I'm not going to feel like doing this tomorrow (or remember much of it) so here goes:
Well well.. today's lesson learned was that guys who are 5-10 years older than me can kick my ass in their 2nd race of the day. Humbling for sure.. but my options were a little different. I either do the Pro-1-2 followed by the 35+, or do just the 35+. This event means more to me than most other races so I saved my A game for the 35s.. I was off to a good enough start (this morning I mean). Expecting a 2-1/2 hour drive to Concord, I left at 10:30 (race is at 2:00). Needless to say, lady luck was not by my side, not even for the easiest part of my day- just getting to the race. Let's just say that there are fingernail imprints in my steering wheel.. That so many people are dying to get into New Hampshire on a Saturday morning is nothing short of astonishing. What is the effing attraction up there!? Somewhere near the border, four lanes squeeze into two and that's what set me back about 1/2 hour. The final 20 miles were 80-85 miles an hour and even so, I parked the car at exactly 1:32.. leaving me 28 minutes to ride to registration and back, get pinned, kitted, stretched, warmed up and lined up to start. Luck finally caught up with me at this point- the Pros still had 20 laps to go, which meant I had at least 45 minutes to get ready. Sweet.
I went to Concord expecting to have a good result. In 2009, our team won the race, and we had two others in the top 10 as well, including Yours Truly. That was a hard race last year- I was coming off of a period of declining volume and form. My teammates pushed me kicking and screaming to the front of the race a few times.. and on the final lap when it mattered I got up there thanks to teammates. Today I was without team as Alain was at Nationals and Matt and Adam had promises to keep in the afternoon. They raced the 45s (which Matt won) and had to take off afterwards. So I'm all alone this time, but I've been training like a banshee, getting loads of sleep, eating right, taking vitamins, stretching.. most of the ingredients for success were there. It's been a long year since the last time at Concord, and I can assure you that hours and hours of visualizations have been logged (mostly in the past 10 days), especially relative to that magical final lap where I get myself into the top three going into that wonderful 180 degree corner leading into the final two turns. Well well.. visualizations do wonders. Picture yourself doing something enough times, over and over again.. and with a little luck it will be so. So it was for me today.. Now back to the beginning..
The race started off very hot. On the first lap I was off the front with two others, and the field went pretty hard to shut us down on lap two. Power meter data indicates that my peak 5 minutes occurred in those first 2-3 laps. My plan for today was reasonable. I thought to break up my efforts into fifths, so a 20 lap race meant that I would go very hard in the first four laps, recover for four laps, then I would be ready for action again on laps 9-12 and then shut it down for 13-16.. allowing me to recover sufficiently to empty the tank in the last four laps. Sounds ridiculous, but breaking it down this way kept me from burning too many matches, which I'm prone to do. Nobody wants an early "ride of shame" back to the car. As a friend correctly pointed out to me recently, my fuse burns pretty quick- so I gotta be careful about blowing up. At any rate, after the first recovery period, the bell rang for a two place merch prime.. Recalling the Solobreak won a $150 women's ski jacket as a prime in teh 45 race, I got all jacked up and went with the action. I was fifth wheel out of the final corner and it ended up being a photo finish for 1-2 between myself and another. That sprint took my breath away, literally and figuratively. Mentally I was stoked for getting it but physically I was ready for that 2nd recovery period. After sprinting we rounded the corner and who bolts up the road like a Scud missile- Wild Bill Yabroudy. My first mistake of the race was realized at that instant. Nobody could cover that move, least of all me. He dangled out there for a bit before being joined by Dave Kellogg and another guy (who I won't name because we're not acquainted). A lap or so later, Solobreak himself attacks with a bridge attempt. While all of this is happening, I am completely cross-eyed as I dangle at the back, trying not to get gapped. It was in those few laps with about 9-10 to go, that I had to fight thoughts of quitting, I was seriously in the hurt locker.. and thinking that the match or two I burned winning a shitty prime (which turned out to be an XL pair of $7 socks, thank you very much) could have been better spent covering Yabroudy's attack or trying to bridge across. I remember in the 2009 edition of this race- I did not contest any primes, but when The Move attacked up the hill with about 6 laps to go, I was on it like a bad suit and per team's orders, I sat there on Billy and Ciaran so that the race would come back together, ensuring that it came down to a field sprint, which favored our team.. and worked..
Recovery period No 2 took more like 5 laps and with about three to go I moved back up to the front. Not all at once like a maniac, but gradually.. a few places after each corner. When I heard the bell for final lap, I could really appreciate all of the visualizing I had done because like magic, I was up there in the top 10 guys going up the hill.. This is the part of the race where you need to appear larger than you are.. like when you encounter a bear in the woods.. Elbows are out a little bit.. guys are fighting to be just an inch ahead because that forces others to submit and yield some space. The slightest weakness is detected and if you show any at this point you can get pushed aside like a red headed step-child. I took the inside line on corner two where the field squeezes together. I accelerated out of there nicely on the right hand side, moving up some more, making sure that I have a clean exit for when someone punches it. The back stretch dips a little bit before a slight rise and approach to the corkscrew. The field is hesitating.. We're three or four abreast and I'm in a very sweet spot on the right, looking over my shoulder every two seconds. Then a move goes- it's an OA and a CCB attacking before the corkscrew. I am immediately on it, 4th wheel behind some yo-yo who could not corner to save his life. You could park a bus in the lane he left open on the inside of the 180 degree turn, and I shot through there- quite safely, to get tagged onto the two in front. I'm 3rd wheel through the left turn, I'm out of the saddle for 2-3 strokes before the final corner, just to dissuade others from thinking they can move up on me. Out of the last corner with two fast wheels to follow, I'm fresh and ready for this. But I became impatient, and fearful that passers might block me in. I followed the wheel very briefly before taking the right hand lane and opening it up for all it's worth. Hitting my top speed a little too early (37mph) I'm thinking that the finish is right in front of me but it's really another 10 -15 meters.. I was passed by two riders right on the line. I gave it everything to get 5th in the field sprint with 4 up the road, so 9th place for me, again. I'm not jumping for joy but I am happy to have executed what seemed to be the most important part of the race- having the power to be in front on the last lap AND to sprint strongly at the end.
Afterwards I discovered that Solobreak took a very respectable 2nd place behind B.Y. in his 2nd race of the day. Dave Kellogg got another fine result after his success at Norwell- finished 3rd in his 2nd race of the day as well. Foley and I chugged a couple of Stellas back at my car to honor a fine day of racing, as it should be..
Only one racer repeated a top 10 finish in 2009 and 2010. Me! and 9th place both times. Interesting to note that Matt Kressy won the 35+ in 2009 and the 45+ in 2010. Bill Yabroudy won the 35+ in 2008, won the cat 3 in 2009 and won the 35+ in 2010. This is for my fellow data junkies: