As Fuller and I head off for Almanzo tomorrow afternoon, I thought I'd hash out my thoughts for the race. I have no delusions of grandeur. I have no reason to believe I'm going to do more than hopefully finish faster and closer to the front of the pack than I did last year. So, the discussion is really for my own benefit in figuring out how to make that happen by using what I learned last year. In no particular order, here are the things I'm planning to change up:
1) Better bike. I'm going with my Bianchi Axis CX bike versus the Giant Rainier 26" MTB this year. I'll have a huge weight savings (8+ lbs) and skinnier tires. I'm sure I won't be as fast on some of the loose sections, but overall, I know I'll be rolling at a higher average speed.
2) Less crap. I hauled a plethora of stuff last year on my back. I had extra clothes, a ton of food, and a bunch of extra water that I didn't need. This year I'm paring it down significantly. While I'm going to haul the Camelback up to the race, I'm not sure if I'll use it or not. I'm pretty sure I've got someone lined up to haul extra bottles to the checkpoint at mile 65 so I think I can survive on a couple 24 oz bottles in the cages and everything else in my jersey, bento, and seatbag. Weight off my back will be huge when climbing. I really hate the up down jerking of a pack even when its cinched down. I've also got a lot better grasp of what I need for this type of ride after having another year under my belt.
3) Don't get lost. I had 6+ bonus miles last year that were simple mistakes of not following the cue sheet and mileage indicators. I'll be paying a lot more attention to that this year.
4) Find a drafting partner. Last year we got our asses handed to us with a steady NW headwind on the last portion of the course blowing roughly 15-20 mph. It's forecast for the same this year. I rode mostly alone last year. I'd like to hook up with someone at the checkpoint to see if we can draft together and help kill off the monotonous parts of the wind. If not, I'll be employing my strategy from the past weekend. Set a steady pace and don't blow up fighting the wind. Wait until you can make use of it.
5) Don't blow up. I went hard the first 65 miles to the checkpoint last year. I felt pretty crappy by the time I got off the bike and had a hard time finding the energy to get moving again. It cost me time at the checkpoint and I bonked as I headed north into the winds. I'll be keeping myself in check by watching the heart rate monitor and pacing. Hopefully I can find some kind souls to draft with on the first portion of the course as well. With an additional 40 or so people riding this year, I'm thinking it's a lot more likely. I rode probably 80 miles by myself last year and hope I don't repeat that this year (unless of course I'm in the lead...)
6) Less time at the stop. Last year the leaders blew through the stop in roughly 30 seconds or so the story goes. I don't anticipate being that speedy, but I'm not going to spend the 40+ minutes I did last year relaxing and trying to talk myself into the last 35 miles. With hopefully having support this year, I'd really like to be in and out in 5-10 minutes at the most and just eat/fuel on the bike.
7) Eat/fuel while riding. I tried last year with some Hammer products- Perpetuem and HEED, but as I figured out late last year, those products weren't working for me and left me more bloated than anything. This year I'll be eating mostly gels and that type of stuff for the first portion of the race. I'll have something solid I can eat while riding for the start of the 2nd portion and continue on with the gels and other snacks. I'm also planning on running Accelerade for most of my liquids and probably a single bottle of water mixed in along the way. I'll be keeping my food handing in a bento box on the top tube. I'm much more likely to eat if I have it sitting in front of my face rather than in jersey pockets.
8) Ride my own race. It's a century ride. I've done it before and I know I can do it on my own. If it works out to hook up with some other riders and share some drafting/work, sweet. If not, I'll be going it on my own rather than attempting to alter my own plan of attack to try to hang on or wait for other people.
I might as well publicly throw out my goals for this race. They're not exactly lofty, but considering I'm just starting my 3rd year into riding and 2nd year into racing, I'll take small gains as a sign of progress. Considering I really just want to ride my bike for 100 miles and enjoy the scenery, most everything else is a bonus.
1) 7 hours total time. This would be nearly an hour off last years total. Considering my average speed last year, I only need a very minor improvement in my moving average and to not get lost or spend more than 10 minutes at the checkpoint to achieve this. It should be pretty reasonable unless the course conditions conspire to kick my ass (which is entirely possible too).
2) Top 30 riders. With a field of 100+ this year, that would put me in the top 1/3 of the class. Last year I was 31st in which was basically the middle guy of the field. Who knows what the skills are of all the new riders this year, but I don't think its entirely unreasonable for me to think I can make the top 30 as long as most things fall into place.
That pretty much sums it up. Chris puts on one awesome race and I'm looking forward to having a blast again this year. I might even be able to snag a post ride beer this time. I was so strung out last year that a Coke was all I could think about nursing. See you on the dark side.