Sunday, May 17, 2009

Panoche RR Race Report - M35+ 1/2/3

Race Report: A year ago I rode this course on the Monday after Cat\'s Hill and re-aggravated my old L4/L5 disc injury. That put me out for a month and left a sour taste in my mouth. Today I was excited to get back on the course and actually race. At the start it was already scorching hot and about to get hotter. After a few quick instructions from Chris and Nick we headed to the start.

The pace was pretty relaxed as everybody was getting used to the heat and trying to get a sweat going. Actually, it was too hot to sweat; any fluid on your body would evaporate immediately. On the rollers it was myself, Greg and Nick setting pace near the front. At one point I think Ramon rolled up to Greg and instructed him to get his butt back in the pack and stay protected for the upcoming climbs.

As we descended one of the rollers I found myself about 50 meters off the front of the pack. I wasn't planning to do this, but gravity has a positive effect when I descend. Looking back I saw a Specialized rider coming up; it was Kevin Metcalfe. He pulled through and then asked, "Is this a stupid thing for us to do?!?". I said that it probably wasn't the smartest, but that we should just keep our tempo and see what would happen. Looking down at my powermeter I saw that I was going about 85% of max; a pace I felt I could keep for quite some time.

At this point the heat started to kick in and really affect my heart rate. My HR kicked up to over 175bpm and I wasn't even pushing the pedals that hard. It seemed like Kevin and I were off the front for about twenty minutes, and my HR kept creeping higher. We hit the first hill and were caught about halfway up. A few minutes later Chris rode up to me to see how I was feeling. I wasn't able to get my HR back down and I knew it was going to be a long day. For the record, it took me over thirty minutes of just sitting in before my HR got down below 150bpm. Absolutely nuts!

The wind wasn't really a factor at this point and we soon descended and made our way to the notorious left hand turn onto Little Panoche Road. Usually the crosswind hits you on this section, but today it wasn't a factor. Halfway across Metcalfe attacks and Nick follows. Then a few other random riders bridge. Just as the gap is getting bigger, Chris zooms up the left and Billy Innes latches on. The acceleration from Chris was fast and quick enough to catch most off guard, so our chase group didn't put in much effort. I was happy to see two teammates get up the road, which was far more than I could have done at that moment.

Our group started our next significant climb and halfway up Tracy Colwell drops his hammer and the group splinters. At this point I had been racing for over an hour and a half, and my HR was averaging 167bpm. To put this into perspective from my VO2max test, my body\'s functional HR threshold is 163. Anything over this and I'm dumping more lactic acid into the muscles quicker than I can clear it out.

This acceleration, combined with the heat and my racing HR, broke me. I crested the climb and descended to the turnaround point. I stopped to top off all three of my bottles and poured a few more over my body. Jonathan Sinclair was out there manning the water station and I\'m sure he saw a lot of ugliness from riders being impacted by the heat. Another rider teamed up with me and we started our long haul back to the start.

As I was climbing I saw Ramon coming down the hill. I didn't know when he was dropped, but he was very optimistic when he yelled, "I'll catch up to you...". Well, Ramon caught us back on the flat crosswind section of road. He and a few other guys he was dragging caught up to myself and we worked together for a few miles. I didn't feel strong enough to stick with Ramon and he slowly rode off.

The bottom of the final climb wasn't bad, but the wind was starting to pick up. No, please don't bring the headwind! Into the last water station I roll, get off the bike, fill up the bottles and drench myself all over again. I was looking forward to the mostly downhill ride into the finish, but the winds were picking up.

With about fifteen miles to go I get caught by a Webcor, Specialized and CVC rider. We worked together until one of the rollers broke us apart with seven miles to go. I didn't realize it until I crested, but I rode the other guys off my wheel. I put my head down and counted the miles until I crossed the finish.

Hands down this was the toughest race I've done. My body did things from the exposure to heat that I've never experienced. Elevated HR, really low power output, and a pair of hot feet that were pretty much in pain over the last ten miles. Hopefully this is just a heat acclimation thing that will subside as we enter our hotter summer racing. Thankfully I didn't get sunburned or experience any nasty post-race headaches from being dehydrated.

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