But first, an update on my cassette problem, now solved. There was nothing wrong with my 11 tooth cog. It seems that in shifting cassettes back and forth, I managed to switch the Dura Ace lock ring from the CS 7900, Yes, this fits a ten-cog cassette but with a 12 tooth cog. For the 11 tooth you need a little more space for the chain to engage. Thanks to Paul at Bicycle Sport Shop for sleuthing this out. For the flat course in College Station, I wasn't even close to needing it, however it will come into play shortly.
After last year's poor showing, I worked real hard on improving in the off-season. Actually, I intended to work hard but coming into February, my training had been sporadic, with nothing long. Then came the six-hour two-man "race" at Pace Bend. I was very pleased with my endurance, not so much with the speed. I put long distance on the shelf for a while and worked on cadence and repeats. Also, every year except last year I went to spin class once a week. This year I'm back to being a regular.
I didn't bring enough cold-weather gear. Mid-40's with a slight north-east wind. That's in-your-face for the 5k and back-left-shoulder for the finish of the 10k. I had tights and arm warmers plus a base layer. I had a wind breaker. I needed my heavy bike jacket. The Redskin pullover would have to do until race time. My warm-up in College Station is the same: ride the 10k course, which is one lap with four right turns and a slight uphill toward the finish. The 5k runs south-to-north, point-to-point. About half way through I realized my body was quite comfortable with the temperature and the wind not so bad. I guesstimated twenty-two minutes to get back to the car; it took twenty-five minutes forty-eight seconds. I took that as an omen (but after getting home and checking last year, it was two seconds faster).
There is no drama with this race. It runs quite smoothly, everyone doing their job. I get a little antsy before a race, and usually forget something. For the 5k, I was ready early and rode the mile or so to the start line and twiddled for about fifteen minutes. I figured out which gear to start in, and reviewed my strategy: high cadence for the first half, and more gears for the second (it has downhills). This worked to my advantage, in that for the first time ever, there was an "oopsy" and the finish line was set up at 1.77 miles rather than 3.1. A really short race. As it turned out, my time was good enough for first place. Last year Dean beat me. Regular readers know that Dean and I have been competing since 2004, and team up for team time trials, either two-man or three-man. We came in second in 2009, the last time we didn't come in first.
Things happen, we got over it and prepared for the 10k. By the way, for the races I divested myself of the pullover and the wind jacket and had tight clothes to cheat the wind. I was fairly sure I would come in first. For whatever reason, I changed my start-strategy and went with the small chain ring and mid-range cog. With a slight wind at my back, I figured to bring it up to speed quicker that way. Should have known better than to trust that shift. I accelerated quickly and pulled the lever. Nothing happened. More pull, more nothing. Pook, ding-fu!! Flashing in my head was me doing the whole thing cross-chaining in the small cogs. I moved down a gear and the front derailleur had pity on me. I concentrated on cadence into the right-shoulder wind, a right turn and some downhill into the wind, then finally some relief on the last right turn and a favorable wind. I surprised myself how low in the cogs I was going. Even going up a grade I held a decent gear, and still had a little oomph at the end. I'm still waiting for the official times, but my best guess is, even finishing first, I'm about fifteen seconds slower than last year.
We had about an hour before the start of the 20k road race. Usually I skip the 20k and do the 40k, figuring my competitors will have tired their legs. But with my lack of distance training, this year I decided to do the 20k. I switched out my front wheel, going with the Zipp 404 from the time trial bike. In the past I would also change the back wheel, but not this year.
There weren't many competitors doing the road race, so it was divided into 64-and-under and 65-and-over for the start. We stayed in our 5-year categories, but it was just me and Dean in the 75-79 group. Since we started in 2004 I've never beaten Dean. I've won two road races, one at State, but in those Dean wasn't there. Mostly I finish last or at least not close to the winner. It's still fun. Anyway, when going with the faster young guys (and gal), my only priority was not to get dropped early. Therefore I expended a lot of energy finding a wheel (most of the time my other team time trial partner Tom) and staying in the draft. This is twice the 10k loop, and all went according to plan. That is, the young guys didn't get serious until a couple miles from the end, so I stayed fourth or fifth wheel for the first loop. Starting the second lap a gap opened and before I could come around and close it, someone else did. We were still together, but now the four older folks were in the back, and I was last, resigned to my fate.
On the back side, into the wind, the leaders tried some leg-breakers. That worked out well for me, in that I needed the breather. The last right turn and I started gearing down, knowing the acceleration was about to come. It did, but not as devastating as I expected. We were still hanging together. About a half mile from the end is an incline where I thought I'd be waving good-bye. Well, the young guys were gone, but us four were together. It would come down to a sprint, slightly uphill. Since I was in the back, I should have been first to jump. Because of my past experiences of poor finishes, I waited until everyone else jumped. However, I had time to get into a good, low gear, so when I ramped up the cadence, I found myself passing Dean and Deb (national champion in Cleveland, four races, four gold). The one in front (Gerry) wasn't in our age group, so I managed my third gold in a road race.
I can't say enough good about Brazos Valley and the College Station Parks and Rec Department. They are easy to work with, have dedicated volunteers, and a good race course. The 5k hiccup was disappointing, but I didn't detect any rancor from the racers. Things happen, get over it.