Race Report: Central Park, USCF Cat 3/4

By the numbers:
Place: 12 (approx) -> no upgrade points.
Field size: 60 (approx)
Weather: 28 F, winds NW 15 MPH
Power: average 254W, max 1024W
Speed: average 23.62 mph, max 33.30 mph
Heart rate: average 160 bpm, max 184 bpm
Cadence: average 80
Energy: 956 kJ
Distance: 24.65mi
Time: about 1h 2min 44sec

The race did not feel any harder than my hardest training rides. It felt substantially easier.

I went to sleep at 2030 last night. I followed Friel's advice to begin turning off lights about 30-45 minutes before you want to go to sleep, as this gets your body ready to retire. I drank about four water bottles in the hour before I went to sleep. Right before conking out, I had about 450 mL of warm skim milk with a couple of tablespoons of honey. Yum.

As I predicted, I woke up at 2330, partially due to a need to use the restroom, partially due to my sheets being soaked from sweat, and partially due to the neighbors playing loud music on Saturday night, as they always do. I woke up again at 0230, to use the restroom.

My alarm went off, as planned, at 0430. I got up, turned all of the lights on, and started the morning rituals of eating, hydrating, and getting dressed. I had a larger bowl of granola than usual (400 kcal) with skim milk (90 kcal). I also had the last bit of a Red Bull-like sports drink that I had in the fridge. I left the apartment at 0500 on the dot. It was so cold.

Due to the usual weekend subway construction, I rode 1km downhill to the next nearest subway station on the 4th Avenue line. Naturally, I missed a train by about 3 seconds, so I got to wait 15 minutes in the cold station. Once the train arrived, I had a Builder Bar (270 kcal, 20g complete protein) and another bottle of water.

I got to the start line, where the usual chaos ensued. I'm glad I pre-registered. After signing the relevant forms, I made one last use of the facilities before joining the start of the race.

The race was four laps of Central Park. For some reason, the organizers decided to group the Cat 3/4 and the Cat 5 race together, with the Cat 5 race dropping back and finishing after 2 laps. As a result, the field was an impressive 100 riders strong for the first lap and a half.

Let me tell you something about these Central Park races. They're all exactly the same. Every race, there are a bunch of attempts to form breakaways, but they never stick. The ideal strategy is to stay toward the front, stay upright, not crash, stay out of the wind, push hard up the hills to get the heart rate up a few times, and empty the tank on a well timed, all out sprint. That's basically what I did.

The riders were a whiny bunch. At the start line, they were all complaining about how it was early in the morning, how it was cold, how they had been out drinking last night, and how they didn't get enough sleep. Either don't show up, or don't complain. It is what it is.

The riders were a scary bunch. I don't know if they just haven't been riding, or don't know how to ride, but there were a total of four crashes, to which I was witness to two. I am very grateful for three things. One, between 100+ hours of riding on the rollers, and riding PowerCranks, my pedal stroke is silky smooth and I can hold a damn-straight line. Secondly, years of city riding have taught me to be very loose on the bike. On two occasions, guys bumped into my arms pretty hard while sprinting out of the saddle. I was completely unfazed by the contact. Thirdly, I trust my frame and my wheels. The Roubaix does a great job of dissipating energy from huge bumps. I wasn't as worried about the poor road quality as I should have been.

The riders were a lazy bunch. I was hitting my rear brake way more than I would have liked to, often harder than I would ever want to in a race. Nobody wanted to work. I was in the front of the pack halfway into Lap 2 with a couple of other guys. They didn't want to work with me, so I just sat up and waited for the pack so I could save my energy.

I stayed on through the third lap, working my way toward the front and staying there. By the time the second half of the fourth lap was around, I believe all of the breaks had been caught. I was in a good position for the sprint, and had even experimented with a good gear for the uphill rush to the finish: 50-14. I timed my sprint right, I started really moving... and then some guy pulled right in front of me. I did what I could to regain momentum, and passed a few guys, but couldn't make Top 10.

I should trust myself more. I did many things well. I was properly fed and hydrated. I was properly rested. My equipment was all in excellent repair. My choice of clothing kept me warm, which is crucial in these cold races. My training, though short on high-intensity work, has made me a good rider. My bike equipment is in excellent shape, and after the February bike fit session, I feel more comfortable and powerful on the bike. I had no trouble comfortably riding in the drops. With more patience, experience, and self analysis, I can do well for myself. I just want the warm weather to be here!

I spoke with a gentleman with an Ergomo after the race. The Ergomo is a bottom bracket mounted power meter. I think the PowerTap does a better job of measuring power, but the Ergomo comes with a really nice head that, in addition to all of the PowerTap SL 2.4's features, also records temperature and elevation. I really miss those features.

After the race, I rode to work, where I am now. The job is close to the park and has showers. I had a bowl of cereal and two cups of hot cocoa with lots of skim milk within 30 minutes of the end of the race. I brought a change of clothes in a backpack, which I 'm wearing now. I then treated myself to steak and eggs, the breakfast of, well, champions. I'm looking forward to being insanely productive today, since the office is absolutely dead on Sundays.