From the start, I had not looked forward to these Nationals. For one thing, it didn't involve a trip. For another, it was in Houston (Fulshear, actually) in June. As the year progressed and my training didn't (who would have guessed this gosh-awful wind), my displeasure increased. And one more thing: I'm at the oldest in the age-group. Four years makes a difference. So, instead of excited anticipation, I left Monday with a "let's-get-this-over-with" attitude.
I arrived Monday afternoon around 2:30pm in Fulshear. They were just finishing up the 5km races. Temperature about 105 with humidity 80 or so, clear sky. "Perfect" for me to get in a practice ride to see what gears to use. The course was straight as an arrow and generally flat, however the slight grades would necessitate a few gear changes to keep the speed at optimum.
When I got back, I saw the 5km results posted (and the 40km from Sunday that I opted not to ride). Ouch, these guys are really, really fast. Ah well, I'm here for the experience. Off to check into the hotel and find dinner (Carino's, pasta) and relax the evening away.
My start time on Tuesday was 11:15am so there was no rush in the morning. I had breakfast at 6:15am then watched TV until 7am, noting that the forecast was for spotty showers all day, becoming more so in the early evening. At 7am I went down to the Fitness Center and did a half hour on the stationary bike, working up a nice sweat and a very good stretching routine. I did this last year also, with great results. Much better to get warmed-up in the dry air conditioning than in the sauna they call Houston. I showered and laid around until 9am and checked out of the hotel and drove the 30 minutes to Fulshear, stopping to fill up with gas while it wasn't raining.
I checked in, got my race numbers, then did some more warming up, trying to get the heart rate up to where it wouldn't go into shock when I started racing, and letting the quads know they were in for some punishment later. The temperature at 10am was mid-80's and the humidity close to 100%. All the while, I pushed as much fluid as I could. Unless you live (or spent lots of time) on the coast, you cannot comprehend the amount of fluid needed to keep hydrated. The start times were pushed back 15 minutes because one of the older competitors (80-84 age group I was told, not the 90-94 guys) had an accident and needed an ambulance. My computer indicated 97 degrees at start.
Apparently I lost track of time while cruising the back streets, so when I arrived at the staging area I found out that my group had alread left for the start line, but only a minute or so. The start line was several blocks away, not a problem. When I got there I found a much smaller group than anticipated. There were 53 guys in my age group. As I found out later, 21 of them opted out. Ah, the Houston weather took it's toll (and probably other factors).
My turn came and off I went, feeling pretty good and strong. The course was into the west. The expected SE wind was actually SW or South, so I knew I was in trouble. At one point I was sprinkled on, and later I saw the temperature dropped to 92 during that time. When racing I monitor my heart-rate and was pleased to see that I held it around 90-94% of maximum most of the time. Unfortunately, with the wind and lack of sustained training, I could tell I was a gear or two short. But, my body did the best it could do given the circumstances and I'm pleased with that.
Originally I hoped for a top 20 position. When I saw the reduced field, I hoped maybe a top 15, and when I saw how I finished relative to Wally, I thought maybe 10-12th. As it turned out, my finish place was 17th with an average speed of 22.84mph. As a comparison, last year in Fulshear my average speed was 24.9 (silver). That is the speed of this year's 5th place finisher.
On to the next adventure: two weeks cycling in Georgia (and visiting with family and having other fun).