Race morning is always frantic for me even with a pre-packed bike and backpack. I struggle with a mental battle of
a.)Do I need a full tummy or
b.)Do I need to feel skinny on the line.
Skinny always wins. I never feel like eating on race morning so I’ve trained my body to accept this. This comes from years of running where I wouldn’t eat two-three hours pre race. Instead I take in what I need the day and night before. Does it work? Yeah, mostly it does. Or at least I’ve convinced myself of it. (Although when it doesn’t work it’s pretty epic. Hallucinating so vividly on stage two of 2001’s Tour of the Gila I had to stop by the side of the road for forty-five minutes comes to mind. Lesson learned though: One banana does not eighty miles and five thousand feet of climbing cover.) This Day Of The Rumpus it was a cup of coffee, a bagel, an apple, and a carton of soy milk. I forgot the bagel and coffee on the counter. So an apple it was!
Done on fire roads that were ungodly smooth, the Rumpus had me wishing I brought my road bike with some 25c tires. Seriously? Maybe not completely. While living in the southwest we (my teammates Skinnyfast Jr., Monkeynuts, Craiglerock and myself) commonly railed surfaces much less appealing than the Rumpus fire roads. Such outings as spring’s South Valley Roubaix Series, training rides going Around The Mountain which went up to 10,000 feet on loose rock/dirt road, the Juan Tomas ‘shortcut’ and the ubiquitous Bosque roads along the Rio Grande were all favorites. I love off-road riding, cobblestone races, and 53x11 - in the drops - back wheel skipping around - slugfests. I was kinda hoping for one at the Rumpus.
Following my warmup I figured the only chance of a mechanical I had was a pinch flat. Having chosen a ‘cross bike for the race, my trusty KHS CX200, the issue, as always with clinchers, is tire pressure. After some mental hemming and hawing over an apple I changed the psi from my standard 60/60 cyclocross setup to seventy in front and eighty-five in the rear. I figured even if I slid out a few corners sheer speed would more than make up for it.
The Rumpus start was fun. I had no idea what was going to happen. There was some nervous chatter as the racers checked around to see who was on ‘cross bikes and who was not. I was surrounded by mountain bikers and ‘crossers I didn’t know. I noticed a lot of guys not even in their big ring on mtbs. Nothing like getting that white flag up there early!
As the race took off I was hoping to follow wheels for a while but nobody seemed to want the lead so I accelerated on the left side. I wanted to be the first to the corner and frankly I wanted a higher pace than what was being set. The longer it stays together the quicker something bad happens.
Three or four riders made the split (NEBC, Cyclocrossworld.com, Blue Mountain, and one other). I gave up the inside to get an angle on the first turn but I was taken into a rut exactly as I hoped not to be. Somebody mumbled apologizes, I responded “No worries!” I unclipped while getting my balance which was fine because now I was fourth wheel and could judge who the strong guys were. The NEBC guy lost the wheel in front pretty quickly so I came around and followed the Cyclocrossworld rider for a short distance. Hearing more riders than I wanted to behind me I realized this tentative tempo was not going to cause the selection I wanted early. I went again and this time the elastic quickly stretched then broke and I was off the front.
Fourteen miles to go alone out front on a course I didn’t know had upside to it. I could set the exact pace I wanted. I could feel my way around the course for the first lap without being taken into ruts and rocks. It also had a downside which was being on my own in the wind and rain for the next fourteen miles while I had no idea what was going on in the back.
I decided to go steady and open up a gap early but without going into any breathing past nose breathing. (Somewhat surprisingly nose breathing and heart rate percentage are pretty closely tied and make for a great training gauge on sustained efforts.) I went through the entirety of the riders who started ahead of our group before the first lap ended and then continued the effort in a 50x16/14, a pre-selected gear alternation.
Toward the end of the second lap I could see a pair of riders (Cyclocrossworld.com & Blue Hills) behind me working together and trading pulls in a chase effort. I continued setting my pace for the next lap monitoring their progress but staying well within myself. When it seemed they were coming within 100 meters I would up the effort out of corners for five crisp pedal strokes. Laps two and three were within five seconds of each other so I was happy with my pacing since this is what I’ll need on the track and in time trials.
On the last lap the rider from Cyclocrossworld.com had dropped his companion so figuring this was his big effort I kept a close eye on his progress. He had been taking a second or two back on me in corners and losing it on the straights. To this point on the main straights I had been in a 50x14. On the last lap I clicked one more gear and was able to pull away midway through for good. I maintained an even heart rate compared with the first three laps but had taken a minute off the lap time of the previous two laps. I came in through the finish chute pretty relaxed and two and a half minutes under the hour mark. The finish wasn’t dramatic but as everyone who has ever been of the front knows you’re never sure until the end. Props to the rider from Cyclocrossworld.com. He was pretty diesel out there!
Thanks go to the organizers and volunteers. The course was marked to perfection short of yellow taping an entire forest. The course marshals were fun to chat with as I was going by every lap and they seemed very enthusiastic about their event. The area was stunningly beautiful and the weather was awesome. A great day for a Rumpus to be sure!