I signed up to race the 5k and 10k time trials and the 40k road race because Senior Games needs participants if they are to continue to sponsor our races. February 21 and 22 are 'way too early in the season for me. Of course, it is probably the same for the other guys. Prior to this weekend, I'd been on the TT bike twice since November, both times not exceeding 5k. Enough history, on to the excitement.
The 5k started at 9am, with my start time 9:20am. Marilane and I arrived about 7:45 to check in, do a little socializing, and do my warm-up. I warm-up on my road bike and only switch to the TT bike for the race. This early in the morning, it was still chilly so I had on my tights and jacket as I tooled around the 10k course, which is one loop. That gives me about 20-25 minutes to get the legs warm and heart pumping. I never properly warm up for the 5k, but still felt comfortable with the effort.
The start-line was about a mile down the road so I used that distance to get re-acquainted with the TT bike. Tights and jacket came off. It wasn't my intention, but I got there at 9, just as the first rider started. Twenty minutes is a long time to stand around, so I figured I'd continue on down the road and stay warm and practice my starts. Unfortunately, about a hundred yards down the road it turned from asphalt to dirt, and rocky dirt at that. So I was left doing loops, at least still practicing the start. This gets old after awhile, so interspersed between was stopping and talking.
Eventually, my time came. I got a good jump and settled into the ride, going through the gears until I found one compatible with my effort. The 5k course was south-to-north, with more downward sloping than up, and today had a breeze at our back. My speed was ego-boosting. The quads started complaining so I backed off a bit to let them get used to the level of exercise. If you watched the Tour de France TT last year you were treated to the unsavory sight of Tony Martin (I think) with mucous running down his chin. Fortunately, I didn't have a guy with a TV camera riding next to me, but my nose began going as fast as I was.
I caught my 30 second man, and the 60 second person, leaving them behind as the finish came into sight. Fastest time ever for a 5k (for me), but given the course and the wind, to be expected. I came in first in my age group, and in going over the finish times, something like 5th overall. The two miles back to the cars and the 10k start line gave me the opportunity for a nice cool-down.
We had about an hour before the start of the 10k, and I hoped the hacking cough that developed shortly after returning to the car would have subsided. This happens in cold weather, and up and down the line, cyclists were coughing and hacking. Not much warm-up was needed before the 10k.
My friend and Tour de Gruene Two-Man TT partner, Dean, had a faster 5k time and I passionately informed him I'd beat his #ss in the 10k. I was warm, the temperature had warmed nicely, but the wind hadn't changed, other than to get a bit stronger. This gave us a tailwind going out and a headwind coming back, although it was a rectangular course, but you get the idea. I booked it going out, and hardly slowed coming back. Halfway through, I once again overtook the two people who started in front of me. The warmer weather slowed the nose problem. Anyway, once again I placed first in my age group, and if I read the sheet correctly, was 4th overall. Dean dropped his chain on a corner, and had to stop and replace it, but we agreed I still had a better time.
The next day was the 40k road race. Once again I did the 10k loop to warm up. This time, in view of the dearth of participants, the grouped the men into 64 and younger and 65 and older categories. That left us with a few young guys, who are almost always faster. That changed the strategy, in that they took the lead and everyone else happily pace-lined behind them. Four laps of the 10k course, and one guy lead for three laps. My heart-rate on the first lap was 110, second lap 120, and third lap 128.
On the fourth lap I found myself at the head of the pace-line. Now, this can be a bad thing, but not necessarily. As the leader, I set a nice comfortable pace that I could maintain without a problem. Nobody else wanted to take that away from me. The heart-rate increased to 138, but that is barely out of Zone 3 (about 80% of maximum), so I had plenty in reserve. One of the younger guys gave me a little relief a few miles from the finish. But then, he just sped up and left us. Shortly after, the other young guy took off after him. No problem, they were in another age group.
As we started the incline, the one that gave me no difficulties on my TT ride, my guys started an attack. I increased rpms, then geared down, then suddenly had no oomph. Somewhat dismayed at my inability to hang with even this early attack, I settled into preservation mode. I finished last, not too far behind, but certainly not in contention.
Needless to say, I pondered my fate. It wasn't until I returned home and saw the computer read-out of my HRM that I recognized the problem. If you go back several years, you will see I posted results of my 10k gold medal at State. I do quite well when I can put a lot of time in Zone 5, about the 90-93% of maximum range. I had zero minutes in Zone 5, and only 14 minutes in Zone 4 for this race. A lot of that is because I was drafting in the pace line, but even in the 10k I recorded no time in Zone 5. Zones 3 and 4 are cruising areas, Zone 5 is racing.
The answer is clear: I need to be getting more time in Zone 5. Of course, this happens later in the year, as I do more hill work and generally get stronger. But check back in a few months, and I'll let you know how I'm doing.