Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A PR, a DNF and a ride around Sunapee all before Easter Dinner

This past weekend was supposed to be the last set of hard efforts on the bike, with a 64 mile bike race scheduled for Saturday around Quabbin Reservoir with a planned 5 mile tempo run to follow. Sunday I had intended to get in a 3-4 hour ride as well to get as prepared as possible for Ironman St. George. As is typical for me however, things didn't go exactly as planned. They do say something about "best laid plans" right?
The weekend actually started Friday night for me with the NHTI/Delta Dental 5k. It was the third race in the CARS series so brought out some of the fast guys like Jim Johnson and the CMS runners, Justin Freeman and Ryan Kelly both great x-c skiers,  and Tim Cox, the wolf in sheep's clothing, or the aR runner in CMS clothing. As is typical with this race, it started fast. My whole goal for this race was to just hang with the main pack of guys for as long as I could. JJ and Freeman tore away from the pack immediately but with Ryan leading the way, a group of six or seven guys ran together. Looking around I found myself surrounded by CMS runners Rod Viens, Dan Verrington, Sam Wood as well as Tim Cox and this guy running in Vibrams(Nick Rennie). We hung together for the first mile going through in 5:12 before Ryan decided he didn't want to break the wind for the pack anymore and took off pulling Rod with him. The group now slightly smaller we proceeded to run together with Tim leading for the next two miles. Ever the aR runner at heart, Tim could see I was struggling to keep up with him and would give me little pointers to stay close and move my arms more. I surprisingly held it together and after 2.9 miles of leading the way, chivalrously Tim let me by for the finishing kick which was good enough for 7th overall in a time of 16:43  about 30 seconds faster than my previous 5k PR. A good start to the weekend for sure.

The next stop of the weekend plans woke me up at 5am so that I could drive down to Ware, MA to compete in my first bike race ever: the Quabbin Reservoir Classic Road Race. In the 64 miles of roadway it touted over 5,000 feet of elevation gain which I thought would be a perfect training ride for the notoriously hilly St. George course. Driving down to the race, I noticed something interesting happening: it started to snow. And snow and snow. By the time I got to Ware, there was a couple inches of snow accumulated on the ground and it was now freezing rain. I only had cotton gloves and a thin wind-breaker but I typically run in less than that so I figured it would be fine. Plus, I had run the evening before in shorts and a singlet. I just assumed that it would warm up. You know what happens when you make an assumption? You make an ass out of you and umption. A
As I looked around at my fellow riders, I quickly realized that I was out of my league as almost all other riders were part of a team of cyclists and they all appeared most prepared clothing-wise than I was. And while all the other competitors were warming up on the bikes, I did my warm-up running up the Quabbin Water Tower.

Danny at top of Quabbin Water Tower
The cat 5 riders started almost an hour after the pro's so I had plenty of time to change, run, and still get soaked before my ride. I tried to stay as long in my car as possible, getting to the start line as the gun went off. It was a neutral start so it went out slowly, which probably was my downfall as I was saturated within minutes and wasn't working hard enough to warm up. In addition, the first few miles were downhill so the wind made it even colder. Suffice it to say, I was shivering within the first fifteen minute. However, the climbing soon started and the pack picked it up a bit and I started feeling a bit better. Within the first hour or so, we had dropped all but 10 or so of the riders and I was feeling like I was riding well within my means which meant if I could just finish I would be getting prize money. Unfortunately the descents started. At this point my fingers were already pretty much frozen but wasn't too much of an issue going up hill. However, descending without finger control to brake is a very scary prospect and it didn't take long for me to wish I hadn't started. But the descending just kept on coming, and soon thereafter so did my uncontrollable shivering. You know when you're biking weaving across the road that you probably shouldn't be riding. Not that I had much choice. I had been looking for places to stop but barring riding back the 20+miles to my car, there didn't seem like any other option then going on. Right on cue, the pack passes a convenience store and as we zip on by I notice about 15 bikes placed outside. I start the next descent, nearly hit a rider who braked erratically ahead of me and decided that I had had enough for the day. I turned around and biked back to the store.
  Stepping into the store, I saw riders of all categories in various stages of hypothermia huddled together in one small corner of the store conveniently located next to all the liquor. After having two pro riders help me take off my soaking wet outer layers, I spent the next ten minutes doing jumping jacks to stay warm. After warming up a bit, I discovered that several of them had been waiting over an hour, unsuccessfully, for a ride back to their cars.
  After about another hour had passed, one of the neutral wheel support cars came by and offered rides to some of us. Unfortunately there was only room for two. But as I looked(and probably felt) the worst, they gave me the ride. Getting back to my car about 45 minutes later, I changed into dry clothes blasted the heat and went back to the store. Sure enough, half the riders were still there. I was able to fit a few in my car(some declined because they didn't want to leave their bikes behind) and brought them back to the start. So all in all. I drove 2:30 to the race, raced for about 75 minutes, waited an hour for a ride, drove to/from the store to the start twice for about 2 hours then started my trip home... what fun.
 I quickly decided I could mope and complain or try to look at the bright side. The day was still young so I figured I could find a park somewhere that I had never been and explore a bit. Sure enough, I came across a sign for Greenfield State Park and took the turn. As I pulled in, it looked like a glorified KOA but after changing into my running gear I quickly found some cool single track skirting the edge of a good sized pond. It actually reminded me of a uninhabited Walden Pond. Or the Walden Pond that Thoreau wrote about before tourists started coming. It was great. Had a blast and put me in a far better mood for the rest of my ride home.

The next day I determined I wanted to spend the morning with my family as I hadn't seen my older brother Matt or sister Marilyn for a while, so I decided to defer the bike road and see if I could sneak it in when I got to my parents. Sure enough, Matt wasn't there, Andrew wasn't up and Marilyn was just getting up. Perfect. Hit the road with the goal to circumnavigate Lake Sunapee. It's about 25 miles around so I was shooting for a 75 minute ride, did it in 80 but was pretty happy with that with all the scenery I had taken in rather than pushing it. What a lesson in contrasts. Friday: shorts weather, Saturday: snow; Sunday: shorts riding with the sun shining on the lake. I had such a fun ride, getting home and showered as Matty came in the door. Spent some time with Andrew mapping out a trail run he's planning on organizing this summer over at Knight's Hill and had some great food and time with the family. All in all a great weekend and a lot of fun.

UP NEXT: New Orleans Jazz Fest- Can't think of a better way to taper.

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