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

  • Tank warfare

    As an opportunity to stretch my legs and get back in the swing of race day prep (pinning a number on can be more tricky than you might think you know) I used a spare Sunday to nip down to Swynnerton for a road race.
    I admit I was slightly swayed into racing by the idea of the course – rather than the usual road race fare of laps of an industrial estate, this one took place on MOD land, behind all the high fencing you’d imagine (and far away from all the sulking traffic!). I imagined men with bits of tree sticking out of their helmets and camouflage painted faces commando rolling across the course in front of us, and tanks as lead out vehicles, neither of which actually materialised. There was, however, the immortal line in the pre race briefing “stay on the course, don’t take short cuts, there are live fire exercises taking place today. Also, don’t pick anything up as it may explode.” If it had been me giving the talk I’d have probably added a line about people dropping gel wrappers being shot by snipers – not that I saw a single piece of litter while racing, which is ace.
    As we rolled off, I wondered how long it would be before the attacks started. I’d not had a chance to warm up properly (though the ride from the race HQ meant I wasn’t worried about doing myself an injury), so was secretly hoping for a few laps to get into the swing of things. That didn’t happen, of course, as people started throwing themselves off the front pretty much straight from the ‘go’. I let the pack bring them back for a while, before moving up towards the front to stick my nose in the wind and get my legs properly firing by helping on bringing back a few little attacks. Nothing too strenuous, just a chance to get up to threshold and loosen up.
    As I sat on the front, feeling pretty good, I decided to grab a quick drink. It was pretty warm and I didn’t want to end the race (75mins plus 3 laps) cramping up. Somehow when trying to return the bottle to the cage my fingers slipped and I watched it hit the ground beneath me. I shouted out a warning to everyone behind me (well, half warning, half cry of despair as all my water vanished 20 minutes into the event!). 30 odd people rode over it, thankfully no-one crashed, but it was utterly mullered. Right. I’ve got 55minutes and 3 extra laps to do and the closest thing I’ve got to refreshment is two energy gels. Hmmm.
    Rather than sit in the pack moping about it, I decided to crack on as I’d planned (my vague plan being to get a good work out and do some attacking, even if nothing came of it), so during a brief lull in the pace, I hammered off the front as best as I could. I was joined by a rider from Omnipex and together we started to push on. I’d seen a of the attacks so far come to nothing as their pace dropped within a few minutes of opening a gap, so was hopeful we’d work well together to stop that from happening. To my delight we kept building on our advantage and started sharing the workload, h was obviously a strong rider and we soon saw one of the motorcycle outriders drop back behind us – great, a gap of at least 30 seconds, we’d now be out of sight for most of the course, if we keep this up we could get a healthy lead going.

    45 minutes in and we’d started a decent through-and-off rhythm going. Our speed was consistent and, from what I’d noticed while sat I the pack earlier, slightly faster. We got the call as we crossed the start finish line of being over a minute up. I was reaching threshold when taking my turn and recovering well when behind and by the next lap we were up to 1 minute 20 seconds ahead. Ace.
    Sadly, 50 minutes in, the other rider punctured. It took a lap or so for his tyre to go down and as he pulled off to the side of the course I’d already made up my mind to crack on alone and try to stay ahead. I knew if I sat up I’d have no chance in a sprint, after putting in so much effort up to this point, and my vague plan for the ay to get a good work out would be complete if I just got my head down and hammered it for as long as possible, so that what I did.
    I’d made a note, while in the break, of how many watts I was pushing at various points on the course and set about keeping them the same. No recovery now, just one big effort and try to keep the gap. The guys on the start finish line kept shouting out the time gap for me, which was a great help and Iw as encouraged as it didn’t seem to be reducing as the laps passed.
    The lad who punctured, while walking back to the start (not taking any shortcuts, or picking anything up…) held up his bottle for me, having noticed that I had nothing to drink, which was really good of him and would have been welcome, had I not buggered up the hand-up and basically belted the bottle out of his hand onto the floor, rather than grabbing it. Bugger (and, thankyou for the offer!).
    I had one gel left, which I guzzled as the “3 laps to go” call came out from the finish line. Still one minute in hand. I started doing mental calculations. I could lose 20 seconds per lap to the pack, would it be enough to hold the pace I was doing currently (my speed / watts were pretty constant, which was a wonderful feeling this far into the effort)? Will they be picking up the pace (I was sure they’d now know I was out on my own)? I decided to keep at the same pace, I felt I had perhaps one more big effort left in my legs, which I’d keep for a last lap push.
    “Two to go”. Head down, don’t let the pace drop.
    Bell lap. Head down, on the longer straights I allowed myself a glance over my shoulder. I’d planned to give one last big push when they came into sight. Nothing. I carved round the sweeping corners at the back of the course and onto the long curved road to the finish line. Another glance back, no sign of them, but not that much of the course behind was in view. The finish line was, though, ahead in the distance.
    No cocky sitting up and waving nonsense, I’ve seen too many videos of people losing races by starting their celebrations miles from the line and getting passed by half the race. Stay on the power until I could cross the line on foot without being overtaken.
    Job done. I crossed the finish line, looked chuffed as the polite finish line clapping was directed at me and immediately carried on round the course to where I’d dropped my bottle. I didn’t like the idea of leaving litter on the course and, secretly, I was hoping there’d be something to drink left inside it! It had vanished from where I’d seen it sitting in the verge to the side of the road, which ended the quandary I was having (“Do I pick it up? What if it’s not my bottle but an unexploded bomb? We were told not to pick stuff up! Do camelbak make bombs?”), so I rolled back to the finish line to see the rest of the race sprinting for the 2nd place accolades. Not only had I held my advantage over the 25minutes I’d been out front alone, but by the last lap the chase had been given up and the infighting meant I’d won by over 3 minutes! Chuffed! Chuffed and thirsty!
    My bottle had been picked up and brought back to the start/ finish (thank you to whoever tidied up the course!) , but was completely smashed, so the offer of a bottle of water was swiftly ad gladly taken up!
    Thanks to everyone involved in setting up the race – it was a really good and entertaining course to race on, at a great traffic free venue. Highly recommended! ?

     

    11:10 am on July 22, 2019 | No Comments | # |

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