Training is back in full effect and last week I hit close to 10 hours of workouts. I signed up for the Napa Valley Half Iron on the last weekend of April and need to get ready for what I hope to be an awesome triathlon season. This year I'm starting off my early season training doing things a bit differently and incorporating a ton more variety. A big part of my success this season will be trusting my body both from a blood sugar and endurance perspective to know I can push through the pain barrier to get faster.
To spice things up I headed to Fairfax on Saturday and hit up the Pine Mountain trails. The drive was rewarded with 8 miles of glorious running and I felt fantastic. The Pine Mountain trails offer some kick a** hills to test yourself on and some of the most amazing views anywhere. I held back on the first 5 miles and then began to open it up on the last 8; my last mile, a pretty steep downhill, was run in under 7 minutes - was just a perfect run. After the run we decided to hit up Sonoma where I joined the Medlock Ames wine club. I'm not telling you about the vineyard as an Oenophile but rather as someone who really believes in sustainability. I was sold on the vineyards use of sheep as lawn mowers, nature preserve built into their lands and overall organic and eco-friendly way of farming. It's pretty neat to be able to support a local business that believes in the same methods of capitalism that you do so I was happy to support them anyway I could - plus the tasting room has an after hours speakeasy so I was sold!
Now onto the early bird # 3 on Sunday. I woke Sunday pretty anxious to get down to Fremont, the focus of the day's clinic was on sprinting. If you take one look at me its pretty apparent what my body is meant for - short, intense efforts; in the words of Bill Parcels, "it's what you lift all dem weights for." Much to my chgrin the sprinting clinic was focused on rpms at 43 x 17 instead of rpms at 54 x 11 (the different ratios for bike gears). During a sprint I can get my rpms up to 100 to 110 in my 54 x 11 gear on a flat for a short duration, using smaller gearing had me spinning like a lunatic to get up to speed.
The clinic was organized by Dan Smith of Sportvello, a legend in the Norcal cycling community and one of the best cycling coaches around. He had an awesome approach and enthusiasm to coaching a large group and while I wish I had the opportunity to get clocked in my biggest gears I still learned a ton about sprinting positioning, dynamics and effort. After an hour of tremendous coaching it was time to race, I couldn't wait.
After last week's crash fest the race organizers decided to split the field down the middle so that each race group had a mix of aggressive and passive riders. Last week we were split into riders who had raced more than 5 races and those who had raced less than 5 races. The big crash was with the newbies, not surprising since we're all trying to figure out what taking leadership during a crit really means. This way the more experienced riders could control the flow of the race and the new guys could feel what an experienced race was like.
My goal for the race was to stay with the pack, finish but also push myself as hard as I could and be in the sprint at the end. At the start I felt fantastic, my blood sugar was a stable 215 and I was hanging right in the middle of the paceline - probably rider 20 of 48. Through the first few laps I held my position and was not feeling like I had to sprint all that often to catch the group after a turn. My cornering was much improved but I still need a ton of work on it - losing those triathlete habits isn't easy!
Once we hit lap 5 I decided to test myself, left the paceline around the sweeping 4th turn and jumped to the front. Another rider clad in white and blue joined me and we led for the majority of the 5th lap. Sadly I haven't figured out how to maintain my position in the paceline, a larger group of riders was on our wheel and swallowed us up, since I don't know how to merge back into the line I had to float back to the end of that group and lost the solid position I was in. I made another move with 2 laps to go and was up near the front again but got crowded out coming around a turn, I knew if I wanted to have a chance at the sprint I'd have to really crush it on the last lap. After turn 1 I started to move up the pack working like a dog - I was out of the paceline so couldn't draft any of the riders. I made it through turn 2 safely, moved to the inside and hammered to try and beat the pack to turn 3 (rookie move). I was about 5 riders too slow and had to slam my brakes because I took turn 3 way too tight, like a new rider to crits or like a triathlete (take your pick) and at that point was 100 yards off the front riders and wouldn't be able to contest the sprint.
I however, DID FINISH! In the first crit I lost the pack when trying to learn how to corner with the mentors and last week my mechanical issues from the crash didn't allow me to finish. This week I finished and was in near position to contest the sprint so couldn't be happier. I did make a bone head move at the end but am learning a ton about handling each time I go to the clinic. Here are the quick items I learned:
- I have the engine to chase down the pack even without drafting but need to learn how to draft to maintain position at the front of the pack
- Don't be an idiot - if I 100% know I can't get to the front I need to stay on the outside of a turn
- If courses were straight I'd be pretty good at this (that's my positive spin on holy crap I am awful at cornering)
ps - if any riders who live in the San Francisco area stumble upon this blog and want to commute down to the crit or grab a ride sometime, or know of any teams looking to develop riders please post a comment, I'm all ears.