2013 NCCX Series, Week 5

This weekend was a busy two-days of racing, all at what is arguably one of the best cyclocross courses in the series.  Best and worst at the same time.  Best in that it threw everything at you.  Worst in that you were just plain going to hurt.  I am convinced that the course was designed by some seriously sadistic individuals — although I think some of them may have actually raced it so maybe they are masochistic.

The course had sand, grass, sand, pavement, sand, single track, sand, pine straw, sand, mud, and did I say sand?  Maybe that’s why the venue is named Sandhills Community College.  The climbs had ankle deep sand, the descents had sand, there were level-ish 100 yard stretches of 6-8” deep sand.  Corners were sandy.  And then, if you’d not had enough sand, there was a volleyball court you got to ride or run through with deep fluffy sand.

There is nothing quite like riding through deep, fluffy sand.

There is nothing quite like riding through deep, fluffy sand (foreground).

The weather was spectacular, and since the promoters couldn’t guarantee rain, they did the next best thing and had the sprinklers on over much of the course while the race was being run.  Once as I was nearing a grassy switchback the sprinkler sprayed me directly in my face and I nearly ran through the course marking tape almost missing a turn.

Saturday was the State Championship so the field was full, however after experiencing the first-class suffering that this course offered many called it quits and opted to skip day two. First-class suffering? Really?  Yes, really.

Pinehurst 39 480

The line was on the left going down and the right coming back up.

Picture yourself trying to ride your bicycle up a slight grade for 100 yards.  Now add deep sand.  Now when you get to the end, add a fifteen foot incline to run up, carrying your bike.  When you get to the top of the incline, picture a four foot ledge.  And that was just one of many things designed to add to the fun.

Another was a steep descent down into a ravine and then a climb on the other side.  Now add deep sand to slow your descent and rob you of momentum and slow your climb up the other side.  If that wasn’t bad enough add a tangle of tree roots at the top just as you crest the hill.  Many were unable to ride the section and some who did found their pedals caught by the roots and flipped.

The face of suffering and determination.

The face of suffering and determination.

There were literally hundreds of crashes each day.  From riders bogging down and falling over, to sliding out on corners, to catching roots and flipping them off their bikes, to wheels being buried in deep sand and effectively tossing the rider over the handlebars.  And then there were the crashes caused by crashes.  This was the type of course that spectators love and riders hate.

And on the second day the course was changed somewhat to make it even tougher.  In short, the misery index was high both days.  And for most of us, sand equals misery.  Riding in sand is like riding with your brakes on.  And running in sand is just plain miserable.  The sand sticks to your legs, gets into your shoes, and clogs up your cleats.

Cresting the half pipe while many riders had to get off and push.  Hell yeah!

Cresting the half pipe while many riders had to get off and push. Hell yeah!

And sand is very hard on your bike as well.  It wears the drivetrain and sticks to the chain and derailleurs.  It wears your tire tread, and it manages to permeate everything.  Somehow microscopic sand particles find their way into every crack and crevice on the bike.  And this venue had sand like no other so cleaning the bikes Saturday night and then again after the Sunday races was a particular pain.

On the positive side, going over my bikes Saturday night kept me from having two mechanicals in Sunday’s races. The left crank arm attaching bolt had worked loose on my single speed bike and the left pedal spindle bolt had worked loose on my geared bike.  Had I not gone over the two bikes I would likely have DNF’d (Did Not Finish) both races on Sunday.

Saturday night preventive maintenance saved the day!

Saturday night preventive maintenance saved the day!

Because of my near-bonk experience in Boone a couple of weeks ago I came to realize that I have been overtraining so I took the last two weeks almost entirely off.  No morning runs.  No training rides.  On both Wednesdays instead of having a big training day with a six mile run and a long tempo bike ride, I decided to ride for a couple of hours at a pace that was slow enough it would keep me from ever breaking a sweat.

Was it working?  Well, last week’s results showed that my power and heart rate numbers were nearly back to where I want them and I was feeling like I was moving in the right direction.  Toward the end of this week I started to feel like my old self again and this weekend was the final test: two days of racing and I decided to race twice each day.  For a strenuous weekend like that I wanted my average HR numbers to stay at or above 95% of max especially on the second day.

More sheer determination.

More sheer determination.

Two weeks off was perfect.  I will definitely be training less and not more in future weeks to try and avoid burnout.  Having talked to a number of my racing friends, I think I will also take one week a month and make it light week in terms of training.  I may have it try to coincide with the week prior to important races to the degree that is possible.  We’ll see how that goes.

With the exception of nearly flatting on the first lap of my five lap CX 1/2/3 race on Saturday, the races were relatively drama free. I tried to run too little air on my rear tire and managed to “burp” most of the air out striking a root during the first lap. I rode the remaining 4 laps favoring the front wheel in terms of weight distribution.  When I returned to the pit and checked the tire pressure it was only 7 psi!  Amazing!  Were it not for my American Classic Wide Lightning wheels, I could never have finished the race.

Swag and money too!  Yeah baby.  First place by 2 minutes!

Swag and money too! Yeah baby. CX 1/2/3 first place by 2 minutes!

My lap times remain very consistent and I was fortunate to avoid any crashes.  As for my results:  In my single speed races I finished 12th on Saturday and 11th on Sunday.  Considering the fields I am happy with those results.  In my CX 1/2/3 55+ races I was 7th on Saturday and 1st on Sunday, although Sunday’s field was missing some of the fastest riders in the series.  Still, I’m happy to take the win.

Comparing the CX 1/2/3 numbers to last week (apples to apples), my day-one results this week were slightly better than last week and day two was slightly lower.  I’m happy that even racing twice for two days in a row, my average HR numbers remain at 95% or well over threshold.  My power numbers are consistent and pretty good for me.

Day One Single Speed

  • Avg HR: 98 % of Max

  • Avg Power: 231 W

  • Max Avg Power (20 min): 234 W

Day One CX 1/2/3

  • Avg HR: 99 % of Max

  • Avg Power: 227 W

  • Max Avg Power (20 min): 233 W

Day Two Single Speed

  • Avg HR: 95 % of Max

  • Avg Power: 242 W

  • Max Avg Power (20 min): 238 W

Day Two CX 1/2/3

  • Avg HR: 95 % of Max

  • Avg Power: 220 W

  • Max Avg Power (20 min): 231 W

Last week’s numbers: CX 1/2/3

  • Avg HR: 98 % of Max

  • Avg Power: 225 W

  • Max Avg Power (20 min): 232 W

This coming weekend is at Wilkesboro, North Carolina and if it is anything like the last two years it will be a climber’s course.  This will be my first time to race a geared bike in the CX 1/2/3 class so it should prove to be interesting.