Close but no cigar…

The Memorial day weekend was supposed to be my first big race weekend of the season – Saturday time trial, Sunday criterium, Monday biathlon. Only the time trial happened! The crit was cancelled the previous week, so I did have some advance notice on that one, but the biathlon was cancelled just 1 hr before the scheduled start. Crap! I had this weekend marked on my calender for some time as a big weekend – even more so than the state road race last weekend. The loss of the crit wasn’t too big of a blow – I just wanted to do it because I figured I could do well enough in the time trial to keep myself in the running for the overalls (hey, it could happen for me in a crit!). But the loss of the biathlon, well that was just a real kick in the arse. I had made the drive up to Troy the night before and stayed in a hotel, because at my age I need a good nights sleep and time in the morning to get ready without feeling rushed. Unfortunately, storms followed me up there and flooded part of the bike course. Why they couldn’t do some kind of reroute is for smarter people than I to answer, but they didn’t/couldn’t do that and instead announced it would be a running-only race. To which I replied – phttt! Hey, I had fun training for and doing the St. Louis Half-Marathon and all, but as far as biathlons go running is just a path to the TT bike. I couldn’t see any point in plopping down 30 bucks so I could trundle my 7-something pace along a 5-mile course – I could go home and run for free. Which I did. And it was no fun, because I felt like crap. But back to the beginning…

The time trial was a first edition race put on by Ghisallo. I’ve done more than a few time trials in my day, and I have to say that this was without question the most impressively organized and well-run time trial in which I’ve ever participated. Of course, the race route could not have been more ideal for me – for several years now I’ve been doing my interval training along those very roads (Centaur, Wildhorse Creek, Ossenfort). The turnaround on Ossenfort is at the turn right up to my house. This was my backyard, and I wanted it. Bad! I know every nook and cranny of those roads. I know exactly what gear to use on each rise and when to shift. I know exactly what kind of pace I can hold on each section – where a sub-hour 40k pace just isn’t possible and where I can make up time. And I know exactly how the wind blows on different parts of the course (that is, until the morning of May 24). I had a fairly early start time and took advantage of this rare opportunity to actually ride my bike to a race. I left ~7am and rode down the hill to the turnaround (an orange arc thoughtfully painted on the road) – one dry run at speed convinced me it would be a piece of cake. Riding down the course to the start area though, I noticed the wind coming out of the southeast – huh? It never comes out of the southeast out here, always the west or northwest. Hmm, that means a tailwind assist going out and face-smacking headwinds on the final 1.5-mile run to the finish. Okay, that’s good, I’d rather have a hard finish than a hard start – people tend to go too easy in a tailwind start because they’re already going fast, then give up in the home stretch because it is sooo hard. I met my wife with the car at the church parking lot and got my wheels and helmet switched. I had talked my daughter, Mollie (12 yrs), into doing it also, so we got our numbers pinned on and timing chips installed (wow, timing chips – how cool!), and I gave her some last minute tips and warmup instructions before heading off to my start.

At the start line, my minute-man (woman) was a no-show. Two minutes up from me was none other Joe Walsh. Great – my only rabbit is local TT icon JoJo with a 2-minute head start! I wasn’t too worried about getting caught, but I wasn’t happy about the long odds on me catching anybody – I do better if I’ve got bait in sight. Oh well, nothing to do but do what I can. I made my start and settled in – the tailwind was nice but I still went pretty hard. I’ve learned to get up to speed quickly, then back off just a tad for the first couple miles before bringing it back up to threshold and trying to surf the line. Once there, I like to shift up and down a gear or so to avoid losing my concentration and ending up stuck in a slightly suboptimal gear. Even on a flat course, it’s rare to find exactly the right cadence with a single gear, so shifting down a cog gives the legs a bit of a rest while the cardio system takes over, then shifting up lets the legs take over and gives the lungs a “breather” (hee hee). The gentle ups and downs and twists and turns of this course made doing that even more of a necessity. I was nailing the turns and apexing the course to take the shortest line, but the further along I went I just wasn’t feeling like I was really getting on top of it. It was hard to judge though, because of the unusual wind direction I was holding a faster pace than normal along each stretch. I usually check my computer just before the turnaround so I can quickly calculate the total time that even-splits would give me and what pace I’ll need to hold going back to hit my target – on this 11.9-mile course I figured I should be able to come in right at 28 minutes. But I got so focused on nailing the turnaround as fast as possible (which I did – rode the line perfectly) that I forget to check the computer. I realized this about 1/2-km later – okay, no big deal. I just concentrated on getting back as quick as possible. That last 1.5-mile stretch into the headwind was pretty tough, but it didn’t really bother me as I’ve experienced the same thing in several TTs. Short of the finish I could see I was going to go over my target, and when I crossed the line at 28:26 I wasn’t too thrilled – it was good but not great, and good doesn’t win time trials. My wife and younger daughter (Madison, 8 yrs) were waiting for me at the finish, and together we waited for Mollie to come in – she finished with a time of 44:32, and it was pretty cool of Anthony to make a big fuss about her over the microphone after her finish (and again at the awards ceremony – thanks, Anthony! You made her day!).

Since we live so close, we went back home and cleaned up and then came back down to see the results – I still had the top spot in the Masters 50+ when I left, but when I got back I saw that Scott Sifferman beat me by almost a full minute. Damn, close but no cigar! I missed the Hermann Time Trial due to illness, got 3rd in the Tour of St. Louis Time Trial (on my first ride back from the illness), and now a 2nd place. On the bright side, I knew I wouldn’t have won even if I had hit my target, but I did beat the next placed rider by a healthy margin, so a 2nd place finish seemed to be my destiny for this race. Mollie won the Juniors 10-14 – that’s her 3rd win in three bike races now!

What I liked about this race:

  • The course
  • Pre-registration – walk up, sign the preprinted form, take number
  • Timing chips!
  • Markings every km on the course
  • Anthony on the mic – during the race and at the awards ceremony
  • Super friendly volunteers
  • Plenty of police
  • Handsome payouts (75 bucks for my effort!)
  • Close to home
  • What I didn’t like about this race:

  • About Ted C. MacRae

    Ted C. MacRae is a research entomologist by vocation and beetle taxonomist by avocation. Areas of expertise in the latter include worldwide jewel beetles (Buprestidae) and North American longhorned beetles (Cerambycidae). More recent work has focused on North American tiger beetles (Cicindelidae) and their distribution, ecology, and conservation.
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    3 Responses to Close but no cigar…

    1. Anonymous says:

      see you at Babler Beast? that should be interesting…


    2. Ted M. says:

      That’s a triathlon right? I’ll do it if somebody else swims. Oh, and I’d need a runner, too. I’d prefer a couple of ringers 😉

    3. Anonymous says:

      its run bike run, 2 miles, 3 laps, 2 miles i think.

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