Go Dad Go!

A self-important blog about riding bikes, raising kids and the all-too-rare nexus of these two pursuits.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Patterson Pass Race Report

I've combed my race memory, and I think I can state the following un-hyperbolically: Today's race was the toughest one I've ever competed in -- and that's saying something, as I've been at this for thirteen years.

I wasn't expecting it to be so tough. My last race -- Copperopolis in April -- went well, and I'd trained harder for this one. Plus I'd done well at Patterson Pass in the past, and I've been looking forward to a hill-heavy course.

Then again, my last race was in April. Most guys in my category have raced ten times since then.

But enough analysis: I'll just relate my experience.

The race was 69 miles, three times around a course with one significant hill (euphemism intended) and a second considerable one. Here's the profile:

Three times up that first hill, the one that looks like you could poke a hole in something with the final 100 meters, and three times up the second one, the one that actually does more damage, soft as your legs are when you get to it.

With that picture as reference, here's my account:
  • First lap, halfway up the first climb - two miles into the race: I see heart rates I don't see in my toughest interval sessions as I try to follow the blistering pace set by the leaders. Just 67 miles to go.
  • First lap, near the top of the second climb: I decide to soft-pedal the final 100 meters, take it as easy as possible, slide back in the pack and assume we'll regroup. I end up having to push too hard to get back on.
  • In the feedzone, start of the second lap: The temperature is climbing, and I polish off a water bottle. I ride through the feedzone shouting "Water!" but all the neutral feeders are bottle-less. I spot the last feeder in the zone, a woman shouting "neutral" -- and then watch her hand the bottle to the guy in front of me.
  • Halfway up the big climb, lap two: The riders in front jump, and I go to jump too, and nearly fall onto my top tube as cramps seize my quads. I settle into a seated climb and soon see those same heart rates. A gap forms two riders in front of me, and I can't accelerate to get around and up to the lead pack. My legs are searing, and I have to remove my sunglasses, the sweat having completely blurred the lenses. I begin to doubt that I can finish the race, let alone finish strong, and think for the first time that I might be in for the toughest race I've ever done.
  • Halfway through lap two: I'm in a chase group of five guys, one of whom pulls off with a flat. I immediately think: "lucky bastard."
  • Lap two, five miles to go: I run out of water.
  • Feedzone, lap three: I'm determined to grab two bottles. It's cooking now, over 90 degrees, I'd learn later, and we're about to plod up a massive climb. I get one and dump half over my head. Then I reach out for a second -- and again someone grabs it just before me. Last chance. Later I realize I'd have been better off turning around and just asking for one.
  • Big climb, lap three: I go into a dark place. I become small. I have tunnel vision, and the walls of the tunnels are red. My pedals are barely turning over. Through the tunnels I see my breakmates ride away, and then I look at my computer and see "4.7 mph." Certainly I've never seen a speed that low in a race. I wonder briefly that I can remain upright, and find I can make a great case for turning around and heading down to my car and the bottle of strawberry milk that awaits me.
  • Near the top of the big climb, lap three: I see a cow wallowing in a large mud puddle. I think, "Lucky bastard."
  • Heading up the smaller climb, lap three: Glancing down I notice two tiny flecks of blood on my arm. I check my nose, but it's not bleeding. I try to figure out where they came from, and decide that I'm suffering so badly that I'm bleeding out of my pores.
  • Halfway around lap three: I'd run out of water heading up the second climb and I'm getting desperate. My mouth is utterly dry. I open both water bottles and glean a few drops, but knowing that's not nearly enough -- I'm not proud of this -- I start combing the road's shoulder for not-empty bottles. Soon I see a cool one, an official Team Slipstream version, and decide to stop for it (clearly I've stopped worrying about my placing), figuring I'd at least get a nice bottle for my effort. To boot, it has about an ounce of apple-flavored Cytomax in it. This proves to be enough to get me to the finish -- thankfully, since none of the three guys I ask for a drink gives me anything, my plaintive and rather pathetic bearing evidently notwithstanding.
  • Three miles to go: I tell myself to quit the internal whining, remind myself that I do this of my own volition, and find the energy to accelerate. I push the pedals harder than I have for an hour, and find myself exhilarated -- briefly. After about thirty seconds wicked cramps grab hold of my calves, and I retreat to my realm of patheticism.
  • Three minutes after finishing: I open my strawberry milk and sense it's warm, but force it down. It nearly comes right back up, and I spend a few minutes stifling what would likely turn into sustained dry-heaving.
The thing is, I think I ended up around twentieth of sixty-or-so riders -- which tells me that it wasn't just me who had such a tough time today. And for the life of me, I can't decide how I feel: Is it, "Hey, I'm 39, racing against 29 year-olds who train twice as much as me; I feel great about that"? Or is it, "Jeez -- I train my ass off, plunk down good money for special wheels, watch what I eat, take pains to sleep well all week -- and that's what I get for it?"


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