Sunday, May 17, 2009

Welcome to Cat 4...

I recently upgraded to a Category 4 road racing license. This equals longer races and bigger fields. I decided to upgrade, not because I was cleaning up in Cat 5, (of the two races I did last year and the year before, I didn't even finish in the top ten) but because I wanted to do longer races. For me, racing isn't only about winning, it's about the challenge and I just wanted more challenge than the 30 mile races that Cat 5 could provide.

Well, I guess I should have been careful what I wished for.

Saturday was the Tour of Kensington Valley. It's a hilly (by Michigan standards) 13 km loop that has a nasty little gravel section, complete with "Michigan Pave" (potholes). As a newly knighted Cat 4, my race was 7 laps, roughly 92 km. Far and away the longest race I've done in 7 years... I figured I've been doing some 100+ km rides the last couple of months so this wouldn't be that big of a deal.

To say this was an error in judgment would probably be a gross understatement...

For starters, it was rainy, windy and cool. Not that I mind, I don't have a problem with riding in crappy conditions. Actually, I was glad it was raining. Any additional liquid being absorbed into my body was something I welcomed gladly. More on that later...

The race started off great - I was feeling really good, my 8 year old bike wasn't protesting at all and I was feeling at home in the peloton despite my extended absence. There was a pretty serious crash on lap 1 on a bumpy descent and I managed to avoid it. I even was taking some good pulls upfront to reel in a group of three that managed to go clear on lap 3. That's when things started to go awry.

I noticed I was starting to get some slight cramping in my left quad. It was especially prevalent while climbing but nothing too serious. I just figured I need to drink more. That's when I noticed that my big water bottle was almost empty. My second water bottle was gone soon after as I tried in vain drink my way back into a hydrated state.

And that's why the rain was a welcome sight. If the sun had been out, I would have overheated and probably had to stop riding. Maybe I should have stopped, but with a $45 entry fee, I figured I might as well get my money's worth and finish.

I became so dehydrated that any pressure applied to the pedals resulted in vice-grip seizures in my quads. I had to put it into a small gear and spin with as little pressure as possible. This made climbing extremely difficult, and on some of the steeper climbs, I almost came to a complete stand-still.

In addition to being dehydrated, I only had one gel packet with me, and apparently, this was no where near enough. I bonked harder than I ever have in my life. I would have eaten the foil packaging that the gel came in if I thought it had some caloric content. At one point, on the last lap, I was starting to see stars and even took a wrong turn because I was disoriented... I seriously thought about quiting but 1) at this point I was determined to see this through, and 2) I still had to get back to my car, which was parked just past the finish.

And finish I did. 36th place... Out a field of 65. I was pretty disappointed. I was shooting for a top 20 but I guess I over-estimated my fitness. Or, maybe it was just a complete oversight on the amount of food/drink needed for a 90+ km road race. Either way, I will make sure I'm prepared with ample food and drink for my next road race.

My Dad and my Uncle decided to come and watch my race. And thank God they did... They had some dough nuts and a couple water bottles in the car and I scarfed down two glazed and downed both bottles as fast as I could. This surge of sugar brought me back to coherence and gave me enough energy to cruise back to the car.

Lessons learned:
  • Hydration is important in longer races
  • So is food...
Well, some lessons are best learned the hard way -

No comments:

Post a Comment