Yesterday was the Air Force Memorial Cycling Classic, held in Crystal City. This race was part of a weekend of cycling, with the Clarendon Cup on Saturday and the Air Force Classic on Sunday. Both races involved a Pro circuit, but the Air Force Classic also offered the Crystal Ride, which I participated in. The Crystal Ride is described as "a non-competitive ride that will begin and end in Crystal City and pass by the Air Force Memorial. It offers a 12.5 kilometer course open to both serious and casual amateur cyclists, but closed to traffic! Bronze, Silver and Gold Medals will be awarded for those who can complete 2, 4 or 8 laps within the 3.5 hour window that the course will be open for the ride. 8 laps will equate to a metric century (100 km)."
Going into the race, I had no real goals, other than to get a great training ride on closed streets, while throwing in some competitive pacing to see where my legs are at this point in the season. The only other timed ride of close to this distance was Eagleman, which was obviously part of a triathlon, on a flat course, and was not draft legal. In other words, I I made up some goals as something to shoot for while I was out on the course. Since 100km is a slightly more than 60 miles, I figured 3 hours sounded like a good time. That would give me an average of a bit more than 20 mph, and since I am not in what I would consider top cycling shape for this type of distance, I thought it was a reasonable goal to shoot for.
I awoke race morning to what sounded like rain and thunder. I looked outside and there was rain, thunder, AND lightning! Sweet! I immediately checked the radar and found that the line of storms was rolling through, but would be gone shortly, so at least it shouldn't be raining during the race. However, because it was still coming down hard on the drive to the race, I opted to put my bike inside my car, rather than on the bike rack in order to keep my seat and aerobars dry.
We got to the race site and I began setting up my bike and load it up with all my stuff, since the ride to the race start was about 2 miles down the road from the parking area. After checkin, I noticed that my bike computer was no longer picking up my stats. I assume that while it was in my trunk, the sensor must have been nudged a bit. I fiddled around for a few minutes and finally got it to start working again. Shortly after, I made my way over to line up for the start.
After a 15 minute delay from having to push away as much standing water from the earlier rain, the horn sounded and we were off! The pace started out pretty furious, and this being my first cycling race, I did what any newbie would do - GO HARD! Of course, I wasn't the only one. However, there was one little snafu. My friendly little bike computer was now reading 0.00 MPH. The first mile of the ride was spent leaning over my handlebars to try to nudge the sensor a bit closer to the magnet on the wheel. I feared that if I pushed it too hard, it would hit my spokes and I'd go tumbling, causing the greatest pileup in amature cycling history. So after a couple of slight attempts, I gave up. It was recording something, just not my speeds. At least I was able to pull this data off to give an idea of the course and my effort (via HR and elevation). Strangely enough though, it did record my mile splits. Too bad it never told me during the race what they were. I'm pretty sure some are off though, because it only recorded up to 58 miles. Oh well. You get the picture of the profile of the course (in maroon), as well as my level of effort throughout the ride (lots of Zone 3 riding - in bright red), and mile split times (in blue). Being in a cycling event versus triathlon, made me realize I could do things that most people would consider "illegal" by triathlete standards. Mainly, drafting. But after the first couple of laps of working with some packs, I started to get frustrated with the riders. Some knew what they were doing, others did not. And sadly, they were not holding consistent paces. So I'd ride with a pack for a bit, get frustrated, and break away on my own. Then about 4 miles down the road, they'd pick me up again. Go figure. So I did this for a while. I quickly found that I would rather ride solo and push harder, controling my own speed, than sit in with a pack doing a lot less work, and going slower than I know I am capable of. Its too easy to fall into a pack, reserve your energy, and save it for the end. But that was not the purpose of my ride. I wanted to ride hard and get the full benefits. While I consistently rode with similar people throughout the whole race, I tried not to wheel suck too much. In laps 5, 6, and 7, I found a group of 3 other rides that all had the same mentality, so we rode together, taking turns pulling hard for a bit. If I wasn't riding with this group at this point in the race, I would have finished a lot slower. They kept the pressure on my to hammer it home.
Then I hit the last lap and was subsequently dropped by 2 of them, while I dropped the last guy. I rode the last lap solo, with very little left in my legs. Finally, with the last uphill in sight, I gave it all I got, posting my slowest split on the hill by a solid 25 seconds. Oh well! It was at this point that I started paying attention to my watch. With the last half of the lap left, my watch read 2:50 or something close to that. I knew it was going to be close. I pushed on harder. I kept trying to get out of the saddle to mash some pedals as I raced toward the finish. As I approached the final 1/4 mile of the course, I looked down at my watch and it read 2:59:xx. I hammered again, as I rounded the final corner to hit the straightaway at the finish. About 50 meters from the finish, a volunteer started yelling at my to slow down. I had a time to beat! I rode hard till the last second and stopped by watch. It read: 2:59:57. Phew, that was close!
Overall stats on the race:
Distance: 100 km
Pace: 20.72 MPH
Avg HR: 152 BPM
After the race, Rebecca, my parents, and I bumbled around the expo area to see if there were any good deals. Unfortunately, we left empty handed. We decided to stick around and watch some of the pro race, which was about to get started. It is always amazing to watch how fast these guys are going, and to see them in a such a large pack when they come by, you feel the brush of the wind. Its pretty sweet.
Anyways, thats it for the race report. Pictures to come from my personal photog extraordinaire.