Sunday, July 26, 2009

Tour of the Hilltowns (TOTH) Report!

I did two intervals before I left my house in the morning. I had frozen my water bottles, which turned out to be an awesome idea.

2x nutella, peanut butter, strawberry jam, and raisin sandwich making intervals.

I drove to a teammates house and we carpooled to the race. His car was full of paraphernalia that his two daughters (3 and 4) have put everywhere. I saw land before time stickers and was instantly reminded of my little sister when she was that age. I'm 7 years older than her, so I watched her grow up through everything. Though I do need to call out my teammate on not watching the disney classics with his kids.

Dude, not going to call you out by name (Dennis), but the Lion King rocks!

The drive down to the race was good. It was a lot of fun talking to Dennis, and the time just flew by. I had remembered to write down the important landmarks of the race on my leg, so we talked about those a little bit.

We got to the race, registered, took care of business and started riding around a little bit.

Here's a course profile:

Here's when I made my biggest mistake. I lined up at the back and not at the front.

The race started, and I moved up a little bit. The first 20 miles were all downhill, but I had to work a lot harder than I would have had to if I had moved up earlier. A teammate at the back yelled at me to get up there, and I burnt a few matches to push my way up. It still wasnt enough.

Though the scarier part of the first 20 miles were the incessant flats and incessant loose bottles that kept flying everywhere. I ran over a couple. I'm glad to say that everyone handled themselves very well, and that there were no crashes.

When we hit the first little 'bump' at mile 20, the fabled Hawley Road climb, I couldn't see the leaders. My chances of catching them were over right then. The rest of the race was a test of survival and trying to catch the imaginary carrot that was always just a little too far away.

I kept my effort steady on the climb, always just around my threshold but trying not to go too far over it because there was a lot of racing left to go. I caught and passed a few people who got gassed on the climbs, and kept up my pace.

The pain was enormous, but I loved every second of it. I kept chugging along thinking of the awesome sandwiches that were waiting for me back at the car.

After the climb, I started cramping up a bit on my left leg. I unclipped my left foot on a little downhill and shook it out for all it was worth. Clipped back in, downed the rest of my drink, and swapped bottles to the bottle of water that was frozen to my back. Took a sip: Ice cold. I dumped some on my head: Utter bliss.

Half the race over. Chugging along, chugging along.

I pushed on ahead and ran into a few people spread out over the road. I yelled at them to grab my wheel and tried to start a paceline. This included me yelling at everyone to be smooth so we could keep going forward fast. This one guy I've raced with before always tried to show how strong he was by taking long hard pulls, blowing up, and completely ruining the paceline. Others would skip pulls at the front instead of skipping them by hanging on the back.

As disorganized as the group was, this was my group for the lead in to the finish.

At mile 44 or so, we got passed by a lone master's racer. I believe he won. He had a few minutes on the first chase group. Domination.

A few times someone would speed up a lot and rip apart the paceline and I had to close the gap. That started to hurt after a while. Keep thinking good thoughts. The harder you push, the faster you'll get those sandwiches.

OHH SANDWICHES! Must. Push. Harder!

I think our group of 10 fragmented with around 8 miles to go. I kept trying to ride at tempo and pushing at threshold for the hills.

Before I knew it, I saw the 1 KM to go sign. I was way out of contention for anything, but I decided to ramp it up. Coming around the final bend, I sprinted for all I was worth. I wanted to see what I could do after such a hard race. I could do nothing.

My back was killing me after the race. I couldn't really bend it for a few hours after the race. That was a little ridiculous.

All in all, a good day.

I'm looking forward to next weekend's circuit race, and tokeneke the following weekend.

I have a feeling that my calling is more towards crits and track racing (soon to try hopefully), but I've learned that I love road races and will continue to try to enjoy them. I need to work on my threshold a lot.

I think that's what this winter is going to be dedicated to. Lots and lots of threshold work. Hopefully I can do a few early season road races. Maybe this is a good reason to do more early season collegiate stuff. Just to rack on the road races.

As this season starts to 'wind down' a little, there are only a few races left and most of them aren't crits. It's a nice time to be changing gears a little bit and doing some road races for a change.

I'm really looking forward to trying a stage race later in the fall, and trying my hand at some cross racing around the same time to just do something not really related to road biking. I think getting off road every now and then will prove to be a good change of pace and allow me to be mentally fresher in the future. The same thing applies with track racing. Instead of sprint workouts, a day at the track every couple of weeks would be awesome.

This season isn't even over and I'm already dreaming about the next one!

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