A quick clarification--when I wrote yesterday that I was racing today, I wasn't referring to Speedgoat. When I injured my knee, I rolled my registration over to next year, and there was no way to change that. What I meant was that I was racing my bike. And by racing I mean "racing."
Since Speedgoat was out, I planned to ride a local charity ride in the canyons with Fritz, but at the last minute I changed my mind and signed up for the Tour de Park City instead.
A little background--last year, the TdPC started and ended at Kimball Junction. The course was somewhere in the 170-180 mile range, and I won the men's 1/2 race handily on a long two-man break that started at the bottom of the Mirror Lake Highway and turned into a solo break in Kamas when my breakaway companion got a flat tire.
This year, the TdPC followed mostly the same route but started instead in Coalville, shortening the course to 145 miles, and I believe I finished DFL in the men's 1/2 race after getting dropped like an anchor at the bottom of the Mirror Lake Highway.
Basically, my race this year was the exact opposite of my race last year. The difference, of course, was mileage. I went into this year's race with around 700 miles of cycling in my legs, almost all of it in the last three weeks. I went in last year's race with more than 10 times that--thousands and thousands of base miles, racing miles and everything in between.
The difference was obvious from the beginning. Last year I raced at the end of a hard training week, so I was tired, but my legs had snap. This year they didn't, and I could feel it almost from the start. As we rolled up Chalk Creek Canyon, every time there was a surge or a steep hill, I had to force myself to respond. My lungs were fine--I wasn't sucking wind--but my legs were only barely up to the task.
I made it through Chalk Creek and the dirt road that follows without any problems, and I was fine on the road to Evanston, too, although a poorly timed nature break forced me to waste a valuable effort chasing back onto the pack.
Things were pretty mellow from Evanston to the Mirror Lake Highway. At one point, a bunch of riders called for a nature break, and since everyone was stopping I though I may as well, even though I didn't really need to go. Of course, the pack decided not to stop, and I ended up towing everyone who did back up to the pack. Lame, and another effort wasted.
There was a feed zone right after we caught back on, and Catherine was there with a couple of bottles. I was happy to see her.
Once the climb started in earnest, at about 90 miles, I went straight out the back. Granted, I didn't put up much of a fight, but I could feel that the miles had taken their toll on me, so I decided the best option was to simply ride my pace and see what happened.
I ended up waiting for two other riders so I wouldn't be alone on the descent. But I got dropped on the descent, so I wound up alone anyways. This happens a lot. It makes sense on technical descents, because I'm timid and I brake way too much. But I don't understand why I get dropped on straight high-speed descents. I'm spun out, and I'm as low as I can go, but I just can't keep up. It happened regularly at the Tax Day circuit race. It happened a couple of times at the Everest Challenge. It happened on Trapper's Loop at the Tour of Utah last year. And now it happened here. Maybe I should pick up some weights when I top out on climbs.
Another straggler caught up to me halfway through the descent, but by that point I was in survival mode and I just wanted to be alone inside my head. So I worked with him until we hit the feed zone in Kamas, where I stopped to talk to Catherine. I think the other rider thought I was pulling out and rode on alone, which is exactly what I wanted. I can be a jerk when I'm tired and cranky.
The last 25 miles back to Coalville aren't bad by themselves, but after 120 miles of racing they're awful. The rollers were destroying me, and the headwind around the reservoir didn't help, either. Still, I managed to keep my effort steady and I did make it to the finish eventually. The masters racers (who started 5 minutes after us) never caught me, so I guess there's that.
I finished in just under 7:15. Last year, I finished the longer and harder course in 8:03:35. Of course, times are irrelevant in bike racing and all that matters is placing--unfortunately, that makes things worse. Last year I won by nearly 6 minutes. This year I came in about 45 minutes behind the winners. Ouch.
Anyways, it was fun to race again (allowing for a liberal interpretation of the word "fun"), but I think trail racing may be a better fit for me. I don't think that's sour grapes, either. The nature of road racing simply means that it will never be as individual or private as trail running, and one of the things I love most about trail running is the individual nature of the sport.
Of course, after having been beaten so badly I can't help thinking about a return to cycling. I'm just not sure if I'm willing to make that kind of commitment right now.