Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Thrill of Victory

I headed out the door early yesterday, about 4:00pm, with the heat of the day near its peak, but as it was a cool day, it was quite comfortable, although I was sucking on my waterbottle within a mile, as it was also dry.

I had intended to ride my favorite 65 miler to Rescue the day before, so had changed out the 12-23 cassette out for the 12-27 I usually ride. It was nice to find old friends on the shifters again! 12-23 is great for TTs, as tired legs need an optimal cadence, but with the small climbing rings on the triple up front, it makes for gears that are tediously granular for hills. Too much shifting to find the right gears.

It always surprises me how different things look in the bright, overhead light of mid-day, vs near dawn or sunset - especially along the American River. I had a chance to appreciate the different view, and the dense shade in places where the wet winter and late spring have the trail very overgrown - especially with berry briers.

Trail repair is underway just past Hazel, with some retaining wall work being done. The detour route I quite like, and will continue using it even after construction is complete. It is more sheltered from the headwinds than Gold Country, and not nearly as congested as the bike trail from Sunrise to Hazel. As for the construction on the Hazel Ave Bridge, it is still underway, and the detours there were compounded by a malfunctioning crossing light.

After waiting for 3 light cycles, I risked it and headed across with the auto's green light. Since they all turn left, if they don't stop, you're going to get hit. After 3 cycles though, there were 12-15 riders waiting to cross, so the auto traffic graciously waited before continuing through the intersection.

I was being tail-gunned by a rider from the Aquatic Center until well-past Blue Ravine. Eventually I waved him around and returned the favor. He was trying to drop me, but there was no chance of that. Not strong enough. It did get my competitive juices flowing though.

I stopped for water across the bridge, winding my way down the sidewalk before stopping at the little outhouse. Whew! God that thing needs cleaning. I held my nose and refilled my waterbottle, making for some pretty weak Gatorade, but it was hot enough I needed the fluids.

I wasn't feeling all that strong pushing off, but was happy to have the stench behind me, so I hit the Garmin lap button more out of habit than anything. Once past the footbridge though I caught a tailwind and it kind of got me going. I hit the base of the first climb in good form and pushed myself. By the time I went under the Folsom Crossing Bridge I was winded, so backed off a bit on the straight stretch that runs parallel to the road there.

Not a PB, but winning a race is always thrilling!

About 100 yards before the turn that starts the 2nd climb, I got passed, and decided to try to stay with him. Good motivation to push myself, if nothing else. He was riding the same bike as I was, and I think this is the same rider I raced a couple of months ago coming home from Hagen Pk.

He tried to drop me for a half mile, and then settled in, I assumed to wait for the steep pitch at the top. A good move, as I outweighed him by 30 lbs, so he was picking his field of battle well. I focused on good body position, sliding forward on my seat and riding upright on the hoods, using my glutes as much as possible, and breathing deep to get my HR down.

Sure enough, 250 yrds from the top, where the steepest part of the climb starts, he stood and started to hammer. I stayed in the saddle, gripped the very front of the blocks, slid forward just a bit more, and dug deep. I'm not sure who was more surprised, him or me, but I went right past him!  >B 

I kept expecting him to put on a move and pass me, so I kept the hammer down. My pulse rate was skyrocketing, but we only had a hundred yards left at that point. My quads were screaming, but no way I wanted to lose now, so I kept digging deeper.

In the end I beat him by ~ 25 ft. Damned, that felt GREAT!

After a nice rest and conversation up at the Beals beach area, I headed back down for home. Just past Negro Bar (originally the campsite of gold miner's slaves during the California Gold Rush) a green Colnago blew past me and kept up a blistering pace until out of sight. He did seem to weaken a bit on a short 6% climb though, so I kept after it and made it a challenge to see if I could reel him in - eventually, maybe.

I caught him ~ 5mi later climbing up the new Hazel Bridge approach. Apparently my attention to aerodynamics and likely greater power was enough to close the gap. He would have killed me on any climb, but on the flats, headed into a 10-15mph headwind, I had the advantage. Moving my waterbottle down 3" has made a bigger improvement than lowering my aerobar position.

With some nice pick-up racing thrown in, I arrived home all smiles. Another fun day on the ARPT. I can tell I pushed myself to 103% of max HR today, but well worth it!


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