Saturday, May 7, 2011

T42 - Pipped off the Podium on the Line

The thing I'm loving so much about racing lately is that there never seems to be a dull moment. The weather for this week's race had been looking less than ideal the entire week. I packed up Friday afternoon and headed down with Duane and Bruce and as we approached National Park, the rain became more and more torrential... This was going to be an absolute mudfest.

I woke in the morning to more rain, and also the sudden realisation that I had left the innersoles for my riding shoes at home. After grovelling and begging got me nowhere, I decided to just wear two pairs of socks and deal with loose shoe syndrome for the day. Surely it couldn't be that bad... The 42 Traverse is mainly downhill right??? We arrived at the race start and it was still raining. I think I got changed five times trying to figure out what I was going to wear... Did I just need arm and leg warmers? Did I need an Icebreaker layer underneath? Did I need a wind vest? Or all of the above? It was cold at the startline... I opted with leg warmers and a long sleeve Icebreaker underneath (for the record, this turned out to be a pretty good choice for the most part of the race until the last hour where we had quite a bit of climbing to do). I was a bit nervous about what the condition of the track was going to be like. I had heard it was clay-based and after all the rain, was expecting the worst.

We lined up on the start line and the rain stopped (and stayed away for just about the whole race amazingly!). The first three kilometers was on the road and was a fast three kilometers. I was spinning out in my biggest gear and still couldn't stay on the bunch, so right from the start I was off the back of the bunch... Then another couple of girls passed me... I was here for a good time and knew I hadn't been putting in many k's on the bike lately, but lack of training doesn't douse the competitive spirit. When we hit the track, it had held up surprisingly well to the rain. There were a few puddles and bits of mud here and there but DOC has done some exceptional work on weather-proofing the trail and it was absolutely superb to ride on. The 42 Traverse is a classic New Zealand ride. It starts at a higher altitude than it finishes (hence the general belief that it is all downhill... It's not...) and the track is just so fast that you can take your hands off the brakes, open it up and scoot straight across the top of gravel, bedrock, mud and river crossings. Apparently on a fine day, the views are also quite spectacular.

There are two sizable climbs on the 42 Traverse and both are towards the end of the ride. As I came up the climb with about 14km to go, I saw another girl ahead of me. I was pretty sure I was sitting in fourth place and overtaking her would put me in with a good chance at a podium spot. I wanted to pass her hard and put in some good distance on her quite quickly so I sat in for a minute and then attacked up the hill. I put in the distance as I had planned and then I kept saying to myself "if she can't see you, she can't beat you" so over the crest of every hill and around each corner, I'd check back to make sure I couldn't see her behind me. I dropped the hammer hard for that last 14km, which was probably a bit soon to go all out for the finish. I remembered the race organisers saying that when we crossed the bridge, it was two kilometers to go... I kept crossing bridge after bridge thinking "two km to go" and then realise it wasn't the bridge they were talking about. I barreled through a creek crossing and then up the other side, sucking my chain into my derallier... I jumped of the bike and vaguely remember fixing it as I ran up the hill... I knew I couldn't afford to drop any time.

Finally, I hit "the bridge". The two kilometers to go actually ended up being four kilometers and having not ridden the course before, I wasn't prepared for the one last climb we had to do into Owhango Domain. I cursed under my breath when I saw it but trudged on up the hill. I kept looking behind me and saw another rider gaining. I didn't think it was another girl, but when they passed me about fifty meters before the top of the hill, I realised it was (but not the girl I had just passed twelve kilometers beforehand). I tried to dig deep but I had nothing left... I remember thinking to myself "f*&%, I've got nothing... I guess I just have to let her go". I felt completely powerless to maintain the third place I had worked so hard for. I hit the flat again and managed to gain some ground on her, but it was already gone... I had been pipped at the post for third place... Bummer... Having said that, fourth place was still a good result in a time of 2 hours and 36 minutes... I suppose dropping a place right at the end of a race is always harder than losing it early on.

Now, it would be foolish of me to think that I had lost that one place in just that 100m to the finish line, and as always I have some insight and learnings to provide. At the end of the two and a half hour race, I had consumed only half a bottle of the two full bottles I had taken with me and I had eaten nothing... Had I looked after myself well during the race, I have no doubt I would have had some energy stores to call on in that last 100m. Furthermore, for every 5% dehydration, an athlete suffers a 20% loss in power output. Further to this, I was carrying a litre of fluid I didn't use, which equates to an extra kilogram to carry. It's so easy to get caught up in the race and forget or refuse to back off to take a hand off the bars and stick some food in your mouth or have a drink... It's interesting to note that when I was doing my longer races (24 hour etc) that I had my nutrition completely sorted, but doing these shorter races this year, I seem to have lapsed on how well I take care of myself out there on the course. Moral of the story is that regardless of the length of the race, it is important to make sure you eat and drink according to your energy requirements so you are fully fuelled for the entire race. Not only does it help you perform better, but also aids your recovery post-race.

No comments:

Post a Comment