Tuesday, April 21, 2009

CRDC - The First Race of the Season

After a long winter of base training and several weeks of more intense speed and hill work, it was finally time for the rubber to hit the road. The Connecticut River Double Century race, hosted by Wayne Cernak, was all I had hoped it would be and more. The weather couldn’t have been better with clear blue skies and temperatures ranging from the mid-forties to the upper fifties. The race began at 6:00 a.m. with roads still a bit damp from overnight showers, but within a short while, as the sun climbed in the sky, they dried out completely.

With the early morning start, I decided to drive up to Brattleboro on Saturday night and share a room at the conveniently located AND economical (a steal at $45/room, folks) Motel 6 with my friend Don Nolte. We even got the benefit of a personalized wake-up call from none other than the jolly Tom Bodette at 4:45 a.m. Although coming off a week-long vacation with my family on Block Island, I was a bit tired from all of the driving (RI to NY to VT within 24 hours) yet as usual, I tossed and turned during the night and didn’t get a very good rest.

There were only nine racers in the CRDC this year, which is a great mystery to me based on the event’s wonderful route and excellent organization. It may come a bit early in the season, but it’s certainly more than worth the cost of gas to get there! I highly recommend it for ultra racers and randonneurs in search of a good early season effort to get things going. In fact, it makes me realize that we should have more double century races here on the East Coast. THERE ARE 22 DOUBLE CENTURIES THIS YEAR IN THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA, ALONE PEOPLE!!! What’s wrong with this picture?!?

In all, I have not yet mastered a complete liquid nutrition strategy. I had hoped to fuel using only Hammer Perpetuem and Hammer Gel. I chose to use two one-hour Perpetuem bottles since I didn’t have a crew and didn’t want to bring a hydration pack along for the ride. Since the course was designed as a figure-eight loop that circled back to the hotel, I was able to leave an ice chest in my car with a few bottles of premixed Perpetuem to pick up at the mid-point. Aside from that, I sent a drop bag along with Wayne to the two check points (north and south) with powder to mix with water. In the future, I’ll think about mixing a multi-hour bottle of Perpetuem and taking in H2O from a second source. I also carried a flask of chocolate Hammer Gel and left one in the drop bag to pick up along the way. This came in very handy as my energy started to flag around mile 170.

I was very fortunate to fall into the company of two outstanding cyclists on Sunday. Soon after the start, I formed a lead group with John and Brad, both strong and experienced ultra racers, with great stories to share about past events. We stopped only to check in, refill water and eat a few fig bars at the three check points. John and Brad and I hung together throughout the full race and finished in 11 hours, 35 minutes which worked out to a 17.5 mph average on and off the bike. I really had no clear idea how long this race was going to take, but had set a goal of 12 hours and wasn’t sure this was possible so early in the season. With the help and motivation of two very strong riders, though, I was able to do even better. Wayne posted the results up on the website within 24 hours and I enthusiastically entered my time into the UMCA database as part of the 2009 UltraCup challenge.

In all, I was very pleased with the day and feel that the race bodes well for the season ahead. I still have no idea what 1400K is going to feel like this summer, but at least I know I’m off to a good start.

I realized a few things about my training past and future:

  1. Early season base training is critical. Even though none of my rides this season was longer than 140 miles, it helped that I completed six rides above 100 miles since January.

  2. I need more speed work, especially as it relates to sustained efforts along flat to rolling terrain.

  3. Climbing hills is a relative strength of mine, so I should probably pull back on hill training if it means more time for speed intervals.

  4. I need to train with the aerobars on flat to rolling terrain for upcoming races such as the Saratoga 12-hour race in July.

  5. I need to contiue to fine tune the nutrition.

The next organized event on my calendar is the sold-out NYC Five Boro Bike Tour on May 3. I SWORE I would never ride in this event again after the last time. Sure it’s fun to ride on NYC streets that have been closed to traffic, but with all the swerving and sudden stops from the 30,000 or so other riders, it feels more dangerous than skating with drunks. But this time will be different. This time I’m riding with my nine-year old son, Eli and we won’t be trying to ride in a pace line. Now I can’t wait!

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