Grey County Road Race, May 24th 2015: Suffer Score Festival

This year's Grey County Road Race was a UCI amateur championship qualifier

...which was kinda cool, because it felt like a real pro race. And Collingwood is a beautiful area, so it's a great course. Actually there were a lot of great things about this race. First, it was an age-group race, which meant that my 50-54 cohort actually got to start at a civilized hour (1:30 pm) as opposed to the usual 8:30 AM for OCUP M3 races. That was downright luxurious.

The second great thing was the fact that the over-50s only has to race 86 kms instead of the 130 and 160 km races for the younger divisions. That was quite manageable.

Fanboy detour here
"One day I hope to race Bingham."
The third great thing is that my start wave include Steve Bauer, who was getting back into Masters racing and was looking to nail down a qualifier spot for the world amateur championships in Denmark this year (which he did handily, of course). Sure, he finished 25 minutes ahead of me or something, but I was in the same race as Steve Bauer. Like, easily the best Canadian cyclist of his (my) generation, and arguably the best Canadian cyclist ever. The guy rode with Lemond and Hinault for La Vie Claire, wore the yellow jersey for 5 days with Seven Eleven.
How cool is that? 

Back to the race
Having done a version of this race last year, I had a reasonable idea of what to expect, and it was also helpful to know that the soul-crushing Scenic Caves Road hill climb was not a part of it this time.

As ever, my goal was to stay in the peloton as long as possible; concentrate on moving up and not fading back; and to try be more aware of what was going on around me. Which was working pretty well for the first 15 kms or so. I was comfortably in the middle of the pack until, running up to a climb on Pretty River Road, I got an agonizing chain drop. I frantically spun the chainring trying to get it re-engaged as I ground to a near stop and the peloton flowed by me like a school of mackerel. I got the chain back on the ring just as the last few riders passed me, and though the group was maybe 30 or 40 metres ahead of me, I couldn't claw my way back on. It was looking like another Grey County Time Trial. However, one thing I've come to realize over the last few races is that it's worth hanging on, because eventually the race starts shedding other riders and before long you can end up in some sort of grupetto that can work together to make the end result a little less ignominious for all concerned.

RB + M Scher: Enjoying the aftermath
So I dropped my arms over the bar, put my head down and got on with it. At first I caught up with one or two other riders, and eventually this became a group of about 6 or 7 of us for the last 20 kms or so. I had noticed that I was doing well punching over the shorter hills, dropping a few guys and catching others. At the same time, as we came in to the last 5 or 6 kms, I was starting to feel some cramping and was a bit worried about stalling out on the rather steep uphill finish.

Anyway, about a kilometre from the finish I somehow ended up in the front of a group of five guys. Tactically, completely stupid. As far as I can make out, the combination of exhaustion, low blood sugar to the brain, and the prospect of it all being over really soon made believe that I could drop them on the last climbs. Of course, if I had just looked back for a second I would have seen that they were all happily sitting on my wheel, and they all blew by me on the final climb. Well, "blew by" is an overstatement – everybody was pretty shaky by then; but the bottom line was I was left unable to close about a 5 or 10 metre gap coming up the steep last hill into the finish. Which kinda sucked because it cost me 4 places in the standings. In the end I finished 35th of 46 in my age group.

The race was fun, but Strava says I should be dead
I'm not sure what to do with the Strava data. First, my Powertap crapped out about 2/3 of the way through, which was annoying at the time and skewed my overall average. Oh well. But what was interesting was the HR data. My average HR for the whole race was 175; max was 196. According the Strava that was 1:52 in Zone 4 (175-194) for an Extreme Suffer Score of 231.

I'm not sure if this was really good, really bad, or just a demonstration of the outside limits of my capabilities. I know from my work with the Cycling Gym that for me to stay out of the red (under lactate threshold, or OBLA, or however you want to define it) I need to stay below 163 BPM. If I were fitter, I would get the same results with a much lower average HR. More results on less work, basically. I think it means that I'm badly undertrained but with a considerable capacity for over-extending myself. And I wonder if I didn't actually do myself some damage, because my training thinned out a bit after that race; the last month has been pretty low mileage, and I'm only just feeling like I'm getting back on track.

Still. It was a great event to be a part of. And watching the podium ceremonies I especially loved seeing the 65+ guys, whose winning times were a damn sight better than mine. That's my long-term goal: to be one of those gnarly old leathery guys who keep on racing and can still come out and kick your ass.


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