2011 Waxahachie Cow Creek Classic

Okay, things are getting really, really good.

Form like this, for me at least, comes along once every three or four years, and it’s usually the result of about 8 months of good, solid training, mostly indoors, but it’s also the culmination of a good chunk of time, several previous race efforts on weekends, and dogged determination. You don’t get anywhere, or get anything, in this business, unless you give it good, solid, steady, hard, REALLY hard efforts. The emotions of the late spring’s failures, and the frustrations from the heat, have finally gone by the wayside, and as I said in my opening statement – “Things are getting really, really good!”

Some of you may remember that it was at this rally last year that I where I had my latest bout with heat fatigue, and what I’ll qualify as a stroke, since I ended up having vision issues in my right eye, which still are not 100% corrected (there’s a purple-ish tint to everything, and focus is of by about 10%. Just don’t pass me on the right, okay?). Well, this year, I was bound and determined to NOT let that course get the best of me.

Amy (in her new car) and I drove separately, due to conflicts with the rest of the day’s schedule, but we ended up parking about a row from each other. Instead of dealing with last year’s disappointment when I realized I had forgotten my Camelback pack, this year, I was completely prepared. I had 5 full long-neck bottles of cold SecretDrinkMix, I had had two bottles of the EveryDay SecretDrinkMix before that, and I had my swamp cooler – now being used for the third time this month – a 70oz CamelBack, filled with ice, but with the hose removed, so that as it melted, it dripped down my back and over my legs. I kissed my wife good luck, rolled up to the start line loaded for bear, and after a sweet convocation by a local minister (and a weird comment from the promoter about “Whiskeypalians”), I rolled out with the lead group of combined 78 and 102 mile riders.

Probably because of the heat (though it was overcast, which helped), and the wind, the first 30 minutes of the ride were almost sedate. Unfortunately, one of my prime ride buddies, Curtis Palmer, rolled over a bad pothole in the FIRST MILE, and he flatted out, and abandoned. I had no Mirage or Pirate teammates with me, nevermind the fact that I was riding in my now-traditional “Coldblack” kit, all black, except for the helmet and socks… But right at the 32:00 mark, none other than Chris Powers, one of the most successful and major domo cyclists in the State, attacked off the front in an absolutely graceful move that set the tone for the next 50 minutes. We had just started turning back in to the wind, and there were about 10-12 strong riders, along with about 40 groupies, who lit it up on the rolling hills towards Midlothian.

Now, the conditions for this course, which is pretty rolly, were like this: winds out of the south at 20kts, temps in the high 80’s and low 90’s as the morning progressed, and moderate but growing humidity. The air literally comes in off the gulf, sweeps over all of Texas, and leaves you parched when exposed to it for too long. But following my disciplined plan, I religiously drank my 2 bottles per hour, and by the 1:20 mark on the course, no more than 25 miles in to the ride, we had literally pared the field down to 8, then 7, then 6 (who was completely unable to take pulls), and then 5. Chris, Russ, Brian, Scott, and myself. I had made it. I was among some of the Giants of the N. Texas Peloton. Looking over our shoulders, we saw…. no one. We had literally cracked the peloton in the first 80 minutes!

We continued to take pulls together, backed off on the intensity a little, and began to relax. The wind was bad, but not so bad that we couldn’t get through it, and the heat was bad, but again – not so bad that it couldn’t be handled. The terrain actually provided some challenges, especially my absolute favorite piece of road in Ellis County – FM 308. It’s got these awesome 2-minute rollers at 2-3%, and they’re just long enough to challenge your rhythm at 300-400 watts. Several times I was told to back off, which I did, after noticing that two of our group were suffering.

We stopped at the 50-mile mark to get topped off on fluids and food, and in that 5 minutes, no one showed up on the horizon. At the turn off between the 78 and the 100, Powers, Simmons and I went left, while the other two went right, and the three of us were rewarded with smooth, silent roads, and a blessed tailwind. Our speed picked up to over 28mph several times, and we rolled in to Waxahachie as the first riders across the line for the 78, in a highly respectable 3:33. averaging 21.7mph. Average power was just 186 watts, with a PNorm of 224. This was just under 80% of Threshold. Gratitude and congratulations were given all around, and we literally parted ways to head to our cars, and then head home. My wife had finished just a few minutes ahead of me on the 36, but I didn’t get her message about “finding the Dairy Queen” (a true post-ride treat, always!) until I had passed it. Oh well, there’s always next time!

I don’t know what happened behind us in those first miles. Maybe it was the wind. Maybe the heat took its’ toll, and maybe the humidity hurt some more than others. What I do know is that my hydration strategy, my fabric strategy, and my cooling strategy, are all working. That, and maybe some adaptation, since I’ve been going out to ride middays, with higher sunblock and my Secret Drink Mix. I really think the developers of that product have something going for them. We’ll certainly know more in a few weeks, as the Tour starts, and the RadioShack boys attempt to dethrone the expected giants.


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