Last year I'd had my fill of Walburg. Dropped from the peloton less than two miles from the start, I was in a grupetto for about 15 miles, then on my own for rest of the 48 miles. Last year, I actually had good training miles and was in better shape than this year. No need to punish myself so early. Then Tom emailed me.
Tom is a racer (I'm just a recreational cyclist who races occasionally for diversity). That's what he does all year. He is only two years younger and is looking in the future and doesn't like what he sees. So, this year he is haranguing race directors to start the 60+ group by themselves (rather than with the 50+ young guys). That way we don't get dropped so quickly. (Here is what happens: the fastest 60+ hang with the young guys long enough to put them well ahead of the rest of the guys, then, when they get shelled, they have a small group that fights for awards. In a small-loop race course, the referees pull the laggards, so a majority of the 60 year olds get pulled, usually before half the race has been contested). The Walburg race director agreed to have a separate start if enough guys signed up. He expected 8-10.
I looked at the weather report: mid-50s, partly cloudy with light winds out of the NW shifting to the S during the day. Dang! No excuse there. Last day to sign up was Thursday, midnight. On Monday there were 7 guys. I signed up on Wednesday and was 19th. In all, we started with 22 in our group. When I saw that, I figured the elite guys would do their thing and me and the chase group would do ours.
The pros started at 9am, somewhere around 32 degrees, no wind. I left the house at 10:15am and it was 50 degrees, a hint of a breeze. Warming up I figured 55 degrees and a freshening wind out of the SW. For recreational rides my mantra is: under 65 degrees, cover the knees. For races, I go with as little extra as possible.
As it turned out, we dropped one guy on the first hill, but the lead riders were content to just do a series of accelerations designed to tire the legs of lesser trained guys (like me). Well, I hung with the guys for 18 of the 24 miles of the first lap. Because I knew these roads, I also knew where they were going to drop me. Sure enough, a long uphill and right turn putting the now stiff wind at their backs, left four of us gapped and losing ground. Two others struggled behind the peloton but in front of me. It's not like they left me in the dust. They were maybe two mph faster. For the next 6 miles I kept them in sight but only because of the open fields. When we passed the finish line for the first time I estimate they had maybe five minutes on me. So, once again, I did the second lap by myself.
The sun was out, the wind more than the 5-10 mph predicted. Without the pressure of keeping in the peloton, I put it in "cruise" and let the heart-rate drop to the 140 range (about 85% of maximum). My recreational/training rides usually average in the 120's. There is one 4 miles stretch where the wind was straight in my face. That really dropped my speed, to somewhere around 14mph. I kept looking in my mirrors to see if the guys behind were catching up. However, when I approached the turn, a pick-up coming toward me called out if I wanted a ride back to Walburg (it was the sag wagon). I said no. He said I was the last one on the course. The others had apparently given up at the end of the first lap.
So, a few emotions ran through me: anger at those who wimped out; relief at knowing I couldn't be overtaken; crest-fallen in that I would be the "lantern rouge." However, it also put a little much-needed life in the legs. The muscles were fast approching mush. Fortunately, the last four miles had some wind at my back and a few downhills. The last uphill to the finish I took it nice and easy, and headed for the car.
I spent 36 minutes in zone 5 (90% of max), 99 minutes in zone 4 (80% of max), 26 minutes in zone 3, and 5 seconds in zone 2 (you must be warmed up and ready when racing starts). Average speed for the first lap was 20.4 and the second lap 16.0. Average heart-rate for the first lap was 148, second lap 138.
Upon arrival home (30 minute drive), I ate dinner, showered, went to church, then went to Tao - The Art of the Drum (I really like the Japanese drum programs). It wasn't until sitting down at the Long Center at 7:30pm that my heart-rate finally dropped to a respectful 64 (resting is 55 or so). As I type this my back, hips, and legs are complaining of the abuse I handed them. Today will just be some stretching.