Tour of Chicago: 2011 Race Report Part 2

Continuing on from Tour of Chicago: 2011 Race Report Part 1.

Sunday

I slept well enough Saturday night, extreme fatigue will do that too you.  It hadn’t rained although there was more ominous lightning during the night.  Alarm went off at an all too early 6:45am (it takes me about 3 hours to get generally warmed up and race time was at 9:45am).  I cleaned up and ate a small breakfast (protein bar + banana) since blood glucose/glycogen could be an issue for a race this long and had a bunch of water so I’d be hydrated but have time to pee out any extra.   Legs were definitely a touch heavy and I was feeling the two races from yesterday.

As I goofed around on the Internet, the weather was still making grumbling noises, a lot of thunder in the distance.  Weather report called for about a 70% chance of rain between now and the race. In all likelihood, rain wheels or not, I probably wouldn’t race if it was actively raining.  I had done what I mainly came to do (break 20 minutes in the 10k) and had no true desire to suffer through the marathon in the rain.

And as I sat biding my time, the skies started to darken and the thunder started to roll and at 8am the skies opened up and it started raining.  And that was that, mentally I was done.  Checking Weather.com the rain was predicted to continue until at least 11am.  Even if they pushed it back and hoped for it to sunny up, I wouldn’t have time to race, get cleaned up and make my flight.

Judging by the finish times (the race was apparently run), I’m guessing that they waited for it to dry, the speeds were just too fast for it to have been done on slick pavement or while raining.  Based on my time at the Round Rash (1:24 over 28 miles) I was good for a 1:18-1:20 over 26.2 miles.  I’d have finished in the third pack or so (Mantia was again a one man show finishing in 1:09 which is absurd, the next pack was 1:13, some individual stragglers and then a big group in the 1:18-1:20 range) or about the same as at the Road Rash.

To be honest, I wasn’t really disappointed.  I was tired and had already achieved my 16 year old goal of breaking 20 minutes in the 10k.  And gotten a nice road rash scar during the time trial.  That was along with getting a feel for where the elites really are speed wise.  I’d done the marathon at the Road Rash already; if I really felt the need to do anther inline marathon, there were a couple late in the season (along with a half marathon somewhere).   Or not.

Ultimately, I wasn’t anywhere in the running in terms of the placings and suffering for an hour and fifteen minutes for no real return had no appeal to begin with.  Doing it under miserable rain conditions less so.  If I’d had a chance of placing or something, I would have done it if the weather had been good.  But I wasn’t and that wasn’t going to change by racing 26.2 miles in rain on slick pavement at high speeds.  There was simply no real return for what I saw as a lot of risk.   I had a 4-day bike race 5 weeks off, getting injured or beaten up here was pointless.

My main annoyance was  that I couldn’t find an earlier return flight so I was stuck in Chicago twiddling.  I’d have to do some real work or something.  Yeah, right.  So I sat and twiddled, ran around town a bit and then headed back to the airport for the flight home.


Looking Back

So that was the weekend, it was exhausting and despite my low placings and not racing the marathon, I’m overall happy with what happened.   Mainly breaking the 20 minute 10k barrier, that was all I honestly cared about, the time trial was just part of the race and the marathon because I was already there and wanted to a second one.  Realistically, with the level of elite/world champion talent at these races, I had no chance of being anywhere close to the podium in the elite category.

Overall, even without having done the marathon, I can say I raced to the best of my ability.  I’ll do a much longer post-season analysis once I finish the bike race but I can see that I’m basically in this weird gray area, better than the advanced category but getting shelled by the elites.  For now, I can live with that; I’d rather get hammered by the best than sandbag the rest.

The issue I’m running into is that skating isn’t like cycling where there is a bit more gradual move-up (so you move from Cat 5 to 4 and then to 3 and things just get gradually faster).  There is just this massive jump in ability from one group (advanced men) to the next (elite men).  Even the masters elites (who were often top skaters while younger) are moving.  I’m too fast for the group behind me but not able to keep up with the group in front of me.   I need something in the middle…or to get faster.

Ultimately, I still carried the same basic strengths and weaknesses into this event.  My pack skills are still limiting although, realistically, I wouldn’t have stayed with the main pack even if I had gotten pushed out of the pack on the first climb in the 10k.    My endurance is fine, I still lack a top end even if it does appear to be gradually improving (top speed is far harder to improve).  This mirrors my bike performance, my 20 and 60′ wattages are far stronger than my 1′ and 5′ powers. Given my physiology and training to date, that all makes sense.  It also points to what I’ll be working on throughout the winter.

But I’m nothing if not process oriented.  I gave both races I did my all, I left nothing on the course (except some skin in the time trial).  I have my strengths and weaknesses and I know how to go about fixing them.  Chicago is in the past, now it’s time to face forwards.

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Looking Forwards

And that’s that.  I flew back to Austin Sunday after the race, exhausted but pleased and the soreness set in hard Monday morning.  I was happy to get back, I do badly enough out of my pattern/comfort zone and I was having dog separation anxiety after 2 days apart.  I had two good (dog owner) friends watching the fort but I still wanted to be back.

I’d take the nex t3 days off from training (including Sunday) to rest, recover and eat too much.   Between travel and racing in the heat, I needed a bit of a break to relax and recover and I learned the hard way in 2010 what happens when I jump back in after racing.   Today I’ll spin on the rollers to get my legs woken back up to start the next training  block.  I haven’t quite figured out what I’m going to do to prepare for the bike race beyond knowing it will involve more time at the Driveway. I may even race tomorrow night, I’m not sure yet.  In any case, I’ll map it out today.

The Tour de Austin, a 4 day Omnium bike race (consisting of a 4 mile time trial, 50 minute pack race and two 30 minute crits) is in 5 weeks which gives me time for one targeted training block and a taper. So I have to train for that, get my last 4 Category 5 bike races (at the Driveway series) under my belt so I can move up to Cat 4 and see what I can do.  Then it’ll be time for a short 2 week transition period before I start the next build towards 2012.  I’m sure I’ll do a global lookback at the season then.

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