Sunday, November 6, 2011


My practice times at Old Settlers Park were 47:39, 46:46, and 47:10, so going into the race I had a high confidence level (of finishing without falling over). Additionally, the temperature fell in the 70 degree category for warm-ups and the mid-70's by race time, perfect. Plus, the wind forecast had it from the SE at 15mph and the course generally went N or NW. Couldn't ask for more than that. When I saw the list of competitors, my confidence took a slight hit, in that my friend Bill, who beats me like a drum, had signed up. I now had silver in my sights.

Anyhow, I arrived in Gruene about 1:10pm, after taking a wrong turn (no surprise there) and touring a bit of New Braunfels before getting back on track. I had plenty of time to pick up my packet and prepare before the 3:24pm start time. I warm up on my road bike, and today I wore the Texas State Champion jersey, just to show off a bit. The location of the Packet pick-up/Start Line was several blocks from the parking lot and I cycled over to get my numbers. Then I stuffed the packet into my pocket and previewed the first mile or so to make sure I remembered it properly.

Back at the car, I dropped the stuff off and did another fifteen minutes of warm-up on a flat road with a bike lane. A little rest and I headed out again, but this time Bill and Michael saw me and called out. We exchanged pleasantries (no rivalries with us old guys, we cheer each other on no matter) before I did another round of warming up. Back at the car, with a slight glisten, I changed into my skin suit, changed socks, donned shoe covers, and, with a few more minutes, got on the bike trainer for last-minute preparation. Truthfully, I don't know why I take the trainer with me, I know I can't get the heart-rate up on it like I should. Anyhow, I only had eight minutes before getting off and putting everything in the car.

Riders were off at 30 second intervals, and Michael started right in front of me. They have a 300 person limit, starting with the slower riders and finishing with the really fast ones. It came as no surprise that Michael was next to me, in that I used his average speed from last year to estimate mine when I signed up. One thing my practice runs have taught me is the first three miles need to be a settling in time before I start pushing. And my practice on the first mile of the race course reaffirmed that on the long, shallow (6%) grade in the first mile, I should keep it in the small ring and concentrate on rpm, which I kept around 90.

Having Michael as my carrot really helped as an additional gauge as to my progress. He is generally a slightly faster rider, and in the next youngest age group. As we got into mile three I started to pick it up, and by then had caught a slower rider. I made up a few seconds here and there on downhills and corners (over river crossings), but not until over halfway did I finally pass him after a slight uphill. My heart-rate chart indicates that at this time I moved from about 85% of maximum to 90%+, and kept it over 90% for the rest of the race (except a short recovery on a long downhill before the finish).

I passed three riders before the second to last, half-mile climb, and another three or four on that climb. One rider passed me at about mile 13, and another on the last climb. Only having two riders pass me buoyed my expectations. Anyhow, shortly before the last two climbs we have a downhill into a river crossing. The route map indicates this to be a very treacherous turn and caution must be exercised. Indeed, when Barry and I previewed it a couple weeks ago, I remarked then that if I weren't careful I could over-cook it. My carrot was now the guy who passed me, and I used him to help me through the turn. I found out after the race that a lady had missed it and gone off over the guardwall into the river (which unfortunately is a lot of rocks and not much water).

The last climb is about three-tenths of a mile long and tops out at either 10 or 11%, depending on whose gps you look at. After my practice ride, I contemplated switching to an 11-28 cog set to make sure I could make it up this climb without embarrassing myself. Given the wind, at my back for some of the downhills, the 11 would have netted me some higher speed on the downhills, but I did just fine in my 25. I struggled, but didn't wobble, up the hill to the finish.

I hate it when I have a good plan but fail to execute it. Plan A was for me to get my breath, then do a reverse course recovery ride back to the car, report to Marilane, then drive back to the finish line for the award ceremony. They don't start the awards until the last rider is finished, so I figured an hour or and hour and fifteen minutes. But I got to talking to Michael after the race, really didn't want to do sixteen miles against the wind, and decided to take the shuttle back after the awards. To make a long story short, I finished at 4:15pm and the awards started about 6:00 and didn't stop until 7:00. By this time it was dark. And, they didn't have a shuttle! The race director managed to find a guy with a truck to take two of us back to Gruene. Needless to say, Marilane was quite relieved when I finally got back to the car and was able to check in.

Oh, yes. I finished first in my age group, besting Bill by a little over a minute and Michael by around a minute and a half. Based on some of the other times I was able to glimpse, my time (46:56, unofficial) was quite respectable no matter what the age group. I'll do a short follow-up when all the times are posted.

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