Saturday, August 24, 2013

Hotter n' Hell Hundred: Happy with how I raced, result not so much.

(Note: for all those power nerds who are curious, currently 52.5kg)

Going into the HHH, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I've never raced 100 miles before, and have done very few Texas road races. Back when I was in high school I worked on weekends to make enough money to get to and from school and race at the driveway. My training was pretty abysmal (consisting of on average one weekend ride, racing at the driveway and occasionally a short ride one day after school), I had very little endurance, and I never got to see much racing outside of the Driveway. Additionally, I've never done a RR with as few hills as this course featured. Tactically I wasn't sure how to play it out. Going into it I thought that I would sit in until past the halfway point and then when lots of people were tired try to get a breakaway. I figured someone would go away early, but it sounded like a suicide mission.

After a bit of spinning out and the race started rolling I completely abandoned that plan. My legs felt pretty fantastic, I thought that I would put in a little effort see how they responded and how the group responded and go from there. 4 minutes into the race I attacked, for the next 5 minutes I averaged 220w at which point the group reeled me in. I knew one thing for sure, my legs felt good. So after about 20 seconds sitting in I went again. This time they let me roll a lot more. My thought process was that I would establish a gap of some sort of distance and then settle into mid-tempo. See if the gap held, if it came down. My theory was that very few people really wanted to race from the gun and I might be able to sneak out a big gap early, and then put in the effort of a lifetime to hold it.

I attacked, a very short burst of 550w got me off the front as I had slotted in third wheel. Then I settled to threshold for about a minute until I looked back and saw a gap I was happy with and settled down to tempo. about 10 minutes later the moto told me I had a one minute gap. Not to bad, I was averaging 36kmh, doing just about 190w. I kept riding on. Aproximately 30 minutes into my effort I became aware of a number pinning issue. Due to my small body size and the enormously large 4 digit numbers I had to pin the numbers higher than I ever have, and didn't account for the stretch of my jersey from my shoulders bending down enough. Multiple upper pins became undone and if I lowered my head it became a huge sail in the wind. I couldn't get into my usual " in the zone" position, couldn't stare at my stem like Chris Froome, was straining my neck, and most importantly couldn't get as aero as I would have liked. Anyways it didn't really end up mattering, at some point the group apparently decided to chase. About 40 minutes into my little move it was clear I was going to be caught, lots of miles left to race and I had plenty left in the tank so I sat up. Group apparently did the same. I was doing 120w and still off the front and then one rider bridged and it was game on. Now a group of two, and soon 4 we held on for about 5 more minutes until as I heard from someone later, a group attempted to bridge but instead pulled the whole group with them to us. I went ahead and settled into the group. It was outrageously easy at this point. I was doing 115w sitting in and we were going 35 kmh.

At about mile 25 the group allowed 2 guys to roll off the front. Then hit the slow pedal, all the way down to 28kmh. ~5 miles later they were out of sight and a number of us decided it was time to try and close the gap. Charles Mills took off in pursuit and after a suitable gap had been established I decided to bridge that and work with him to catch the leaders. At the same point in time Nate Sheetz had the exact same idea, and Jake Lanoux seeing both Nate and I go decided it was a good idea to come as well. The group decided it was too many to let go and right about the time we caught up to Charles we were caught by the group. Shortly after that they allowed Nate to go all on his lonesome then. He bridged to the 2 leaders, they disposed of one and made it to the finish with a 1.5 minute gap.

Over the course of the next 40 miles or so things get pretty muddled in my mind. I attacked... a number of times but was never allowed to get away. We caught a guy from DNA racing who had been dropped from the lead trio (now duo). There was lots of rough pavement. I was a hurting unit on the rough pavement. Uphill, on a flat, didn't matter, I felt as though I lost a percentage more than everyone else on that stuff.... and it totally makes sense, I did. Everyone loses the same amount of power to rolling resistance, just ends up being a higher percentage of my lightweight power output. At one point not long after we turned onto the only road where we could not use the whole road a number of people seemed to get flats. I know Jake Lanoux did, and that sucked because he was looking good all race. Anyways, all these people getting flats and the gauntlet was thrown down. Suddenly the pack was split into 2 and I seemed to have just missed the cut. I drilled it, didn't take me too long to catch up, maybe 1-2 minutes. Then we rolled through a feed zone and sat up some more. Then we went hard some more, the gap was out to about 4 minutes and no one cared much to chase.

Finally we made a turn onto some prisitne pavement, suddenly when people went hard I felt like I could go harder and I finally got some recovery. I talked to TC Porterfield, and we agreed that we needed to get away. I talked to a rider from the Garmin junior team asked how he was feeling and told him I was going to put a dig in to go. He seemed on board. I went up front and hit the gas, no violent acceleration, but a definate change in pace. 4 guys came with me but neither TC, nor the Garmin kid where there.  We rotated a bit and then were caught and TC attacked, I saw the Garmin guy go with him and I tried to respond but I just didn't have the effort after the previous move.

At this point we hit rought pavement again and I mentally hit a wall, and was starting to hit a heat and energy wall. I sat in and suffered on rough road through the next aid station and then kinda came back to my senses. There were ~10 people up the road, there were maybe 2 people in my group who wanted to do work, I didn't want to race for 10th, and I knew my sprint was a bit fried. I decided it was time for an all or nothing move, I was going to go threshold off the front. We only had ~20-30minutes left, I would give all I had until I got caught or hit the finish line.

I went up front and set off, I settled into the hardest effort which I felt I could manage. I wasn't entirely sure how long I could manage it, but I was going to keep on pushing on. For the next 15 minutes I did 220w, and I caught 2 riders who had dropped off the previous group. My legs felt like I couldn't do 5 more minutes worth but they had felt like that from the start of the effort so I kept pressing on, right up until I was caught by the group behind me. My arms were throbbing from staying low, my neck ached from holding the head up to keep the sail from rising, my forearms had been killing me for 2 hrs, and my legs hurt to ride endurance. I couldn't clatch onto the back of what was let of the "main field." I rode the last km in by myself, I talked to some rally riders, pulled some along and my legs ached a bunch. I ultimately crossed the line ~13min behind Nate and the winner, the next group which I had just barely missed finished 1.5min off them and the main field 5.5 behind them. My official placing: 37th.

I can't say I'm satisfied with my placing, but I am satisfied with how I rode. Next time lets race up a mountain.