Friday, June 9, 2017


     First of all, it wasn't actually in Birmingham.  The time trials were at the Oak Mountain State Park in Pelham, Alabama.  Secondly, I'm starting out with my pre-race paranoia.
     Two of my buddies, Dean and Tom, independently went to Pelham to eyeball the course.  They both came back with dire warnings.  To put it succinctly, too many hills and a sketchy turn-around for the 10k and the 5k was an out-and-back with the turn-around on a downhill section.  Such a hue and cry were made that the course was moved so as to be a slight uphill for the turn.  Why they wouldn't make it a straight course is beyond me.
Anyhow, given this information, I slapped my aerobars on the road bike and shifted my cogset from the road bike to the time trial Zipps.  The Zipp had an 11-25 and the Rolf a 12-32.  My plan was to race with the Zipps no matter which bike I used and stay in the big ring for the climbs.
     We stayed overnight in Vicksburg, Mississippi and arrived in Birmingham, picked up my packet and drove to Pelham Sunday afternoon.  I went out to survey the course myself.  Plan A was to race on the road bike to power up the hills, so for my preview I pulled out the Roark (an extremely nice custom made titanium purchased in 2001).  The 10k starts on a slight grade which quickly moved to 2% then 8%, then a downhill, then a 7% climb, for the first half mile.  Then some downhill and flats before hitting a 7% and 10% climb around the two mile mark.  The last mile before the turnaround was mostly downhill, with a little 4% climb before hitting about a hundred yards of rough road and loose gravel at the narrow turnaround.  Then back.  My graph shows seven climbs 4% or more.  Definitely not a Senior Games time trial sort of course.  However, I spent a lot of time in the aerobars and decided I'd race on my time trial bike.  Many riders opted for their road bikes.
     The next morning was overcast with a threat of rain later in the morning.  We arrived at 7:30 for my 9:17 start, found a parking spot and set up the trainer.  I had good luck in Hempstead with warming up on the trainer and decided to go with that routine here.  Without a time constraint, and Marilane keeping me informed on the time, the warm up was stress-free.  At the appropriate time, about 9:05 I headed toward the start line, about a half mile away (another irritation, not being able to park close to the start).  It was humid and I was pleased that they had PowerAde at the start.  They have upgraded to chip timing, for which I was grateful.
     I started well, moved up to 87 rpm then gradually slowed to a low of 67 as the grade became steeper.  My heart rate, on the other hand, jumped to 154 (max of 159), definitely in the red.  I kept reminding myself this was a long (relatively) race and take it easy to bring the heart rate down.  Well, 150 is down.  That is where it stayed for the rest of the race.  I hit 34 mph on the first downhill, and had a bit of concern in that there was a slight turn in the road.  I stopped pedaling for a few strokes but stayed aero.  I understand several folks behind me ran off the road there.  I felt good and powered through the rough road, taking my lumps.  I really believe I made up some time here.  I gingerly did the turn-around and sprinted up to speed.  Around the 4-mile mark I topped out at 38 mph, followed by 10 mph on the last hill.  I still had some oomph for the last half mile of downhill reaching 35 mph.
     I felt this was an excellent performance, and was confident of top-10, maybe as high as 5th.  It took about an hour for the results to be posted, in that I started close to the beginning of our age group.  I was astonished to see my name in the second spot.  Wow!  This hilly course worked to my advantage.
     The guys who raced later in the day had to contend with rain, and the 5k on Tuesday was postponed to Wednesday.  This might have been my undoing.  I over-thought the race.  The start line was moved all the way up the first hill, so we had about a tenth of a mile to get up to speed before hitting the 8%.  I didn't pre-ride the course, relying on my memory.  Common wisdom says that with this being a downhill-uphill ride, it would be won on the uphill.  That seemed to dictate being on the road bike.  I decided to go with the road bike, with the Zipp 404 on the front, but my Rolf rear wheel, which now had the 11 cog to give me more speed on the downhill portion.  Ah, plans.  As I prepared the bike on Wednesday evening, I cleaned the mud off the Rolf.  What was that?  Was that a hole and could I see a bit of tube?  Pook, Ding-fu!  Decision time: put the Zipp 808 with the 12-32 on.
     During warm-up I could tell the legs didn't have the same zip.  I left for the start line too soon, so arrived about ten minutes before my time.  Oh well, it is what it is.  The start went well, and I got it up to speed before the climb, just a tenth of a mile from the start.  I felt ok.  Reality set in on the downhill.  My 10k speed of 34 mph was only 31 mph today.  The other downhill sections were similarly low.  The turn-around was narrow, but at least clean asphalt.  On the last uphill, at 2.7 miles, I hit a low of 7 mph.  I don't feel too bad at that, because several of the guys I talked to, who are younger and faster, said they saw 8 mph at that spot.  From there to the finish I could only bring it up to 28 mph.  I wasn't too thrilled about this.
     As it turned out, I managed 8th place, less than two-tenths out of 7th(to the same person who beat me in Dallas), and six seconds out of 5th. I wasn't close to the podium.  Lesson learned: stay with the time trial bike, stay with a skin suit (I wore my Texas A&M kit, which garnered kudos but was too loose), preview the course every time.  And, check your tires before packing up for a trip.
     My goal for these nationals was to finish in the top ten, so I was ok with my eighth place and thrilled with second.  Now my goal is to get serious about getting faster.  Stay tuned to see how I go about this and if it works out as planned.

No comments:

Post a Comment