My power stats for the race:
Peak 5s (620 watts)
Peak 10s (563 watts)
Peak 20s (537 watts)
Peak 30s (520 watts)
Peak 1min (381 watts)
Peak 2min (303 watts)
Peak 5min (277 watts)
Peak 10min (255 watts)
Peak 20min (245 watts)
Peak 30min (241 watts)
Peak 60min (218 watts)
To summarize the race, it had a weird start then became very intense midway. I was in the cat 3/4 pack of what used to be the Copperas Cove Road Race renamed to the Megan Baab Memorial Road Race and I was plodding along rather comfortably. Too comfortably to be more precise, because it didn't take a lot of effort to stay somewhere in the top 10 spots for quite some time. I even pulled a few times and still maintained an average wattage under 180 or so, I wasn't sure what was going on or why it was moving at this pace. A few people tried to pull ahead and get the group to pick up the pace but none of that panned out and this continued for the next 15 or so miles. Eventually around mile 20 or so the cat 4/5 pack passed us up and the officials on motorcycles "neutralized" us by keeping us at a steady pace while the cat 4/5 pack passed us up, they held us at that pace long enough to give them about 5-10 minutes of buffer. Of course we had to heckle them a bit and someone yelled out "upgrade already you sandbaggers", a term for someone who is purposely withholding an upgrade so they can win lower category races.
Little did I know what I was in for, this was my first cat 3/4 road race as I previously ran with the 4 or 4/5 pack. Somewhere around miles 25-30 the pace slowly picked up and kept increasing until we were pushing about 27-28 mph, at that point I found myself digging deep just to catch up to the pack and try to stay in the lead peloton. There was a dirt section that I was told was about a mile long which it turned out to be several miles long. Unfortunately I didn't know this race and didn't know where the dirt section was more precisely located despite my best efforts at googling things. I did hear that it was around 30 miles into the race and I knew it was going to be paramount to have good placement. Despite my best efforts to stay near the front of the pack I was not with the front when the big attack from the main peloton thus increasing our speed happened. This happened right before the feedzone, around mile 29 which was also about a mile out from the dirt when the shit hit the fan so to speak and the real race was on. I started out from here averaging about 24 mph with a heart rate of around 180bpm for my time in the dirt all while dodging holes, gravel, rocks and such while trying to catch up with the main peloton. Once the dirt section was over the fast pace was still going and would continue for another couple of miles but at that point I was far from the lead pack. I learned a lot from this experience in the end but even though I was basically "dropped" I didn't let that stop me, next time I'll make it even more prudent to stay near the front of the pack and stay with the acceleration.
Despite being dropped I figured since I won't be placing in the top 20 or so I'm not going to be the guy in last place either. So I was hopping from chase group to group that only contained about 3-4 people each just trying to hang on. I thought about the whole fact of "don't help the competition" as people were drafting off of me here and there doing this but I could tell most of those I was passing looked as if they burned the last match in the matchbook so the speak and I wasn't too worried about them. One thing I developed from my time commuting to work was the ability to do a lot of little "micro sprints" from stop sign to stop sign, or getting over that next hill even when I was already tired (gotta get to work on time). Whenever I had someone tag along for a little too long I just stood up and pushed a little harder for another 5-10 seconds and knew it made them hurt more trying to keep up. I always think if you're hurting then they're probably hurting too. I repeated this a few times until they dropped off or made it to the next chase group with me.
I may not have had the sustainable threshold power to keep up with the main group during the acceleration I was dropped from but I have a huge endurance base from my training and I was able to continue at just below my threshold for at least half an hour or so. I had the main peloton in my site and could see the wheel truck ahead while I was finally in a decent chase group of about 8 riders. We were working our way back up there slowly but surely it felt, then I shifted when I probably should have muscled through it on a steep climb and my chain dropped off my small chainring and I was fucked. I tried like heck to play with the shifter to get it back on without getting off my bike like I usually do which works fine any time but when you really need it to. Of course this was one of those times... I spent the rest of the race on my own with about 11-12 miles to go and thought maybe I should get one of those chain catcher thingies since staying in that group probably would have gotten me about +-5 places higher based on the number of people from the cat 3/4 pack in that group.
All things said, this was a good race, I learned a lot from it and it's only increased my desire to continue and train as I have been. My training is paying off and regardless of the fact I came in far from the front of the race I did better than I have previously. Tactics have been learned and being committed to memory, next race will be in 2 weeks at the Tour of New Braunfels.
I hope to have my chain catcher well ahead of that time...
Today was our last day, while my legs are saying something different, I’m not really ready for it to end as I’ve made quite a few friends and companions that I will never forget. This ride has changed me for the better in a few ways, I feel like I even grew a little because of it. We started off together with a police escort, and right off the starting line some guy who was only riding 1 day of the ride flew off, the other guys tried to convince me to go catch him which I knew wouldn’t be difficult, but hey I’ve got 440 miles on my legs at this point, what do I need to prove to him? So we took it easy for a while, though about 10 miles in I got the itch along with another guy and well, Tom is just the fastest 62 yr old man I ever met so the three of us took off on our own pacing at 20-23mph for the next 10-15 miles to the rest stop, at which point Adam drops out and I go on my own. Had I known Tom would’ve stayed with me I would have let him know I was going to keep going but earlier he was complaining of some knee pain and looked like he was taking it easy so I didn’t bother to ask if he wanted to just refuel and run.
I know this is a tour and not a race but my competitive side of me kinda wanted to catch that one day rider, even though he had about 15 minutes or more on us. I rode my ass off all the way to the next stop, keep in mind we’re not having lunch until we’re in New Orleans, so 78 miles total with only rest stops that have snacks and fluid. I got to stop number two and they let me know the other guy was ahead by about 5-7 minutes, so I refueled and kept on going. I got halfway to stop 3 and noticed our sign van, and after I took a turn by a gas station I saw we had no signs!! Oh no, this can’t be happening I thought, I missed a turn right? I rode back to the last sign, then back to the fork in the road I was at a moment ago, I did this a few times until I saw the sign truck and Bob came out to explain he needed to re-route us hence the missing signs so I got sent back to the last sign for 6 minutes while I gave them some time to re-route us. I got back to the fork, saw the sign, took that left turn and bolted... then down came the rain.
I’m not sure how quick I was moving but I think I was hovering around 20 mph cause cars weren’t even bothering to try to pass me. I made it to the 3rd rest stop and refueled, they haven’t even setup a table yet, got some warm water and gatorade and rode my butt onto the levee where the last stretch of the ride was. From there on it’s just me, the rain and the wind, 20 miles or so of levee until the park and lunch which basically means an hour of no stop signs or interruptions. I was maybe 1-2 miles from the end when the 1 day rider was turning around and heading back down the levee waving to me (I learned later he was heading back to his car). Ah well, whatever, he doesn’t have 500 miles on his legs, I got some jambalaya, bread, water, hot sauce and had my lunch. As I was chowing down Tom shows up, then about 5-6 minutes later other riders started to trickle in. Race or not, it’s a good feeling to come in that far ahead of over 50 experienced riders, if only I didn’t have to sit there waiting on the sign crew.
FINALLY THERE! NEW ORLEANS BABY! HELLO BOURBON STREET! Well, almost.
After all the riders got there, ate, talked and found ways to keep warm due to the rain and wind. Fortunately the Red Cross is good at what they do and provided us with some dry shirts to wear, around 2:30-3pm we started to gather with the New Orleans Police Dept. to ride into downtown at which point the sky fell on us. We rode proudly through the streets even with the pouring rain, hearing cheers and seeing people wave and smile at us, there were a couple of minor slips due to slick roads and when we got to the end we were greeted with a band playing. We had some snow cones, some brews and a bunch of congratulations on a ride well done. Later that night we had dinner and passed out some pretty awesome looking awards for the ride made of recycled bike parts along with some humorous awards like “whiniest rider”, “rider most likely to come back as crew”, I got a “best overall rider” since the last few days I had been coming back as one of the first few back and the last day I was the first back by good margin (not that it’s a race). We ended the night with good food, good beer, and goodbyes. A few of us went on to bourbon street after that and well, my memory becomes a bit fuzzy from there on out.
Today was a little less eventful, we slept in a little, started off a little later than usual as it was a shorter day with only one big climb (as if we had that many), Gramercy bridge over the Mississippi. We fought a strong headwind the whole way to our lunch stop, fortunately this turned into a tail wind right before the bridge and our paceline was able to approach the bridge at well over 25mph helping us climb. Also as I like to climb, it enabled me to complete the climb at a 15.3mph average (taking KOM - aka king of the mountain of the riders present on strava.com). Prior to crossing the Mississippi River, our lunch break was at St Joseph Plantation which was rather cool to see, with some “old school” schools in log cabin looking houses. The phrase “rider down” when passing by roadkill was starting to really catch on by now (I even find myself saying it here and there). I made it back pretty quickly after the bridge, as the downhill trek along with that tailwind made me fly by at around 35mph, I just kept going on to the next stop, got some gatorade, then the next stop after that I stopped just to ask if there were any odd directions I needed to look out for. I made it back to the hotel shortly after Keith and Titus, then again they did leave at least 5 or so minutes prior to me at the first rest stop. The crew hadn’t even laid all the bags out yet, so I helped out along with the other guys and headed over to the massage room. Then went for a swim in the pool.
We started our day at Maria's Cafe a mile up the road from our hotel. A good meal. the treat is the a Capella solo by Donald, son of the owners after breakfast. This year he sang "Bridge over Troubled Waters". Once out on the road I was stretching my legs as my knee hasn’t felt better and flying down the shoulder towards the lead of the pack when I got 2 flats within a couple of miles of each other which pushed me back to the end. Fortunately we found the cause and fixed that up properly, I wasn’t worried about being left behind as we also planned to take a stop at Avery Island to see the Tabasco factory tour and visit the store outside the factory, which has everything Tabasco you could imagine including some pretty amazing Tabasco chipotle raspberry ice cream. It was a beautiful day, and I was so glad my knee was doing much better and I was able to ride my usual speed again. Mat and I hung around a bit longer again until lunch which was right on the side of the bayou at Parc Sur La Teche, pretty area though I wanted to get it over with and get a massage and go swimming. I ate and headed out, since there was less than 30 miles to go from lunch I just hammered it and only stopped at the rest stops to refuel on my fluids. I managed to get to the hotel right after a couple of the better riders and figured I’d help the crew arrange everyones bags while we waited for our cards so I can go get changed to swim.