapped me...

I opened it up as the bell rang for the final lap. I ignored my HRM, the other riders, and my numb hands. Yes, numb hands. To say the roads in Lincoln's Core neighborhood are rough is to say Charlize Theron is simply not ugly.

Not Ugly

I kept pushing through my distorted vision to the finish.

I finished 3 laps down and managed to come in before 3 others.

I maxed out at 24.5mph during that final lap. My HRM reports that I maxed my heart out at 194. I felt like I was gonna hurl.

And I'm happy to report I rode with 26 other people on an 8 turn, 0.7 mile criterium course without crashing. Mission: Accomplished.

What I learned during this race can be summed up in four words: "Don't Kill Your Momentum".

I rode the first few laps like a "two footed driver": someone who drives an automatic transmission car with one foot on the accelerator and another on the brake.

I had my left finger on the front brake to slow myself down and then played catch-up as I exited the turn. It took me a few laps to learn this is a poor strategy, even on a course with tight turns.

I had started catching up to the other fall-off-guy after I quit using my brakes to enter turns. I took the turns a bit wider (when I had the room) so I wouldn't lose as much momentum that I would ultimately have to replace with pedal power.

Next step is to build confidence in my tires. 

Saturday's Mileage: 23.2. I didn't drive to the race.

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