Monday, August 13, 2018


Quick recap from yesterday's race. I promised myself I was going to start writing more even if there isn't an overarching, grand, story-behind-the-story. I also decided that I am going to be a little more candid about how I was feeling during the race; I mean no ill-will, just stating things from my perspective.

From my short experience as a coach so far, I have heard all too often that the biggest set back people have is mostly mental/confidence issues. Most athletes have no problem putting the work in, but keeping their heads and thoughts together on race day is difficult.

I don't claim to have answers but I can relate to the feeling. Step one is to put yourself in the situation as much as you can so you are familiar with it. Step two is to know that these feelings will come on no matter how prepared you think you are. Step three is, you guessed, just "act as if" (yeah, spoiler alert, I don't end up winning this race, so I have got to plug myself somewhere in these rambles, alright? Haven't you got that yet?...Stay with me).
So here we go. Confidence or no confidence...

This was my first road race as a Cat 3. Going into the weekend, my legs were feeling great. I rode the weekly Bullet Train on Tuesday then went out for some big-time extra miles. My legs felt primed so I decided to sign up for Tokeneke. I got to the starting line in typical Hafferty-fashion; late, no warm-up, no food for the 66-mile ride, and asking volunteers where staging is (minor details , right?). I was happy they were running 5min late as well. Juan, a 545 teammate of mine, pointed out some of the people to watch for. Some usual suspects and some new faces among my new field. We rolled off a few minutes later. The first lap was a little bit spicier than I wanted it to be but was happy about how my legs were feeling. Maybe I just don’t have enough raw race experience but I always start these races with more self-doubt than I like to admit. I convince myself that everyone is faster than me and when some chump makes a dumb move, I am usually the 2nd dumbest chump in the peloton to chase it down. I was definitely not being patient enough with my efforts but was content with how I was learning and focusing more on reading the pack and moving with the field. The first lap was jumpy, and I put out more power than I wanted to. I averaged 350 watts (Normalized Power) for the first lap, of three, along the steep, punchy, 22-mile course. This 350w workload for an hour is a pretty heavy workload for me - but not crazy. I knew I should have sat in and drafted more but I was anxious to see what was going to happen, and I only knew a couple other people in the 35 person field. Despite my lack of full confidence, I felt like a couple other guys were also keeping an eye out on me. I knew Tucker and his teammate wouldn’t let me get too far away unaccompanied. And throughout the first lap, I was happy to see the Minuteman Road Club (MRC) being a little more provocative than they normally seem to be in races. We finished the first lap and were informed that there was a racer, solo, up front with about 90 seconds on us. No one seemed to care, but the 2nd lap did get a bit spicier. We were about 34 miles in at this point. I got up in front of the pack and put in a good effort right before the climb in the middle of the course. It was dumb and I should have known better. Those who ride Tuesday mornings with me, know that I make the same exact mistake every single week right before the Nagog Hill climbs in Littleton. Low and behold, right after my pull is when both MRC riders attacked hard and took off up the hill together giving me the ole “Right, there Fred!” It was a solid move, two other guys powered up there with the MRC riders. Through temporary exhaustion from the previous effort, and a little bit of cockiness, I thought, “We'll reel them in on the descent.” And I let them go. They weren’t that far ahead at the moment and this is pretty much what I do every Tuesday; make a dumb move, get dropped a little, and have to crush myself to catch up. I didn’t expect 545’s newest teammate, Daniel, to jump up and spring into what seemed like a pretty solid 5-man winning break. I had never met him before the starting line today, but I saw him put in some really strong climbing at the finish of lap one, but then faded back pretty dramatically toward the end of the hill. Anyways, it was not a huge gap going up to climb and a couple other riders proved to be strong on the downhills. I thought I could initially jump on some wheels of the other guys to bring them back in on the downhill. Since Daniel was in the break, I wasn’t going to work to reel them in, but was going to make sure I was up front to put in a counter attack if, by chance, we got them back within reach. I hate missing a break like that but was happy to see a teammate up there. They ended up fading smaller and smaller into the distance and I knew that it was going to be a break that lasted. To be completely honest, I had a gut feeling that, though my teammate Daniel was strong, was not going to last in that break. I felt bad when we saw him fade back to our chase-group a handful of miles later and that’s when I really knew we weren’t going to see that break again. Nevertheless, once he got back into our group, I started putting in a ton of work pulling and trying to make up some time and gain ground on the leaders. I was coercing and coaching a group of about six strangers to take smooth quick pulls, keep the speed up, and conserve each other’s energy. We worked well together for a little bit for the back of second lap but eventually fell apart when we started the third. We could not trim down the gap at all. I half-wanted to throw in the towel and just soft pedal the 3rd lap-- my legs were getting pretty heavy, averaging 380 watts (NP) for the entire 2nd lap. Strava stats are here! I looked back at what was left of my chase-group to evaluate everyone. I didn’t notice at the time, but we actually dropped a lot of people in the chase-group with our efforts. I was bummed when I didn’t see Juan, but was stoked to see Daniel hanging on. This turned my spirits up a little bit and I decided it would be a sorry-ass move to slack off on the last lap and wait it out for the final climb. Going up to climb at the midway of the third lap (about 15miles to go in the race), we dropped even more people; we now had a group of about 5 or 6 (I forget). And, apologies to other racers, but the remainder of the guys were very visibly exhausted. One guy kept shaking his head and mumbling with heavy deep breaths, “I’m just--huuuh, huh-- trying to---huuuhh…” and then he would fade off and not finish the thought. I pull in some decent efforts going up the next few punchy climbs strictly to test the group out and evaluate everyone’s legs; a couple were still fighting but I would pull away from everyone pretty easily on the uphills. Daniel was still looking good with us, too, which was great. After I’d pull away a bit, I would regroup with them on the flats until it was time to pull the trigger for a break. I knew I could save some energy staying with them while still holding off others; my plan was to keep cool until we hit the final climb with about 4 miles to go. I would hit it hard and roll in to solidify 5th place. I was pretty confident in this plan. What I didn’t know though, was that two guys up ahead in the lead pack crashed out, so if it all went according to plan, I actually would have been 3rd. Not what I wanted, but not bad for my debut road race in the category. Well, as they often say, “the best laid plans of mice and men, often need a functioning bike.” None of my efforts ended up coming to mean anything. About 6 miles from the finish, I shifted gears, we were going uphill and I was ready to deliver my final blow and roll away as best I could. I stood up. My right fingers tapped the shifter and the chain moved to a smaller gear. I pulled the handle bar up with my left arm and prepared to crank down on the right pedal. I tapped the shifter once more… I heard a loud “CRACK!” followed by “CLINK… clink… clink… clink….” My foot, expecting the support of the bike, and not getting it, crashed to the ground and I almost went ass-over-handlebars. I looked down at what was the end of my race. The hanger of the rear derailleur sheared completely. Cue the music... Silver linings: 1- My legs were feeling very powerful. See y’all at Mt. Washington! 2- I didn’t crash in the lead break. 3- My mechanical didn’t happen going downhill at 50mph.

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