Sunday, April 21, 2013

East Canyon / Echo Road Race...the weather lived up to expectations

A fine day for racing to be sure. We started off in the small town of Henefer, with overcast skies and reports of pouring rain at the top of the first climb at East Canyon. It's tough to plan your weather gear for a race like this; with a mixed forecast of snow, rain, wind, and dry spells. You overdress and get cooked going up the climbs but when the nasty weather hits you're already so sweaty that the extra layers don't help much.  Anyway, I ended up racing with a thin base layer, full length roubaix tights, and a winter racing jacket over my jersey. In my rush to get ready in the minutes before the starting bell, I left off my water resistant shoe covers, which I would later regret (I couldn't feel my feet at the finish line).

We started with the rest of the group at 10:40 AM. There was no warm up before the race hit the hills of East Canyon. Let me be clear. This is not the type of start that I'm suited for. I'm more of an endurance guy - there's probably not a fast twitch muscle in my body.  ...I quickly realized the pace at the outset was not realistic so I backed off a bit. Dave and Aaron stayed with the group until I was able to rejoin Dave halfway up the climb. Aaron stayed with the front group - he's a great climber and I knew he'd do well this race.

That group stayed together until the top of East Canyon when mother nature decided to unleash her fury. First light rain..then pouring rain...then sleet/snow...then stinging hail with strong winds. Nothing like a little sand blasting to the side of your face as you try to make contact with the guys in front of you.  Good times. 

At that point Aaron got isolated between a couple guys off the front and a group behind him.
I plugged away through the nasty weather, glasses fogged up, just trying not to loose sight of 3 guys up ahead that I wanted to join. Part way up the first climb Dave told me he was going to bump his pace down a bit to recover for subsequent climbs. I kept going and Dave eventually rejoined me just before the decent back into Henefer. We rode the rest of the race together, with the exception of the final miles of the last climb.

Anyway...Dave and I traded pulls for the next 45 miles, back down into Henefer, along Highway 89 and up Echo Canyon. Echo canyon was a very gradual, rolling climb - nothing very difficult at all. At the top of Echo, just as we felt like we were finally drying out from the wet weather in East Canyon, the storm hit us again. More rain, more wind, more cold. All Dave and I could do was do our best to trade pulls at the front, keep our heads down out of the wind and rain, and soldier on.

Finally we passed back through Henefer (again) for the final summit finish at the top of Hogs back. At that point I was just focusing on turning the cranks and keeping some form of momentum. I had long since lost any hope of looking 'proper' or catching anyone from the front group. Not sure if it was the wind, cold, or wet weather, but you get isolated in that stuff and it's hard to maintain a good average speed. I was soaked, cold, and couldn't feel my feet.
Finally, with the summit in sight I unzipped my jacket and limped across the finish over 20 minutes behind Aaron. Dave, who gave me the benefit of some monster pulls for a good part of the race, came in a moment later. I haven't checked the race results yet, so I'm not sure how I placed, but I do know there weren't too many that came in after me.  Aaron put in a solid race, staying with a very strong group of climbing specialists for a good part of the race, finishing somewhere in the middle part of the field.

The interesting thing about races like this: you're out there in miserable weather that no sane person would consider exposing themselves to while riding a bike; you're counting the miles to the finish, forcing yourself to eat, ignoring the cold, the wind, and the numb feet. Yet when you finish, suddenly all those sensations turn into a feeling of satisfaction at having done a solid day on the bike with good friends to share the experience with, through epic weather conditions. At the end of the day, it turned out to be an incredible day at the races, with some excellent learning experiences:

- Smart pace up the climbs. I am not a climbing specialist, but once I get warmed up, I can stay with the pack on the moderate stuff. I burned my candle too early in this race.

-Being very much a climbing race, I could have lightened my load a bit. My winter jacket is heavy, I packed too much food, and I could have lightened my repair kit pre-race.

-Even though the race had several climbs there were still lots of flats and rollers - saving some energy on the first climb could have given me the opportunity working with Dave and perhaps a few others to regain some time on the flats (or at least maintain any gaps that formed)

-Gotta 'spin' more on those climbs! Lower gear, faster cadence. I'm an old guy and my knees don't enjoy climbing in the 39/23 any more. Why on earth does my ego get in the way of downshifting?!?!!

No comments: