Matt Donahue

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Greenbelt 5/14

Raced my first road race of the year last night, the Greenbelt "training" race. It's a good experience in concept. Ride out to the race- nice 30 min warm up, race for an hour, ride home for 30 mins for cool-down.

I could be grumpy about some of the riding etiquette in the race, but really it's not worth writing about.

I came away with somewhere around 10th place, although the 'official' standings (13 deep) don't list me at all. They also don't list the guy that was in 6th at all. Woops. I guess there are some bugs in the MABRA scoring system still to be worked out.

I always feel that I could have gone faster at these races. It's not that the race 'went badly', rather, I didn't punish myself enough to come away saying: "Well, there was nothing more in the tank on that last sprint, I couldn't give it any more." It's a training race after all, so why not go hog out and burn all the matches? A voice inside says, "ride off the front and burry it for as long as you can." why not? The other voice says, "but it's so comfy to stay in the pack, plus you get to work on your pack riding skills..." I think I need to go with the first voice next time.

I will say that my stomach was burning in that last effort, and I was seeing some stars but it didn't hurt in a satisfying way, maybe that's because I'm a sore loser. There's always next week.

There were lots of familiar faces out there pulling some hard efforts, awesome to see that. I'll be back for more.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Greenbier 4/27/2008

Time to capture this while it's fresh in my head. On Sunday I raced in the Men's Expert 30-39 class at Potomac Velo's annual NMBS Greenbrier Challenge. This race looms over me every year for a few reasons. It happens early in the season and my slacker ass tends to be less than ready for the hurt that this course pours on, and more importantly the competition that the it attracts. I've flatted at the race for the past two years ('06 and '07). I'm not fast at fixing flats, and they've happened at the tail end of the race, lap 4, both times, so fixing and chasing was not much of an option. Furthermore, beyond the problem of the flats, I'd regularly started this race all out from the whistle in an effort to stay with the leaders as long as possible before cracking spectacularly and losing 10 places or more before flatting. Not the best strategy. I've raced long enough to know my limits, I can't ride 4 laps in the red zone. I can't even ride one lap in the red!

This year, the previous day consisted of major rain, so the already technical course was going to be a mud fest. Actually, most of it wasn't bad as the trail drains relatively well, there were a few sloppy sections though, which made for some sweet splashing and mud-water drenching incidents. Who needs to see through their glasses anyway? In addition to the rain, I had expected to have a large in-law contingent on hand, my wife, our 3 nephews, sister in-law and mother in-law at the race. In the end the questionable weather kept them away and I made the trip up solo...

With the previous years' experience in mind, I opted to have a strategy this year. It was pretty simple, "Don't go all out from the gun. It's OK if people get away from you, you'll either reel them in later, or not. Ride within your limits so you have something in the tank for laps 3 and 4 if you happen to avoid flatting." For the most part I stuck to this. In the 22 person field, I started in row three, purposefully to make sure that I didn't push out to the front right away. Not the best idea, but I needed something to force a slowdown. At the gun the start was fast and furious and I was probably in 10th or so going into the single track. I stayed there until the main climb of the race where I passed a few guys. I kept repeating to myself, just ride within your limits. I kept relatively close to another local rider, Chris McGill who was riding a single speed- what a bad ass! but he dropped me in the latter third of the course on the first lap.

I was pretty shocked to get passed on my first lap by Gunnar Shogren of 40 plus guys who started 3 minutes behind us?? That dude is fast and he passed me fast, not some sort of slow gradual pass, rather a "hey on your left." Gone. He's 12 years older than me...

After lap one, I settled in well. I kept waiting to see my teammate Darren gain on me during the climbs, but I never saw him. He's gotten really strong over the past year and I was pretty much expecting to get passed by him at some point, but I never saw him... by lap 4 I figured he'd gotten a flat or something. It turns out that he had some back problems kick in on a climb.

Evan was also in the mix, eventually taking second place, nice work! I lost sight of him at the top of the first main climb, he's fast, and I wasn't expecting to keep him in sight for long.

I felt pretty good throughout the race. I pushed but kept from cracking. I had one bobble on a slick log on one of the climbs which forced me off the bike, but other than that, I had no problems. The technical downhills on this course suit my riding style, and with the new bike (Specialized S-Works Stumpjumper) I was railing the downs with reckless abandon.

The verdict: 6th place out of 22 starters. I'm happy with that. It was better than I expected, and it was nice to see that result after following my own strategy. This weekend is the 12 hours of Lodi...

Photo from Jay Divinagracia