Welcome to Expert
Today was my first Vet Expert race. It was the 1st race of the VA Derailer Series held in Franklin County.
Awesome weather. It was actually cold this morning. After spending the last few days in South Carolina it was shocking. We loaded up the whole family and the car again, less than 24 hrs after just unpacking it from returning from the beach. The kids were pretty excited about doing the kids' race. They did it last year. This time the youngest was off his training wheels, and the oldest has gotten in some real mountain biking.
At the start they were serious, like dad. Don't forget to have fun. Something that I need to remember as well.
The little guy keeps his bite valve in his mouth ALL the time when he wears his camel bak
The kids did this loop that had better single track than we raced on. My oldest son rode it once in his race, then did 3 more when he tagged onto the older kid's race, then 2 more with me than another 2 more times after that. He was smoking me.
He had actually crashed off this slick wooden bridge into a small V ravine. His helmet was all muddy, seat twisted, and he had to pull his 35+ kids trek 3' out of the ditch. Why they don't make kids bikes lighter I don't know.
The little one rode the whole thing except he got a push from mom towards the end. Race referees looked the other way.
A bunch of biker punks.
Lining up with the Experts
I'd decided a few days ago to run Vet Expert. Mainly because I would never have done another lap for training after the 2 sport laps. I wanted the longer race to better prepare for Douthat and Rowdy Dawg that are both 2:20-3hr races.
I was a little nervous taking the start line with the other experts. The lumped all expert categories together at the start. They gave us big yellow numbers. We were slated to do 3 laps.
In previous races, I've changed my pacing strategy to go off the line somewhat conservatively in order to ride consistent pace through and finish strong. I figured that with the shorter time of this race that it might be better go back to my old school strategy of balls out off the line. Ideally, I wanted to stay with the leaders for at least one lap. Ha. yah. ok.
The entire plan changed about 30seconds off the line. I've realized that at a race of any significant length. Meaning anything longer than 15 minutes. That I can only go so fast. Trying to go faster leads to just going backwards. Off the line I started to go too fast then faded then finally came around to get into a sustainable effort.
So once I got my legs underneath me it was just a matter of going the best I could.
There are two components to riding that I've been working on. 1) Increasing my sustainable pace. 2) Increasing the ability to go into the red and recover back to sustainable pace. This happens every climb, or tough technical section, or trying to pass someone.
The course was alright. Not super pristine single track, but decent. Some rough riding around some fields and two monster creek crossings. One up past my thighs with some huge rocks and holes in it. If I didn't see it with my own eyes I wouldn't think it possible to ride. But these kinds of courses are difficult to hold any rhythm on. I tend to do better on courses that you can get in a groove on.
There were some really steep grinder climbs. Some were damp with wet rocks and roots. I was pleased that I rode them all (except one where I spun out in a mud bog) without too much issue and was able to get onto a bigger gear afterwards.
There was one damp muddy bridge that took out several riders in a heartbeat. Some of the downhills were steep and sketchy. In general it was a a rougher course than you'd think for these type of lap courses. I rode the hardtail, but in hindsight this course might have been better suited for the dually where you could power in the saddle through rough sections.
During the second lap, my time was similar to what I'd done last year for two laps. I was happy with this as I was still riding a steady pace into the third lap.
Though something was wrong with my nutritional plan. I did what I always did. Plain Hammer Gel and Gatorade. But today I was getting gassy/queasy and bloated with that sickly sweet aftertaste developing in my mouth. Not good. I also took 3 Sport legs 1hr before the race and 3 at around the 1/2hr point. I was daring my legs to cramp. The Sportlegs have treated me really well with regards to cramping, but today they failed a little when a cramp started about 5 minutes from finishing. I backed off so I didn't get anywhere near full lockup. I read on the mtbr boards that Sportlegs suggest taking 5 pills in the race 1hr before you think you'll need it. I might try that more in training.
I was pretty happy to finish feeling ok in the legs and roll under steam. But my stomach was in knots and I felt like hurling. My wife said I looked happy at the finish and she took a bunch of pictures. I said let me see the camera. In looking at the pictures I said, that isn't my happy face, that is my I'm going to hurl face. It looks like this half smile.
My time was around 1:27 or so for 3 laps. Last year I did 2 laps in 1:03. So I'm pleased. The wining expert times were around 1:15. I'm not sure yet where I placed in vet expert. Overall I'm happy with the race, and glad that I moved up. It was going to hurt regardless of 2 laps or 3 laps. The simple reality is that the best that I can hope for is to continue to work hard and slowly with baby steps improve year to year. Those guys are just so fast though.