My main goal for the race result-wise was to go under 2hrs 40min for my overall time (my previous best was 2hrs 51min). But in reality, my chief goal was to enjoy the race, push myself as hard as I could, and just see what I could do!
How did the day go?
Race day kick-off was at 11:30am for the first riders. I rocked up with my wife and kids in tow at 10:30am to find out my handicap, and collect my race numbers, timing tag, course map, and other bits and pieces. Lifecycle CC run an outstanding event, and so this all went very smoothly.
I checked my handicap - I was in the 17min group. This meant that I would start 17min after the very first group. Checking the rest of the list, I found out I had a 20min headstart on the scratch markers... This had me feeling pretty nervous - only a 20min headstart over 80km against A-grade riders!!
I was hoping to at least get through the first 40km lap without getting passed by the scratch group, so I knew I couldn't muck around when I started! I had my motivation sorted...
I won't go into crazy detail about the race itself - but the first lap went really well. My group of 10 riders all worked well together from the start. We started a rolling paceline that worked pretty efficiently 90% of the time. Every now and then I skipped a turn when I felt my legs getting over-worked, but I really enjoyed being part of a smoothly-running, hard-riding start to the race.
Unfortunately, when we hit the first decent hill of the race, I got dropped by the group. The race has two notable climbs, being the two hills on either side of the Wivenhoe Dam wall. I struggled on both hills, on both laps - a clear sign of where I need to focus my training over the coming months!!
From here, I hooked onto faster groups as they went through and held on as long as I could. Obviously, this got harder and harder as the race went on - as each new group came, they were much faster, plus I was getting more and more tired! On the first lap though, I only lost a few more groups, so I was happy with that.
I covered the first 40km lap in 1hr 9min 44sec, giving an average speed of 34.4km/h. With a decent chunk of that solo riding up two tough climbs, I was feeling quietly pleased and confident with my performance so far.
Finishing the first lap...
The second lap beckons...
I knew the second 40km lap would be my 'lap of truth'. My lack of long rides meant I really didn't know how my legs would handle it - it was very much unknown territory. I crossed the start/finish solo, and decided to keep pushing hard and see how long I could go before I popped...
Not long after starting the second lap, a group of two faster riders came through and I tacked on. These two were my last real group for the day - after about 5km, a very quick, large bunch of around 15 riders came pouring through. I couldn't hold onto them at all, and watched them ride off into the distance...
I felt a bit down, as I knew that any more groups coming through would be just too fast for me, and I still had over 30km to go! But that's when I got my little 'mental miracle' - I saw a car that looked a lot like mine parked further down the road. As I got closer, my youngest daughter jumped out and started cheering madly, while my other daughter and my wife yelled encouragement out the windows! It was exactly what I needed - I refocused my effort, and with a big smile on my face pushed onwards...
I really struggled on the 2nd lap with the two hills. It was pretty ugly - I basically wrestled my bike up each hill, convincing myself of how much I'd enjoy the descent afterwards... I do remember vowing to make sure I do hill repeats every single week for the rest of my life to make sure I never sucked this bad again!!
Not surprisingly, I probably hit my limit at around the 70km mark. I got the first twinges in my lower back, and my legs were starting to burn. To be honest, I was pleased I'd gotten that far without my body starting to fall apart - but I knew this last 10km would be a true slog. I put my head down, and focussed everything on keeping a steady (albeit slow) cadence and getting to the finish as soon as I could.
The lap finishes with a 1km downhill sweeper, and I could see the start/finish arch from the top of that downhill. I pushed hard, and used up every last bit of energy I had to finish off the 80km and the race. It was a pretty ugly sprint in the 52x15 (embarrassing!), but I felt totally stoked to complete the race.
So how did I go?
I finished with an overall time of 2hrs 34min 27sec - beating my goal time, and setting a personal best of over 15 minutes! Very, very happy with that.
Position wise, I was the very last finisher on the road. There were 187 starters, of whom 163 finished, and I was lucky 163rd. But that meant I did beat the 24 DNF's, so was I really last...?? :)
I mentioned it earlier - but Lifecycle Club run a terrific race. Everything went super-smoothly, and I had a great time racing.
I learnt a lot about how far I had come since re-starting racing after the 'big accident', and a lot about what I need to do in the coming months. Plus I had an awesome Sunday afternoon riding a beautiful course. Can't wait to do it all again next year!