Monday, February 24, 2014

Southern Cross Race Report

As I mentioned in my previous blog update, I spent the off season working on gaining speed for the shorter races I will be participating in this season. My training leading up to the season opener was about as flawless as you can get. I worked with Lynda Wallenfels' 50 Mile Mountain Bike Race - Personal Record Plan which kept me motivated through the winter months and in turn helped me get in the best shape I have been in yet. Unfortunately, my 11 week string of "perfect" training came to an end with my last "pre-taper" ride. As it turns out, I came down with some kind of cold/sinus issue and on that final training ride, it was evident that I was indeed battling something. I was pretty bummed in the week leading up to Southern Cross but did everything I could think of to lessen the severity of the cold.

Southern Cross would be a little different for me this year, as I would be racing gears for the first time in the GA mountains. The plan was to run in the lead group this year which meant that utilizing the aid station drop was not an option. Opting to minimize weight, I mixed my bottles heavy and carried less fluid than normal. The temperatures were going to be high for this time of year so I knew that things had the potential to get interesting late in the race as my fluid intake would be less than usual.


Got to rock the TFKT kit one more time as well as the Carve.
Toasted Head Racing kits are on the way and looking sweet!
I had a less than stellar start and found myself dropping way back in the grassy cyclocross style opening section of the course (I think I was in awe waching my Toasted Head Racing teamate Jake Wade take the holeshot). As I popped out onto the paved road, I was in no man's land with the lead group already pulling out of sight. It was frustrating knowing that I didn't make the lead group once again but I knew once the climbing started I would begin reeling some of them back in. As I was absorbed into the chase group, and the climbing began, I found that I was not gaining time as expected. I was working hard, too hard and could not shake the group I was with. At this point in the race I knew that I wasn't firing on all cylinders but continued to give it all I had in hopes of finding myself later in the race. I will admit that working as hard as I was and not being able to drop guys at will on climbs was really messing with my head. Was it because I had a cold? Was it because I was riding gears? Was it because I don't stand nearly as much on the geared bike? Was it because I didn't get out to train on hills this winter? Am I just slow?

It wasn't until after the first major climb where I was able to gain some separation from the group I was with. This happened to take place on the first descent. What? I am generally slow and quite cautious while descending. It must have had to do with me being on a mountain bike while many others where on CX bikes. Whatever... Since it was apparent that my climbing ability was sub par, I was getting dropped by anyone I would reel in and my competitive mindset had abandoned me, I decided to use the perfect course conditions to practice my descending.

Within the last ten miles of the race, the lack of fluid intake started messing with me. Not only did I not carry enough fluids, I had been rationing as if I were going to run out and had way too much left at this point. I had really skimped on my nutrition and wouldn't you know muscles started balling up left an right. I didn't really care much as I was so far back in the field but I still didn't want to get caught from behind. As it turns out, I made up enough time on the last descent that I was able to soft pedal the last little bit of the race without getting passed.

My time this year was 3:20 which was about 30 seconds slower than my singlespeed time from last year. I ended up 14th overall and 11th in the Open cat. This is not how I envisioned my first race of the season going and leaves me with some questions and doubts. Can I chalk this up to a cold? Did I lose my ability to climb? Is this just where I'm at fitness wise? For a mediocre time, why did it hurt so bad? Is it good to have these questions and doubts after a stellar off season? For me, it's a great thing because the doubts I will use for motivation and the questions will be answered throughout the remainder of the season.

I'm taking my bike and going home.
As always, the best part of the weekend was being able to spend time with old friends and making new ones. It was great seeing teammates on the start line, on course, and finishing strong. The weather couldn't have nicer, the course couldn't have been tackier and the race couldn't have been run any better. Thanks for all you have done for racing in the Southeast Eddie and Namrita and thanks to the volunteers and sponsors who helped pull off a great event.

1 comment:

  1. Nice Kelly,
    I think you will chalk this up to a bad day. On a different level, but I remember thinking I was in shape for the January Mtb Marathon and stunk it up. Next race was the Bushwhacker Mtb Challenge...ended up beating guys that had come in 10-20 minutes ahead of me just two weeks before.
    Trust your training (but drink more) and crush it next time! :)