The unplanned rest period over the last 2 weeks seems to have have paid off. While it wasn't the result I wanted, I had my best placed finish of the season on Saturday at the Utah State Critrium Championships. I took 9th our of 26 riders and was once again able to at least compete with some fo the faster Cat 3's we have around here. And for once I felt like it wasn't my fitness that was the limiting factor to my performance.
The forecast for the weekend was hot. It was 102 degrees measured by some during my race along the difficult 4 corner course aboud the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City. I've raced in this kind of heat before so I focused a lot on staying hydrated on Friday and leading up to the race on Saturday. Because of the heat, I also shortened my warm up to 25 minutes and stayed in the shade as long as I could. Just prior to the start I stuffed my jersey with ice and douced myself with ice water. Its was so hot however, that the water quickly evaporated. The rest of the race would be no different.
That starting gun sounded and we were off The race was swift from the beginning but you could tell the heat was keeping everyone in check. I worked to catch and early break and tried to sit in as much as I could, but the course was rough and I preferred to stay near the front to stay out of trouble and pick my own line. About half way through the 45 minute race I learned that was a good move. In the narrow turn 4 there was a big groove between the asphalt and a concrete border around a huge, slick manhole cover. A rider in front of swerved mid-turn to miss the groove. I had to break hard and went across the manhole cover, my rear wheel sliding until I got traction again on the pavement. The riders behind me weren't so lucky as a few went down and into the barrier.
A bit shaken, we pushed on. Another solo break tried to get away. I tried to put in some efforts to bridge but I was maxed with the heat. It looked like the break was going to go the distance but he too, also fell victim to the heat and the blast furnice wind that came down the finishing straight.
I was trying deperately to cool off but my water bottles were filled with hot water and hot Gatorade at that point. Any drinking made me feel hotter and the water would quickly evaporate after pouring it on myself.
With 6 laps to go, the final break got away. It was this break that I knew I needed to be with, but I was toast in the heat. I was seeing spots and there were numerous times where I felt I couldn't go on. Again, I felt i had the legs, but the heat was sapping all my power and really toyed with my mind as well.
The group made one last effort ot bridge, but it didn't happen. I finished strong in the bunch sprint for 9th which I'm satisfied with. My education as a Cat 3 has been swift and my strength is building. It was this rest period however which has done so much good. I finally feel refreshed. A weekly massage has helped quite a bit as well. The massages have flushed out the lactate acid and all the junk I was feeling in my legs. I feel like I can start with some intensity and volume again to get some speed to carry me through mid season.
I'll race a crit tonight and put some intervals in the workouts this week. We have a short and roller-y road race this weekend that may be suited to my strengths and then a 3 race crit series around Independence Day. So there will be some fast racing to come. It was around this time last year that I started to feel fast and made hige gains in my fitness and results. Lets hope this year is no different.