My Revolver has been pretty angry with me these days.
After a lousy performance at the Single Track Classic a few weeks ago due to a worn cassette (yeah, that was the ONLY problem), I needed a repair. So, I replaced the rear cassette and chain. Unfortunately, I also needed the chain rings replaced, which I didn’t do, so I went to Tuesday night’s race a few weeks ago without working gears, and lacking the ability to crank the one gear that I had.
It’s okay bike, I forgive you. Because I learned something.
I learned that if I can’t book it at a race pace, I can just ride. And that’s okay. It was nice to just get out and pedal through the forest. No burning lungs. No wobbly legs afterwards. No cramps. No sore wrists and throbbing back. Good lesson.
And my placing wasn’t horrible either. Really, I was just a few spots behind my usual standing. It made me think. If I can just ride at a normal pace in races, I’ll still do okay, and I might not be so zonked after the race. So there really isn’t a need to give 200% of myself in a race. Not just a good lesson; a good lesson with a handy outcome.
Thankfully, that half-baked, idiot-moron-dumbass reasoning lasted about as long as a tub of my hair product. Which is to say, it didn’t last long. What? Don’t touch my hair.
If I’m not riding in a race at race pace, it’s not a race. Race pace shouldn’t be easy. Or fun. Or relaxing. It should be nasty and gritty, and involve lots of aching, cramping, and wobbliness.
I feel alive when my lungs are on fire. My body likes wobbly legs (because it makes me appreciate when they aren’t). And when I’m not cramping, it’s because I’m not moving, which is a giant waste of time.
And even though racing isn’t fun, and it comes with lots and lots of cussing, mixed with copious bouts of “Why am I putting myself through this?” the feeling afterward is always worth it.
On the other hand though, it would be nice to get a bit better.
So, after the moronic notion to “just ride” in races dissipated, I started thinking about a nagging idea I’ve had for a while: Pace. Pace? It’s been dogging me for some time, but I can’t seem to nail it down. I start a race and give it everything I have for every second until I have nothing left to give, and then I keep giving a very diminished everything until the finish.
But I have to reexamine that approach, because I am a mess at the end of a race. I don’t want to start lollygagging in a race like I’m in a parade. I’m talking about a calculated pace that will enable me to perform better, and ride across the finish line instead of scamper across it. In his blog “Riot On Racing”, Michael Tourond calls us zombies.
But I don’t want to be a zombie… What’s the emoji for petulance?
Pacing. I know it sounds pretty obvious to experienced riders, but it’s a huge challenge for those of us just starting—yes I still feel like I’m just starting even though I’ve been racing for four years—and when race starts, I immediately struggle to keep up with the pace because I don’t want to be stuck behind a slower rider. Survival takes over, and pace takes a backseat. And that’s stupid, because I’m not racing them.
I’m racing me.
So I’ve been investigating on the Google.
And on the Google I found a few things. Unfortunately, my investigation raised a bunch of new questions. First, what on earth is Functional Threshold Power? Second, VO2? Seriously? Third, J-Shaped what now? Finally, huh? Just plain huh?
And to make matters worse, everything seems to be written for elite racers, and riders with a normal body type. However, when you’re like me–anything but average–the game is entirely different. I get it, we all have different body types and physiologies, and a multitude of other challenges, but I just can’t believe that the pacing and output considerations for a 150 pound rider are the same for a 250 pound rider. If they were, and I could match my power-to-weight ratio to other riders, I’d melt the rubber off my wheels.
So if pacing and output are very precise considerations, and small changes make a huge difference for everyone else, where does that leave me, the husky rider–Hey, that would have been a great name for this blog: The Husky Rider.
And while I was thinking about all of this, I realized that it was Tuesday again, and Tuesday means King Weekly Series. Why think about pacing in a race, when I can actually pace in a race. So I experimented with pacing on Tuesday night.
Race Report: King Weekly Series (June 14, 2016)
Pacing For The Husky Rider (Hey, I knew that term would come in handy):
First, I did half of a warm-up lap, and it felt great. Ding. One point for my pacing experiment.
Then, because I was out on the trail warming up, I got to the starting line a bit late. No worries. I was two minutes behind the pack, and that meant I wouldn’t be relying on their pace. So I rode hard, at my pace. Not a killer race pace, but a very strong pace (which felt great because of the warm up). Ding. Another point for my pacing experiment.
After the first lap, I felt strong, so I rode a bit harder. And the funny thing is that I had matches to burn. Usually it takes me a long time to warm up in a race, but by the time I’m warmed up, I’m spent because I burned through all of my matches.
But I hadn’t burned any matches, so I still had a full pack. Ding. A third point for my pacing experiment.
It all worked. My body was primed for a ride, I felt power as I rode, not struggle, and by the third lap (and the fourth lap that I did just because) I was able to amp-up my output a bit–because I could. I started a bit slower, I attacked the climbs, and reassessed my output as I rode (instead of my usual coping with my lack of power).
So I rode.
And my results for the night? Crap. None of it worked. If I had booked it at race pace, I probably would have been about a minute (or even two) faster per lap.
End of Race Report.
But thanks to my moody bike, I at least have a benchmark. I’m going to look into four areas:
- Warming-Up. This one is obvious.
- Neutral Starting. But I’m going to call it “Team Colin Starting” and try to ride my pace at the beginning. My races are long. If I get stuck behind someone, I’ll find time to pass them, which leads me to the next point.
- Power to Attack: If I have matches to burn, I’ll burn them when I need to pass, or when I need to climb.
- Reevaluating My Output: If I have more to give during a race, I’ll give a bit more. If I don’t, I’ll pull back a little.
And I’ll have plenty of time to put these things into practice this weekend at Dan Marshall’s “Northumberland Humbler” (A Substance Projects race), which is one of my favourite races of the year (although I think they’re all my favourites). I pre-rode much of the course twice on the weekend: Saturday and Sunday. It was a killer both days. I saw another single speed racer, Bob Ramsey, on both days. He’s awesome. He smokes me. How on earth am I supposed to beat a guy like him when he’s already way better than me, and training at least as much as me—and probably more? The answer is easy. I’m not. Because I’m not racing Bob. Or anyone else. I never was, and I likely never will be. I’m racing me.
And I’ve won every race I’ve ever done.
PS. It’s all better with my bike now. We had a talk and worked things out.