Tuesday, March 8, 2016

CIRREM 2016 Race Report

Photo credit: Steve Fuller
The 2016 racing kicked off with CIRREM on the last Saturday of February, as usual, this year. This race is super tough, has a really cool vibe, and is usually help in some of the worst weather of the year. We lucked out this year with unusually warm temperatures making the race comfortable from a weather stand point. We had a decent wind out of the southwest, but anyone who’s ridden in a Midwest springtime has ridden in worse winds, plus the southwest wind meant we had the wind to our backs for most of the last half of the course.

I’d call my race mostly a success, in that I accomplished the goal I was shooting for. However, as ever, I have some things I wish I had done differently in hindsight.
The main goal I had set for myself ahead of the race was to finish in under 4 hours. The last time I did this race, I finished in 10 minutes past 5 hours, but the conditions were awful that day with super soft, wet gravel. This year I finished in a tad over 3 hours and 55 minutes. Bam. Done. Mission accomplished, right? Right… mostly.

This was my first race using a power meter. Power meters are great for training. They’re great for pacing too. But anyone who knows me, know how good I am at over-thinking things. Coming into the race I had decided that I would do my best to stick with the leaders or any group I fell in with. But I also decided that I would not go over a certain wattage in order to stick with that group. My reasoning being that I didn’t want to burn my matches too early in the race. On paper, I think that was a decent idea and would have worked great had this been an individual time trial.

But a TT this was not and the wind meant sticking with a group was extremely beneficial. What I found was that the group I ended up riding in would hit each climb harder than I wanted to climb requiring me to go over the wattage “redline” I had set in my head. So, I would back off my power for the climb. As I crested each hill, I’d keep pedaling and catch back on to the group as they coasted down the backside of each climb. Eventually, as the climbs got a little longer I wasn’t able to catch back on without going over my “redline” so I ended up losing that group. I rode the rest of the race pretty much alone.

In hindsight, I think I should have done what I could to stick with the group as long as possible. Having a group to ride with would have been quite beneficial. For drafting of course, but mostly for motivation. There’s a point about 75% of the way through, where my power and heart rate charts show I was letting off the gas. Yes, my back was starting to hurt, but I also was just lacking the motivation required to push though the annoyance of a hurting back and keep my speed up. Once I found someone to ride with again, my power and heart rate came back up to a more “spirited” level.

Allll byyyy myyyself... Photo credit: Steve Fuller

Experiences like these are always good reminders of how I would love to be able to race more often. I feel like I learn a valuable lesson each time I race, but have to wait so long to apply that lesson. If I could race more often I know I would develop better race strategies faster. I’m sure I could find more races to do, but it would require sacrifices in other areas in my family’s life that we’re just not willing to make so I’ll just have to be content with a “slow and steady” approach to gaining race experience. 

Next up in my racing schedule is Tour de Husker. It's likely to be my only race on the road this year! I'm feeling strong. Stronger than I did last year, I thought I performed pretty decently last year so I'm excited to see how this year will go. Plus, it looks like the weather may actually be warm this year. A warm CIRREM and a warm TdH in the same year? I'm not sure what to make of that, but I'll take it.

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