Lago Vista Day 1 Race Review

Whareagle leading the pack with Ian on the right.

Whareagle leading the pack with Ian on the right.

I know, I know, I need to be more prescient in getting these posted, but honestly, I was chatting with my minister in Montana recently, and we both came to the realization that I’m not 24 any more, I don’t recover as quickly, and I’m fatigued from travel and eye stress with every 3 hour journey in any direction. This has me rethinking yet again my road trip to Far West Texas, and maybe getting a driving partner. Geez, aging sucks.

Still, I’m pretty proud of my fitness and the fitness of my clients in Texas, as they proceed through another long season of racing. Performance is up, and while we’ve hit no podiums, we’re definitely knocking on the door.

I resolved on Friday to get out of town that much earlier, so I could beat the traffic on I-35, and then get to the rental early enough to rest up. This time, I was successful, and had time to get to the H.E.B. close to Lago Vista, and stock up on food and drink. Lago Vista is a nice community, but it’s still a little remote, so you have to come a little prepared.

Ben and Katy showed up a few hours later, and we each got 1 lap in around the course, in the setting sun of a warm and calm evening. The night was punctuated by boatloads of laughing as we hit a stretch of movies on either TNT or TBS. Katy cooked spaghetti, which was delicious, and we drank some beers and went to bed.

I woke up early to the sound of wind whipping around the corner of the condo. It never abated the entire day. As the Norther blew through, gusts picked up to 40mph, and temps dropped to the 20’s for the early riders. I was lucky enough to ride at 12:40, but it still made for tons of interesting moments throughout the event.

Despite the good night’s rest, neither of my roommates were satisfied with their performances, so I really wanted to make sure that I used the extra time to my advantage. I napped, ate two meals, and started a solid warmup about an hour beforehand.

People often ask me what the proper procedure is for a good warmup. There is nosurefire answer, but one of my favorite journals, Peak Performance, out of the UK, gave a pretty good quasi-scientific answer that basically implied that you’re trying to warm up the body, enable some vasodilation of the blood vessels, get rid of some pre-race anxiety, and raise the heart rate somewhat, so that those early accelerations or attacks don’t come as a shock. Last weekend, at Pace Bend, I remember not getting an adequate warmup, and after the first major hill, I was breathing about as loud as a diesel truck climbing a pass in Colorado. Another rule of thumb is that the longer the race, the shorter the warm up needs to be, since most everyone uses the first kilometers as a warmup or neutral. Unfortunately, Texas racing doesn’t really afford us that luxury. My own routine this weekend went like this:

I hopped on a mag trainer that I borrowed from Ben and Katy, warmed up gently for about 10 minutes at 150w (estimated FT is about 300w), got my HR up a bit (yes, it’s still useful), and then, every 5 minutes or so, I jumped up to a 400w run, getting my HR up to about threshold equivalent (175-180), and then backed off, settling in at around 200w. I kept this up, continuing to drink a sports drink (EFS), and consuming a bar to keep my calories topped off. I hopped off the bike and went to staging with less than 15 minutes to go, and was warm and ready when the race began.

Did it work? Well, I think so. The first lap started hot, and sure enough, instead of being gassed, I was able to respond, and even work my way through the field. The real racing started on the second lap, and yep, you guessed it, I was there, engaging in the action.

The course for Lago Vista consists of two variations on the same theme. Saturday’s course is 5 miles long, with what could be considered an 8 minute climb, over 10 laps, or 50 miles. There is a phenomenal descent with two sketchy ‘whooptydoos’, where you can hit 55mph, and carry your speed over the next hill. At the final 250m, you crest a hill to see a 300-year old Oak tree splitting a road, and that acts as the de facto 200m mark. The final 50m occurs on a rolling climb of 8+%, with the start/finish almost at the apex.

I love the hill. I HATE the finish.

Starting around Lap 2, the attacks and real racing began, and I did more than my fair share of solid Zone 5 pulls. I left room for riders to draft, but not enough that you could squeeze more than 3 people in my wake. We quickly shelled the heavier riders, and winnowed the field down to less than 40. Every attack, I responded, bridged, and then kept the pace high enough that another one couldn’t easily come around. One lap, Robert Snedden, my teammate, came around to start a break, and I did my part to block or avoid pulling. We were riding strong together, communicating well, and even Ian Sewalt, a client of sorts as well, was doing some great work. San Jose’s 4 riders did their thing to block and attack, and in the beginning, there were several good attacks by some Moritz riders. I have a ton of respect for those teams. They have enough people of the same capability that they can launch, and then get two or three guys to the front of a narrow road, and block. Robert and I just can’t do that. We need a third or fourth teammate. Still, we worked well together last week, and did more of the same this week, both days. Sure, there were some leaders in the race, and some serious glommers-on, but overall, we kept the pace high, I pulled like a draft horse on crack, and I really began to feel like I was on my game very early on, despite the windy and cold conditions.

A few anecdotes…

I’m really feeling dialed in to this bike right now. From stem height to crank length to wheel and tire selection, and handlebar, I feel like it’s an extension of myself. I can corner like nobody’s business, and the bike seems to be able to tell me when I’m just on the edge of losing control. I do have the odd tendency to sort of donkey-kick the rear wheel if there’s a stutter bump or if I hit a pothole in a corner, but the riders behind me have usually laughed it off as “Wharton, you’re too damned skinny!” Still, I hope I am never responsible for hurting someone else. I’ll keep working on it.

But this is where I was going with this. Saturday was windy, with gusts coming from the North at up to 40mph. It was cold, blustery (not consistent), and we were all forced to use lower-profile rims than are usually used on modern racing machines. On a deep-rimmed wheel, you can get a ‘push’ that can stall the wheel and force you to crash, just like that trispoke did to me a couple of weeks back when I was training on my TT rig. So I was specifically using low-profile rims, and relying on my bare bones body to avoid the wind. About midway through the race, however, I was tucked in tight, alert, and was making the corner of the transition to the steepest of the ‘whooptydoos’, when a MONSTER gush of wind pushed me from about 10cm from the edge of the right side of the road, all the way over to about 2m to the LEFT of the yellow line. It felt like this big, giant hand just picked me up and pushed me over. The marshall saw the entire thing – I was aiming right for him – and he said it happened to someone else behind me as well. Fortunately, there were no cars or deer in the way, but for about 3 seconds, I saw the white eyes of the marshall, as he scrambled out of the way, and I kept trying to turn maybe 2cm to the right, but the bike just wouldn’t go there! Any further and I would have turned too much and overdone the steer. Tilting would’ve meant certain skin on pavement at 80kph, because I would’ve lost traction. And I sure as heck couldn’t brake, for fear of completely losing traction. Then, just as sure as it began, I moved out of the way of the gust, got my headwind back, and merged back in with the pack. It was awesome. It was right on the edge of death – and for another moment, I felt more alive than ever.

My biggest problem with the racing this weekend is a result of my biggest elation – I’m riding stronger than ever, I’m riding harder than ever, and I’ve improved my speed, strength, and stamina – three of the four “S’s” that make for a more complete athlete. But my Skill – specifically, my skill at tying up the race with a pretty little bow on it and achieving the extrinsic result that I so yearn for, just continues to elude me. On the final lap, I sort of unintentionally launched a 16-year old client in to a solo attack, and he held on to take 2nd in his first race as a ‘3’. I’m pretty proud of that. The next day, he himself gave me a shove that helped push me back to the front for some more hard work. But in this race, after we’d shelled a huge number of riders, we still ended up in a pack finish, and it got really risky inside the 200m mark, and sure enough, I got caught behind some riders going backwards on the last 50m of the hill, and came up just outside the money, in 11th place.

I have to remember, I have to remember, I have to remember – take the intrinsic rewards, not the extrinsic placing or medals or cash, and remember that you control what you can control. If I’d taken some more risks, perhaps I would have been able to better control the outcome. Next time – I’ll go at 400m, get a prime spot, recover on the flat after the final roller, and then sprint in the right gear for the top of that cursed 8% hill —- and determine my own outcome.

Day 2 tomorrow – thanks for reading.


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