Following the debacle at Fort Hood (racing, not shooting), I felt more than a little concern about this week-end's Senior Games Championships. Even with concentrated workouts, while the legs felt strong, they really weren't sympatico with the pedals. As I drove to Houston (Fulshear, really), a smidgen of doubt crawled through my consciousness, but I beat it back.
What I really didn't like was the 40 degree temperature on Saturday morning. My first race, the 5k time-trial, went off at 9:25am. This means getting to Fulshear around 8am, checking in and getting my packet, getting squared away, and riding for about a half-hour or more to warm up. Since we are still waiting for daylight savings time to go away, the sun was barely above the horizon at 8am. Granted, it would warm up to the low 80's in the afternoon, but to give me as much warmth as possible, I put off riding until almost 8:30.
I had on my tights and jacket and cut the warm-up ride to 20 minutes. Still, I can't tell you my heart rate because my skin had no moisture to make the connection between the strap and computer. After the warm-up, I jumped on the stationary trainer to see about jump-starting the heart rate. That is a useless endeavor; I have never been able to get over 90% of max on the trainer. And, I mis-read the clock, and showed up at the start line, a few blocks from the parking lot, about 10 minutes too early, meaning I had to ride around in the side street, keeping my legs loose. By this time, the sun was nicely warming us and I had shed the tights and jacket.
Unlike last year, almost 90% of my time was in the 90% heart rate range. My average speed was 23.2 and the max was 25.2. This course is almost dead flat. I missed silver by less than 3 seconds and about 20 out of first. Perhaps dropping one gear lower might have netted me silver, but that's water over the dam.
The course is point-to-point, meaning I cooled down for the 5k back to the start line. I had an hour before the start of the 10k. Most of the time, I coughed a lot, ate an energy bar, drank an energy drink, and talked to the other guys about cycling. I also jumped on the trainer to keep the legs loose, then went back to the start line.
Again, point-to-point on a generally flat course. Same course, just keep going. Like last year, my average speed of 24.9 exceeded that of the 5k, and I felt quite comfortable. Unfortunately, I must have been a gear short, because gold wasn't very close (like 11 seconds). I felt bad that I couldn't successfully defend my gold medal standing.
After changing into more comfortable clothes, I drove the 20k course (40k would be two loops) to get a feel for it. Well, duh, it was the same one as last year except in reverse. After that, it was back to the motel to rest and eat. Watched Oregon run over Southern Cal.
Again, had a 9:10am start time. This time, however, even though the temperature was about 10 degrees warmer, I went down to the fitness room and jumped on the stationary bike for about 20 minutes. Can't say about the heart rate because the machine thought it was around 72, but I broke a sweat for about 10 minutes of the 20 minute warm-up, and stretched nicely afterwards. Showered, got dressed, and drove to the start about 8:15am. Again, I set up the trainer to keep the legs loose and otherwise make final preparations.
A slight aside: I had forgotten that my computer mount was placed on the aerobars of the road bike. When I took them off, I found I had no mount for the computer, thus the computer was turned on and put in my back pocket. I had no electronic feedback during the race, which is just as well.
I learned Saturday that several of the fast guys (those who usually medal) would be foregoing the 40k in order to attend a different cycling event. However, Tom Hall gave me a sage piece of advice: stay within the first five or six because the accelerations out of the corners could leave you gapped.
We started with the 60-64 age group, and I dutifully took up position behind Wally (because he is a big guy and blocks a lot of wind). Of course, riders changed positions as we wended our way around the course, but I generally kept between 3rd and 5th. Surprisingly, I spent a lot of time in heart rate zone 3 (cruising effort), due to drafting. On the second loop the speed picked up a bit and on one corner I got boxed out and in manuevering to avoid a crash felt my right calf try to cramp. Fortunately it was not one of the corners requiring a heavy push, so I relaxed for the next minute or two and it returned to normal.
I occasionally checked my mirrors but all I could see was some big guy (Monteith) and had no idea how many were behind him. As it turned out, the accelerations out the many turns had taken their toll on many, so when it came to the last sprint, there weren't more than six or eight.
Even though I'm a novice at racing, I pretty much know what I can do. Given my protected position, and no time in zone 5 (until the final sprint), I felt good, and as the finish line approached, I selected a high gear that I could handle when I stood on the pedals. The rpm's increased and Wally and Monteith passed on the left and I followed Wally's rear wheel. As it turned out, Wally had jumped too soon and my acceleration allowed me to come around him just before the finish line. Monteith was in the 60-64 age group. Average speed for 28.2 miles was 22.3mph.
Thus, I finished first in my age group and second in the combined group. I have now qualified for Nationals next June. All I have to do is get about a minute faster in the time-trials.