After a season of mediocre category three finishes, I elected to drop back to my old Category four 45plus race. When last Davo had raced Cat 4 I was a consistent top ten finisher and I wasn’t as dedicated a trainer as I have been the last couple years. My early forays into the Cat 3 were met with success.
As I lined up this morning, I found answers to some of my lingering questions. The reason I had been moving back in the Cat 3 races was the same reason I wasn’t out of place back in the Cat 4’s. I suck (just kidding). All of the categories have become bigger and more competitive. The fist two rows of the Cat 4 were not only all team riders; these were a pack of forty-five year old (plus) physical specimens. There were some newbies in the crowd, but the group of 45 plus was fifty riders thick and those guys were at the back of the starting pack.
The thirty-five plus group started a minute in front of us and they quickly spread out. When the whistle blew, I dug in and found myself in the top twenty. As soon as we hit the rough stuff, I recognized a familiar sound. I hadn’t removed my freaking saddlebag. I go to amazing lengths to lighten my race bike and I’m carrying a tube, a tool and a pump.
I worked to float over the rough stuff and lean over to take the corners tighter. Recalling my collegiate running career, this course was particularly well suited to a good runner. We were catching the back of the 35’s on the first run up and passing them became part of the challenge for the rest of the day. The first time we hit a short sandy hill the pack blew up and I was off (the bike) and running (literally). I was able to ride it the other three times and thanks to my steel frame and low pressure I was able to stand the whole way the last time and keep the wheels digging.
I could hear my teammates cheering me on and it really made a difference. I truly appreciated it. Thanks mates.
The course had a pair of downhill sections with switchbacks the required great navigational care. It was not unlike a downhill slalom with the riders shooting the gates. I jokingly referred to this part of the course as the neutralized zone and there was no chance to pass.
I put Ryan Trebon’s advice about just staying relaxed when you hit the barriers and found myself passing riders and I can’t say why. I didn’t really pick it up and I didn’t notice them stopping for beer or anything, but I moved up each time.
The last lap I was forcing myself to maintain focus and keep the bear off my back. A lapped rider on a tight corner worked to my advantage and I kept digging to get a gap on a rider who had been chasing my wheel.
As I closed in on the finish line I was juggling the various ride aspects. Stay loose, pedal hard, lean and steer with my shoulders, keep the weight back on the downhills. Pick the smart line, but don’t give any room on the inside. At this stage of the race, as Yogi might say, half of your performance is ninety percent mental. I think that nobody is going to pass me near the end, and in fact, I am a great finisher. This may be a self-fulfilling prophecy, but that is just fine.
I held off the guy who was chasing me and finished strong. I slumped over the bars and rolled around the track. I was toast. There wasn’t anything I left on the course today and when my body had screamed for me to slow down, my brain, my ego, my inner beast, or just my stupidity shouted down my body and I pushed on. In many endurance events there is a choice to soft pedal or cruise for a while, and catch your breath or just not suffer for a little, or a long while. Today I was pleased that when it really hurt, I kept going and didn’t give in. I don’t know the results yet, but I’m scoring it a win today.