Two months ago I started to write this post but I put my virtual pen down after the title Belgian Up was finished with 10 key strokes. Belgium up means harden up and put your head down. Writing about training and the process of it has been an important part of the journey to finding form but when the intensity ramped up during a build block from the beginning of March to mid April there wasn’t much desire to write and be creative. Long days, early mornings, recovery then finally, out on the road and hitting it hard. By the third week of April we were getting out for some serious rides the longest being over 170 km with tempo. Winter training was highly effective and it didn’t take long to get road legs and deal with the varying temperatures and climate.
By the end of April it was time to race and Velocity was on the horizon the following week. The build up to Velocity was difficult mentally and I was still somewhat fatigued from hard efforts the previous two weeks. I didn’t want to peak for the first stage race but I needed a a good performance to get upgrade points. Training wasn’t going to be sacrificed for a full taper. Anticipation of results was getting the better of me and I hardly slept the night before the first stage. Looking back I had to think about the training, the goals and the program. Everything we did to lead up to the race was what we (or I) were suppose to do. Training, recovery, mental preparation and stated goals.
When the day finally came this past Saturday all the performance pieces fell in to place and my expectations were not important anymore. There was nothing else I could do to improve now at that moment. I mentally reviewed the course for the Time Trial in my head, having ridden it several times prior, during the warm up on the trainer. I put my favorite tunes on the Ipod and slipped in to a hyper like state of anticipation. I had no clue of how I was going to ride.
With ten minutes before my start time I downed a gel to get a blood sugar response to prepare for the intense effort. Rolling up and down the backroads before the start I was calm yet highly strung. My legs just wanted to rip. With a few minutes to go I thought back to the previous two years results. 16:48 in 2010, 14:48 in 2011. What would it be this year? Why was I doing this? That was the other question.
Now I was at the starting gate for the time trial. I thought back to the days when I rode on the track and then I said to myself I would ride this like a pursuit and just go from the bell. It’s at this point that I start to distract myself with meaningless details. For me it was the cool Omega timing system… makes you feel pro when it starts counting down. 5,4,3,2,1… and were off. I started hard out of the saddle to almost a full sprint and accelerated up to 650 watts and was averaging 47 km/hour. A little too fast, heart rate (HR) was going up just as quick. When I saw my HR creeping over 178 after a minute I knew I had to calm down. Rounding the first corner I dropped low and pushed as far forward on the saddle as I could. HR dropped to a sustainable 176 BPM and power was floating around 380 watts. I could hold this!
At the four minute mark I was maintaining my power and HR and knew that this was a good pace and perhaps a winning pace. I caught my 30 second man at five minutes but not knowing who he was didn’t improve my ride. At least it wasn’t me being caught. As I rounded the last corner I looked down to see that I only had 9.5 minutes on the clock and I was pumped. The last section of the course is very fast and slightly downhill. With 1 KM to go I buried myself. I knew I had ridden the race flat-lining my top end from the start but perhaps I had one more gear. I was able to ramp up the last minute over 400 watts and I was cross-eyed when I hit the line. I had nothing left and when I hit the timer I was at 13:18 and average 347 watts. A personal best and a big gain. Competition allows you to go beyond what you do in training but looking back at the lead up I did everything I needed to do.
Other people invested time, training and support for my program. In particular, my family, coach and Ascent Physio. That was in the back of my mind when I raced this weekend and I felt like I was racing for more that just myself.
The rest of the weekend followed with continued success and great support from my team mates. We were all prepared to work for each other. During the road race my mates were always in site and at the end of the stage they were there cruising in the sprint and ready to go for it or be a lead out train.
The final stage was a text book ride. Short sharp and hard. Right from the gun I rode hard to shred the pack and within two laps there were three of us of the front. One of the riders was the overall leader so it was a winning move. My RMCC mates weren’t going to chase us down and would most likely provide some blocking support in the peleton. In the end we had a great situation and I finished second in the crit. Overall there were three podiums on the weekend and the coveted upgrade points that I was looking for in advance of racing at the Mount Hood Cycling classic.
The racing was fun and so was the travel and company. I have no idea how long I can do this for but for now I would say that I have found form and I’m loving it.