Monday, August 30, 2010

First Crit

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming – I do like the title Running from Demons and Overtraining – but I will keep the normal title for now.

I certainly have kept busy the last couple of weeks. That happens this time of year. Single days turn into two-a-days and two-a-days turn into three-a-days. Maladaptive? Definitely but it works for me. Maybe I am justify but running 12 I the morning and then biking 50 in the afternoon just sounds like normal everyday ironman training and it sure beats climbing into a bottle. But I digress.

I took these pictures during some of the other races.

Last weekend I did my first every road bike race. There was a crit and a road race up in Meridian. I decided to do the crit at the last minute. I had several people encouraging me to take the leap. I had a lot of fear. You here about all of the crashes and wrecks and – well they look very dangerous. Now, I am not really scared or afraid of crashing or anything. I mean, I don’t want it to happen but I am afraid of the lingering injuries. I have a very real fear of hurting myself and my lifestyle having to be altered. I use my exercise for far more than fitness. Exercise is my escape and I am not sure I want to have to come up with an alternative.

The winner of the cat 4 race.  I like the guy in the background.

Anyway, I rode up with Raland Saturday afternoon and we linked up with the R2W cycling team. They are primarily mountain bike racers but they are trying to broaden their scope. This would be the first crit for many of them as well. We set up camp at the finish line and watched the juniors and women divisions. It felt very strange getting ready for a race with a 3PM start time. I am usually just waking up and drinking a cup of coffee for the start of most triathlons or running races.

A sprinting crash at the end of a race.

The course was several city blocks in old downtown Meridian. Although there were no steep climbs the entire route was either up or down. The start / finish line was about 400 yards up a slight hill – there was also a head wind for this straight away. My goal for the race was to stay out of trouble. I understand that you will not place very high being so conservative but this would be a learning experience.

90 degree turn.

I had imagined the race starting out at a break neck speed up everyone just kind of clipped in and jumped into the group. It was a little bit unsettling taking 90 degree turns three wide and at speed. This is something that is definitely foreign to a triathlete. There are very few technical triathlon races and no one takes the turns at three wide. The entire group rode together jockeying for position. No one wanted to make a break and the group slinked along. The group was like an accordion. I managed to stay at near the front of the pack. I did get stuck up front for a while but remember that I was not in charge of pulling this group. I slacked off of the pace a little bit and in a minute or two someone else took the lead. The time was flying in the race. It was only to be 30 minutes and then the last lap called. I remember doing 30 minute time trials that have felt like a week. The time trials seem like they will never end and hurt so dang bad. Well, Garmin was just ticking off the minutes. Ten minutes went by – then 20 minutes went by. This race was like out Wednesday night ride. I was hanging on fine and fairly comfortable.

Exciting racing.

And then someone made a break. It was on the top half of the course and they made a break just before a big downhill. It caught me off guard. I had just gotten comfortable enough so that I could grab a quick drink from my water bottle. I had just got a splash and the group surged in response to the attack. I caged the bottle and jumped out of the saddle. Down the hill and banking hard for the 90 degree turn into the straight away. A large gap developed. The leaders were halfway down the start / finish straight away and moving fast. I was alone going up the incline and taking the full brunt of the wind. I was working hard – very hard. I was not making any progress. I was talking to myself saying just 10 more seconds. I had to say it a couple of times. Fortunately the group slower a fraction after the next couple of turns and I was able to bridge the gap. I was on the pack of the lead pack! There were only a couple more laps at this point. They were counting them down each time we crossed the finish line. Being back in the draft my heart rate had come down sufficiently. I was feeling strong.

Carousel horse in the background.

I know from talking with more experienced riders that the strongest does not always win – I’m fact being strong, unless you are substantially strong won’t get you very far. You also have to be smart. Not pulling the group and setting them up.

A breakaway in the Cat 1,2,3 race.

The bell rang with one lap to go. The pace immediately picked up again. I was in the middle of the lead pack and just moving along. The leaders made another attack just before the downhill section immediately preceding the finish line straight away. In retrospect, the set the sprint up in the downhill so that they were in position to have the best line on the straight away. I was left at the back of the lead pack when this happened. I was not prepared for break although, once again, in retrospect it was obvious. I did try to out sprint the cyclists closest to me but it was to no avail. However, I also did not get out sprinted by anyone. We all just accelerated as hard as we could but none of us could make any ground on each other.

Hot pursuit.

All in all I had a very good outing. First, there were no crashes in our race. That was fortunate. Second, I was able to finish with the lead pack. This was quite an accomplishment in and of itself. And third, I think I now have a little more confidence for the next bicycle race that I do.

The main pack.


Jennifer said...

Very exciting! I love watching bike racing and fantasize about getting in on the pack, but not brave enough to do it. So much is about strategy and luck as well and great skills as a bike handler, you have all of those! How exciting for you to do this! Great job James!

Big Daddy Diesel said...

Exciting, crits are hard, especially when we are use to triathlon biking which is one constant steady pace, crits are sprint, clow down, jump again, slow a bit, alot is going on, almost like a chess match with the mental aspect of it. Nice job finishing up front.

Richard said...

Awesome! I did my first one earlier this year and I was happy to finish 29/45

Matty O said...

Amazing... honestly amazing man. Never heard of these but I am intrigued.

misszippy said...

Way to go. Crits are scary stuff--you hung on really well, which takes both guts and fitness!

Luke said...

Congrats on your race. It's fun to swithc things up every once in a while.

Bethany + Ryan said...

wow! great job! sounds like a lot of excitement! You are far more brave than I!

Julie said...

Hi James,
You have posted several great pictures! I would love to watch a bike race like this one:) It sounds so fun and exciting. Congrats on a great race! It seems to me like it is very mentally challenging as well as it is physical! Nice work:)

Caratunk Girl said...

I didn't know what a crit was until I read this. I was thinking you miss-spelled grits. That looks like tons of fun and super challenging! Great job!

Lindsay said...

Congratulations! Especially for hanging on and for bridging the gap!

I have watched a fair share of crits, and they look incredibly painful and incredibly scary.

Ironman By Thirty said...

Congrats on your first crit! I've watched a few of them and still haven't psyched myself up to do one yet. Maybe someday.