Mauled by the Paws

MATTS Team Apache 40K TT
June 27, 2009 – Paw Paw, IL
Masters 30+ – 1st – 57.20.15
256 watts – 25.3 MPH

After being sick the past 2 weeks and missing a couple of races (and a lot of training), I was anxious to get back at it. Of course, the next race on the calendar wasn’t a 20K or 30K, but a 40K.  And it was a hilly 40K.  Could it get any better?  How about nice, muggy summer conditions with dewpoints in the 60s.  Oh, boy, this was going to be fun!

I had done the Team Apache 40K TT twice before and I knew it wasn’t an easy course (though the roads are in great shape). The race starts just outside of Paw Paw, IL, which is about 2 hours west of Chicago. Paw Paw has only 800 residents, which is a plus when the race has moved to the other side of town and you didn’t know that.  Just follow the weirdos in aero gear, since there is a strong likelihood they’re not local.

The Apache TT course heads SW out of town with a nice downhill the first 10K.  It then turns W with several rolling hills, before turning N amongst a new wind farm prior to the turnaround.  Yep, there’s a reason they built a wind farm out here.  Don’t count on any wind protection.  I was happy the the winds were mostly SSE, because that gave me a slight tailwind on the way home. I knew that the best wheel for these conditions would be the Hed 3C considering the different yaw angles I would be exposed to during the race.

Registration and the warm-up were the usual.  Nothing exciting.  I kept warming up until about 3 minutes before my start. 5-4-3-2-1. Go. It’s amazing how you much you need to remind yourself to calm down the first mile or so even if you’ve done dozens of TTs.  Looking at my power readings, I was telling myself “back off, this is a 40K, not a 10K”. Having a slight downhill into wind is always a plus.  I felt pretty good going out and kept myself well hydrated (see below for how I did this).  I knew things were getting bad about a third of the way into the race.  My legs felt good and I kept working on the riders in front of me, but I felt like I was at my limit.  I focused on my return trip, breaking things into segments.  I find this works really well.  “OK, now we’re going east with the hills, steady up, rest going down.” “Tailwind for the last 10K, just keep pushing.”  This helps make the last half of a race go much quicker, especially if you begin to mentally unravel.  I put in a strong finish and was totally wiped.  I knew I left everything on the course. I did a 10 mile cool down on my road bike and just wanted to crawl under a shade tree and nap.

Looking at my Powertap data after the race confirmed why I was feeling this was.  My speed was respectable, but still slower than the 26 MPH average I’ve been averaging lately in races. My average power was about 10-15% lower than my last few races, yet my heart rate was 10% higher. In fact, I was near my max heart rate the last 10K. Yikes. No wonder I was wiped. It might have been a combination of the heat or still getting over a virus, but it makes me even happier with my result.

I ended up winning the Masters 30+ and my time was respectable vs the competition.  Even though my power was low and I might have gone faster otherwise, every other racer had to deal with the same course and conditions.  I noticed that some folks were significantly slower than they had been in previous race.  40K TTs really are a race of truth and the heat makes the distance even more challenging.

I was glad I opted to use my Camelbak Racebak.  This model is specifically designed for aerodynamics (to be worn under a jersey or skinsuit), but some racers have used bulkier models in the past.  I normally don’t take water with me on TTs under 30K, unless it’s very hot.  I’ve used bottles before in the 40K and just found that they broken up my momentum.  I still need to get the hose routing worked out, but having about 500 mL of water on back helped keep my hydrated in today’s race conditions. Next time, I’m going to try adding ice…:)

Overall, a great race that I recommend to anyone for the future.  Wonderful course, great marshaling, and a challenge if you’re looking for good one.

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