Won a race once. AND DON'T YOU EVER FORGET IT

  • Event Horizon

    I’ll not lie, after the 3 Peaks I felt drained. Not “aarg I can’t walk down stairs” drained like after a 24hr race, just empty. despite feeding and hydrating myself up I got the sniffles (not a cold, not even full blown man-flu, just some grotty sniffles) and felt a bit swamped with malaise. Figuring that riding through it might be the best way forward I didn’t cancel any training, just cut it slightly shorter during the week and did my best to pretend there wasn’t two races in a row coming up…

    …to my surprise and delight it seemed to work a bit and as the sun rose on Saturday I was quite looking forward to the next NWCCA race, up in Cumbria. I wasn’t as fresh as a daisy, but I wasn’t struggling to stand up straight or anything like that and the sniffles had reduced to a slight excessive snot production. Lets get on with it!

    The Westmorland Showground race course was really, really good. Enough “power” bits to suit me and enough climbs to give me even more of an advantage. The ground was pretty dry, it wasn’t stupidly cold, the sun was out and the bikes were working well. You’ve got to be happy with that!
    The race went quite well. As expected I felt like my (pitiful at best TBH) explosiveness out of the corners was a bit lacking, but the endurance was still there. A stupid crash (isn’t there always a stupid crash!) lost me a bit of time, but I finished in 4th with the knowledge that I’ve got it in me to move much further forward and greatly reduce the time gaps that opened up in future. With the start of some winter training (still ‘cross specific) coming up I’m pretty happy with how I’m going.

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    Finish line crossed I almost immediately necked a bottle of recovery drink, horribly aware of what the next day’s race would feel like with even the slightest bit of fatigue in the legs…

    The Rake. My only hill climb of the season (“proper” hill climb season I mean, those fun summer hill climb races organised by the local clubs don’t count in the same way). One of the best to do, for two reasons: 1) It’s pretty short – if you want to win you’ll need to be lying on the floor at the top just two and a half minutes after setting off and 2) The crowds.
    Most hill climbs are spectated by that one old bloke who seems to be halfway up every course and one confused looking sheep. That’s it. A nasty, steep road, some cold weather – probably with a chilly and blustery headwind that’s whipped it’s way across the desolate moor you’re climbing up onto – and nothing else except a bloke with a chequered flag who never seems to get closer, no matter how hyperventilate-y you get. Not The Rake though. It’s different.
    There’s shouts of support right from the start line, your named gets repeated in an encouraging way as you make your way along the ‘intermediate’ section and then, as you turn right onto Rawsons Rake itself it all kicks off. Properly.

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    A loud PA system blares out Northern commentary to what can only be described as a wall of screaming faces. When it’s empty the Rake is quit a wide road, considering how steep it is and what a back road it is, but as you hit it’s increasingly uncompromising slopes it’s narrowed by an almost ridiculous throng of spectators, none of whom are there to politely nod approval at you. It’s rare for anyone, no matter how “back of the pack” they are, to get off. You’re not allowed. The crowds don’t let you. Seemingly fed by the information about you firing out of the PA system, if you look like you’re stuttering in your effort the chants get louder, more demanding, more in unison. “up. up. up. Up. Up. UP. UP. UP. UP. GO. GO. GO.”
    Stopping feels like it would be more dangerous and painful than turning those cranks round one more time, so you do. And do again. And again until you emerge from the semi-darkness of the tree covered section onto the one flat section nicely framed by the finish line. It is ace.
    Of course, the one thing you don’t want, is to have fatigue in your legs from the first power-away turn of the pedals off the start. If there’s a hollow ache in your thighs after a couple of seconds you’re going to be immersed in misery for what might as well be an eternity. And the crowds will still be there, round the corner, on the Rake, waiting for you…

    Despite the post-cross-race recovery drink, I knew I was in for the eternity thing as soon as I parked the van on Budge’s driveway. A walk up the course confirmed to me that somehow it had got steeper since the last time I’d gone up it and, at the same time, my legs had turned into a mixture of jelly and lead in all the wrong proportions. Bugger.
    My turbo trainer warm up made little difference and necking a caffeine shot half an hour before the race, rather than giving me a mental boost, just woke me up to the discomfort even more (thankfully Budge very kindly let me use his loo as well, so at least the nervous pre-race wee wasn’t an issue today!). Bugger.
    One final on-the-start-line tighten of my shoes to ensure I got every last feeble watt out of my legs into the pedals and “ping!” the buckle holding the velcro strap on my shoes snaps. Bugger. I’ll be racing with one loose shoe then.
    Considering all of that, it kind of went well. My slowest ever time in the event, but somehow I was able to take in the atmosphere as I rode up more than in previous years. Riding through that tunnel of noise is utterly brilliant and I heartily recommend it to anyone who likes riding bikes. Plus it only lasts for a few minutes then you can have a lie down in the middle of the road without anyone thinking less of you…

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    It’s another Ellen pic

    I don’t think the 3 minutes of work took much out of my legs so, with any luck, I should be back into some sort of form for next week’s race at Heaton Park. I hope so, as it’s usually a good course for laying down some power and hurt. 🙂

     

    8:59 pm on October 7, 2018 | No Comments | # |

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