Mon: Strength Training (Squats, Leg Press, Chin Ups, Military Press, Upright Rows, Core, etc)
Tues: 2hrs Tempo+ (1500ft of climbing)
Wed: 2.5hrs Endurance (Ave Power 186W)
Thurs: 1hr skills session for lunch, Gym after work (Box Jumps, Speed Skaters, One Legged Deadlifts, Chin Ups, Core, etc)
Friday: Toast, Kaput, Rest
So that leads me up to the weekend. I love the mountains and haven't done a proper Santa Ana's ride since being back on my bike so it was long overdue! I conned Allison into forgoing her race aspirations for CX on Sunday in favor of a nice long MTB ride with me. The route was one of our classics, Indian Truck Trail to Main Divide, across to Trabuco, down Trabuco to Holy Jim, up Holy Jim to Main Divide, then back down Indian Truck Trail.
I was also stoked to get to break in my new Ergon BC1 backpack before the San Jacinto Enduro.
On the initial climb Allison and I had a bit of discussion going on and although it is nice to ride with other people we really needed to have some 1 on 1 time. (Luke often used to join us for these rides, he was always a great training partner and I miss riding with him. I rode in a Wiens kit because in the morning I was thinking about how he always used to join us...) The CruX of the issues seemed to stem from a FUBAR scenario leaving me without the CX bike I was supposed to get and how that effects our schedule, etc. Gate to gate wasn't terribly slow but it was no where near as fast as we were doing it last year. While climbing "The Wall" on Main Divide I couldn't help but think how much easier it used to be when I was lighter! I am working hard on trying to be disciplined lately, and have seen some glimmer of my old fitness, but I still have a long way to go!
Once at Trabuco things get really fun. I took off ahead of Allison but she wasn't feeling so great so I waited for her a few times. That single track descent is so awesome. It is hard to share the joy / exhilaration of ripping down that trail. I had fatty Captains on the Epic just so I wouldn't have to worry about flats. :) Unfortunately all that potential energy loss and kinetic energy spent lands us on the wrong side of the range. Our path turned skyward up Holy Jim and at about the 3.5hr mark my lack of fitness (or maybe a mistake on nutrition?) put me into a serious "spot of bother"! All of a sudden the granny gear was all I could turn and my head lulled between my shoulders. I struggled to keep pace as Allison accelerated up the hill, defying gravity in her typical graceful way (providing you allow her the use of 2 wheels!).
I sampled some dirt on an uphill switchie on Holy Jim...
The rest of the ride (1.25hrs worth!) was total survival mode. It sucked but I know that I have to push hard to get back what was mine before my broken neck and knee. It can't all be easy!
After the ride we ran around and in Allison's words, "didn't focus on recovery." We ate out at Wahoo's and I was running around trying to get stuff done in the garage. Allison kept reminding me that we were racing CX the next day but I have so much to catch up on that I needed to do something! Unfortunately I still didn't manage to really dent the amount of work I need to do... I need to cut my hair too!
Sunday we were a little slow to get moving in the morning. After breakfast I put new parts and pieces on the bottom of my trusty S-works MTB shoes in preparation for the CX action. We arrived in Chino to warm sunny weather and wet soggy grass. I think I mentioned my disdain for racing on grass last week... anyway the course seemed to be power based again, not many technical turns or sand. The grass was soggy and slow, though part of that feeling could have been exacerbated by the fact that I was riding 1.9" wide S-works SLK Fast Traks on my HT.
This is where the surprises start happening. I rolled around some to try and warm up and my legs surprisingly responded well. I started wondering how far into the race I would get before they went all wet noodle on me. I am starting to get the hang of this CX stuff so I went over to staging to try to get a spot near the front and minimize the pushing and shoving of finding a start spot. To my great surprise I got called up!
This was a huge surprise and the first time I had ever been called up in any race. Nice to not have to shove my way to a start spot! Off the gun my legs responded well, I actually sat up so that I wasn't too far up in the group going into the first corner (still expecting myself to fall apart not far into the race), I was easily in the first 8 or so riders. Very quickly the next surprise happened. The guys at the front of the race aren't very polite! These guys mean business and they have no problem pushing, shoving, pinching, brake checking... all kinds of nasty things that I wouldn't think of doing while racing.
In my book racing bikes is about fun and fitness, the roadies don't seem to feel the same way. I guess it is their little way of trying to make up for their horrible bike handling skills. If they hack the hell out of the guys with skill they can actually control the pace enough to keep the skilled riders in check. At one point I considered shoving a guy off his bike, but instead I countered by finding a few corners where I could save energy and started punishing the roadies one by one.
Unfortunately the silly games they play allowed the lead group to get a significant gap. By the third lap I had separated myself from the un-skilled group and was in no-man's land behind the leaders. This is where things got really surprising.
It was hot and I was overheating, I got a little flat on lap three and had my slowest lap, but my legs just kept responding. I started catching and passing guys that had popped off the lead group and this re-invigorated me. Very surprising indeed! On the last few laps I caught one of the unruly roadies that had escaped with the leaders. I had exchanged some words with him on the first lap and witnessed him pull crappy tactics on other riders too.
Once I got on his wheel I sat in. At one point he did the stupid roadie arm flick thing to try and get me to pull. My response out loud to him was, "Screw that dude, I'm a mountain bike racer!" I let him pull me around for a bit. We exchanged positions a few times and it seemed like he would probably beat me on fitness alone. I can accept that and had sort of decided to lay it all on the table and get a good workout in. I was doing all the work on the front on the last lap when he made a mistake. I don't know exactly what happened as he was sucking my wheel, but we went around a mild uphill right hand turn by a tree and it sounded like maybe he slipped out on a root. I heard him hit the ground hard.
What I probably should have done at this point was drill it and try to move up (looking at the results we weren't far off the 4th place finisher) but at the time all I could think about was that this guy now had a crash to blame for his finish (silly roadies) and I would likely solo in to some also-ran position (had no idea we were battling for 5th). Rather than take that option I sat up and waited. I waited because I wanted to battle, to see if I could dish out a bit more punishment to both of us. I allowed him to catch me on the next straight and once he was on my wheel I said, "I'm a mountain bike racer!" and then proceeded to drill it. Of course with him drafting and me, and being on the grass with MTB tires, he had the advantage. He sat on my wheel to the barriers and then attacked. We remounted side by side and he attacked again. He had a few inches advantage headed toward the next turns so I pulled in behind him. He led through the last 180 degree turn onto the finish straight, took it slow and cautiously around the corner while making himself wide so as not to let me by, and immediately started a sprint.
I didn't draft, I was off to his right and behind by maybe three bike lengths. I stood up and started grabbing gears. I gritted my teeth. He had two bike lengths on me. I grabbed some more gears and put all I had into the sprint. I wasn't going to give up. He sat down. Bad move. I grabbed my last gear and kept cranking with everything I had, still standing despite the pain and impulse to let up. I pulled ahead only a few meters before the line. I beat him! From a rolling start on asphalt, I had sprinted to over 30mph and hit my max HR of 188!!! I was feeling the effort though and was covered in goosebumps. It was a good race, my best placing in Master's 1/2/3 (5th). Very surprising.
I am still feeling the effects of the last week but am hoping to get some more quality work in this week and then take a breather for a few days before the San Jacinto Enduro (80+ miles on the MTB with over 13k ft of climbing). I am going to need something special to finish that day with the kind of year I have had!