Feb 18, 2011

Race season is now open (for me)

It is finally almost upon us … well, upon me, for the most part. My first race of the year is less than 24 hours away and I’m overflowing with excitement, even with the slight chance of it being less than a totally dry race

I was very patient this year. I held off the temptation to jump into any of the Early Bird races, or the CCCX races, or the early season crits. I wanted to stick to my training plan and to my racing plan, at least with respect to how I was going to train for the first couple of months and what race I was going to do first. Of course, all of this patient waiting has only added to the excitement.

Early this year, or maybe even late last year, I put together a list of races I wanted to do. And as the list emerged, Cantua Creek was once again the first race on my schedule. Last year, it was my first mass start race ever, and I remember how nervous I was. All the things that were going through my head, like: How fast was this going to start? Will there be a crash? Will I get dropped? How’s the whole racing scene? I remember it being a fun race, even though I (along with half the field) did get dropped. I joined about dozen riders in the chase group and we had a fast group ride with a solid rotation trying to catch the lead pack. That race had me hooked, and many more followed.

As I’m thinking about tomorrow’s race, none of those questions are really popping into my head. I know I’ll see some familiar faces. I’ll go through some familiar procedures, and then I’ll ride fast for 78 miles, and then there will be a finish line. But I’m still bursting with excitement to go out there and race. And there are new questions popping into my head: Do I race my carbon wheels with tubulars, or do I race my MAVIC clinchers? Do I go with leg warmers, knee warmers or embrocation? How much food should bring with me? Right now, I’m leaning toward carbon, embro and two packs of gels.

Last year, I raced many early races hoping to get faster by simply racing, and to certain extent I did. My results in the latter half of the year were noticeably better than in the first, but there was no structure. I honestly feel that the progress I’ve made with my fitness in the last two to three months is probably equal if not greater to the progress of last year. Of course, it could be said that last year was a necessary primer for the improvements I’m able to make this year, but instead of ruminating that proposition, I’ll just file it in the “chicken or the egg” category and move on.

So what are this weekend’s races all about for me? Well, a few things. Under my current calendar, I’m set to do about 26 races this year, not counting the 5 or 6 endurance events and the half dozen cyclocross races that I’ll likely do this year. That’s a lot of racing, riding and training. So the two races I’m doing this weekend will serve two main functions: test my legs and work my legs. As I’ve said in an earlier post, I feel great right now. But that’s relative to me a few months ago, and in a race, other than a greater sense of self-confidence, it isn’t worth very much. So this weekend is all about finding out how I feel relative to everyone else in the Cat. 4 field who will come out to race.

I hope to get a true sense of the progress I’ve made, but more so, I’d like to get a clearer perspective of what else I need to do. Where should I improve? Which zones should I train? How much more/less should I ride? Hopefully, by the end of this weekend, I’ll have a clearer picture and answers to the above questions, and will be able to direct my training to those necessary areas. Both Cantua Creek and Pine Flat are my C races, meaning that I’ll go out there and give my all, but I haven’t really tapered or peaked for them, so there’s no pressure of an outstanding performance weighing me down. My guess is that many riders out there are in the same boat. I’ve also noticed that about half the field from Saturday is racing on Sunday. This of course means two things: half the field on Saturday won’t really be eager to push the pace, and half the field on Sunday will have fresh legs.

The other part of this weekend is about getting a solid workout. This is the third week of my training block, meaning I get to take it somewhat easy next week, and so I want to finish it off with a bang. The 140 miles of racing in a weekend seems like a perfect way to do it.  Racing hard and racing smart are the basic tenets for this weekend. It’s hard to strategize beyond that without having a clearer picture of my relative fitness. Hopefully, I’ll come back with some interesting race reports for your enjoyment and maybe even some decent results. 

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