I rode the tour of the battenkill a couple of weeks ago. It was my first bike race but everything about it being a race ended when the whistle blew. If that sounded cocky it wasn't meant to be. I was wrecked at the end but I am better than Cat. 5 so I found the early pace woefully slow and after an hour of what felt like a warm up I asked Donny Green - another Providence bike rider who is much better than Cat. 5 - to go on a break with me to get something out of the day.
The tour of the battenkill is awesome on so many levels but none more so than the fact that the route is littered with dirt road sections, some of which are very steep - both climbing and descending. Fortunately we had a dry day (although part of me wanted some bad ass Belgian rain, lick of Belgian toothpaste would have only enhanced the experience). It was on one of the early dirt road climbs that we broke away and within a few miles we were gone. Again, no disrespect to the Cat. 5 racers but Donny and I are certainly Cat. 4 level and perhaps even Cat. 3 on a course like that. So we belted away and took 2 min pulls each for the next hour. I felt so much better riding hard and had to remind myself that there was still 40 miles to go, after all I put the A in Amateur when it comes to bike racing. But still, I felt really good. Donny was stronger than me on flat road sections, this was evident in that his pulls on the flats were faster than mine. I was stronger on the hills for the same reasons. Everything was shaping up nicely for us to race in. I wanted to get an idea of what it was like to spring finish (although Donny would have destroyed me in a sprint) With 18 miles to go Donny lost his chain and I waited. We are not team mates but it made more sense to wait because we rode hard for the previous hour. On the next climb a few minutes later I was doing my turn at the front and I didn't notice that I dropped him. I just kept pushing hard (a little adrenaline from stopping maybe) and after my 2-3 minute pull I turned and there was no sign of him. (Donny actually punctured soon after which is why he disappeared) So I put the head down and slammed it home
In running - especially the marathon - we talk about "hitting the wall". Cyclists call it bonking. I thought I bonked on the bike a few times but with 5 miles to go in Battenkill I realized what I thought was a bonk was actually exhaustion, and that bonking is a different level altogether. I rode the last hill and suddenly my quads stopped working. My HR was dropping and I could not generate power. I got over the climb which left me with 6k downhill and flat to the finish. I tucked aero as I could on the downhill and put everything into the pedals over the last 5km flat. Everything meant about 21 mph and rather than make sense of the information on my bike computer I felt like I was on acid (double dipped strawberries is what I believe they were called when we were teenagers) Not that I ever took acid. I couldn't read it and actually started laughing. I was so happy to be bonking knowing that I was going to finish in a few minutes. When I crossed the finish line the town started spinning and nothing mattered to me except fluid - any kind of fluid. I lashed down some water, then Dan Action gave me a beer which I took down in a few minutes and followed that up with the best chocolate milk I ever tasted.
I've no idea why I bonked given the race was only 64 miles and I ate a huge breakfast. I'll put it down to a big effort out front, lack of muscle strength specific to biking, the fact that my training heading into the race was weak at best. The four weeks before Battenkill looked like this:
March 14th to March 20th
Monday: 60 Minutes Trainer w/ 6 x 5 min very hard efforts
Tuesday: 60 Minutes Trainer recovery ride
Thursday: 2HRs Scituate Rez - Tempo Loop 35:40 95% effort - solo
Saturday: 3:15 Northern Hill Loop - With Dirt Roads - Joe and Pat T. - Knee Dodgy
Sunday: 90 min Trainer Ride easy spinning to save my knee.
Total: 8:45 Hrs
March 21st to March 27th
Wednesday:Trainer Ride 75 Minutes
Thursday: 90 Minute Trainer ride with reps
Saturday: 41 Miles Very easy hilly ride. Mid Atlantic Multi Sport Group 2.5 hrs
Total: 5:15 Hrs
March 28th to April 3rd
Monday: 80 Minutes Trainer Ride w/ 5 x 5 minutes Hard efforts
Saturday: 3:00 ride with 2 laps race effort around Scituate Rez - 1:13:20 - Joe + Pat
Sunday: 4:00 Hrs slow riding - solo - about 75 miles
Total: 8:20 Hrs
April 4th - 10th
Monday: 60 min spin on trainer
Thursday: 60 min spin on trainer with 30 min tempo
Saturday: 75 minutes on Battenkill course
Sunday: Tour of BattenKill 3:01
Total: 6:16 Hrs
The training was minimal at best. I used to run more when I was just keeping fit. So I have to admit my confidence got a boost because if I can ride well off 4 days a week on the bike I will be able to ride very well off 6 days a week. I fully intend on getting on the hunt over the summer to get back into great shape. My constant stop/start will hopefully turn into consistent training. Biking is not bad.
Big shout to Dave Kellogg, Joe Savic, Dr. Brad M, and Eddie O (who has the best blog on the internet for biking - Fast Eddy's Flandria Cafe) Read that site often and it will make you happy. These guys rode Battenkill with me and all had great efforts. Dave K was on his way to winning the 50+ race but crashed on some very soft sand at the base of a big climb 20km from the finish. She still finished 12th but missed the break off the front. He is an animal. Joe Savic had an excellent day too, finishing 35th. He was hanging on to Dave's group but lost touch on one of the mid way monster climbs. Missing the break cost him a top 20 but he achieved his pre-race goal. Eddy snagged 54th to round out the three 50+ guys in the top half of the field. Awesome. Brad finished 12th in his section of the 45+ cat.5 race. Again, top half of the field and a great performance over the awesome climbs. A great weekend.
Peace and Love