Sadly, the MABRAcross Championships in Taneytown, MD on November 28th was my final stop for cross racing in 2010, making my total races attempted equal to nine, the same at 2009. I had registered for two additional races during the season but missed both for some reason or another. This day brought the coldest weather we've had this season. When I got to the venue at 8am and did my pre-ride most of the ground was frozen still; as it thawed throughout the morning some places became a tad muddy and slippery. The event organizers made some changes from the course from last year mainly adding some more length via additional turns, something which was done at most races this year to ease the problems of scoring lapped riders. I should mention that I did not do this race last year, having wussed out after one pre-race lap and not wanting to deal with the cold and mud any further.
The course flowed very well I thought, with several technical sections and a couple of longer uphill slogs, the latter being my mortal enemy. Staging for the race was crazy and as a result I elected to start at the rear rather than in the fourth row, deciding to give those in contention for points a better opportunity to stay at the front. This was the first race I ever found myself analyzing my performance during the race itself; I usually reserve that for after the race. However, on this day I found myself discovering a couple of my racing flaws and then internally yelling at myself about them.
The first one I noticed came about half-way through the third lap. I had been with a group of three others for most of the race to this point when one of them, a rider from the Winchester Wheelmen, started to come unhinged. When this happened I had already managed to be 20-30 seconds in arrears to his group of three. I caught them just as the Wheelmen rider was dropped by the other two riders but instead of passing him and continuing my effort to catch the others, I sat on his wheel for more than half a lap, riding at his pace and losing ground to them. When I discovered what was happening I scolded myself, made the pass and started to reel in the two that got away. It took me until the last quarter of the last lap to catch the two riders it seemed like I had been chasing all day and I was right on their wheels as we made the final turn onto the finishing stretch. I attempted to shift to my big ring in preparation for a sprint but the shift failed to happen. I tried again as the other two riders began their final sprint; again, failure. I frantically shifted the rear down to my 12 and began sprinting, and although I nearly caught them, I failed to advance the two positions I feel I surely would have taken had I not had shifting issues. I wound up finishing 51st of 67 starters.
The second flaw was brought to my attention in a discussion after my race with teammate Mike Birner in which he said that he noticed I would back off in a crowd, especially at the start, rather than go shoulder-to-shoulder and fight for position. Looking back on the videos I have from this year he is absolutely correct, and in cyclocross, this is huge.
The third flaw came a couple of days after the race while looking over my race data. It was then that I noticed something I had suspected all year; I wasn't going as hard as I could all the time. This is a weird phenomenon because when you are on the bike racing, you definitely feel like you can't possibly go any harder, but after the race you convince yourself that you could have. For that reason, I had just been telling myself that I was lying to myself after the races about how hard I was going or could be going. The data from this race showed me the truth: on the last lap, when I was trying to make contact with the two riders in front of me, and eventually did, I averaged a full half-mile per hour faster than on the previous laps.
So, while I didn't have the season I wanted I did learn some important things to work on fixing for next year. After last season my goal this year for cyclocross was to finish in the top half of my races but after struggling to get time in the saddle all year I knew my fitness was not going to allow me to accomplish that. I scaled back my ambitions to match my 2009 goals: race as often as possible, finish every race, not last. To that end, I did better in 2009 than 2010 having DNF'd one race this year. My finishing positions were on par with last year once I had moved to the Masters races so I was not disappointed, especially considering I only had about 1700 miles and 120 hours in the saddle as cross season began, about one-third of what I probably needed to meet my original goals.
So I know what I need to do for next year. I'm trying to work out a schedule with Karrie which will allow me to train eight hours a week while not upsetting the family/work/fun balance and allowing her to do things for herself as well. It will be a struggle and I certainly will have to learn to manage my time better, but right now I'm really motivated to get in much better shape for 2011. Since I bought my Quarq Cinqo and recording power data from my training rides I've begin to pick out my weaknesses and strengths and plan to work to improve the former this year. I've talked with my teammate and cycling coach, Mike Birner, about how to do that specifically and he has agreed to work with me to that end. I'm still on track to get to my 2010 goal weight of 185 pounds; this morning I was at 188.2. My goal for July 2011 is 170 pounds with the additional hope of increasing power across all levels to bring my power-to-weight ratio up significantly.
I'm sad that cross season is over but at the same time I'm somewhat happy because, and I feel funny saying this, I need the break. I haven't ridden at all this week but plan on getting back into it this coming Monday, starting with some rides on the trainer using The Sufferfest videos. Additionally, a couple of local fast guys are having weekly trainer sessions in one of their basements and I plan to go to those for some motivation as well.
I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season and a Happy New Year. Race video follows: