Monday, April 2, 2012

Lowell 50 gravel road race report

Traveled 4.5hrs to Lowell Mi. to race the Lowell 50 g.r.r on Friday thinking all the way that maybe I should switch to the 28 mile course. Doubts creeping in about my fitness level and hrs on the bike missed because of broken ribs had my head spinning. My wife and I stayed at a small 8 bedroom inn recently renovated in an old bldg. Very nice place and very friendly staff. Had dinner at the Flat River Grill. I ordered dessert and quickly had me doubting I was going to be able to finish this.
Nice caramel, fruit and walnuts sundae. doubts were gone when I was scrapping the bottom for all the caramel I could get.
Race morning came and since the race didn't start until 10am (thank you race promoters) it was nice to sleep in until 7am instead of getting up at 5am. We headed for the race venue only 8 minutes away, I registered and warmed up until 3 mins were left before the start. It was cold at the start, 38 and overcast, whatever happpened to 53 and sunny, never happened. My choice of clothing was excellent, thin winter first layer, short sleeve winter layer, my Edge Outdoor jersey and vest was enough that I never felt cold. My choice of gloves wasn't very smart, I chose to go with a 50 degree and up glove and I paid for it. Winter sidi soes were enough protection for the temps. my toes were cold but not frozen.
Ok, on to the start. This was no Barry-Roubaix  with over a 1000 racers, we only had about 400 hundred total split between the 50 and 28 mile races but it was a well run well organized race with a mix of about 70% gravel and 30% pavement.The roads were in excellet shape with very little mud, slick or soft spots even though it rained the day before.

The signage was perfect at every turn. I could tell most of the crowd was made up of roadies with their skin suits and cyclocross bikes although there was quite a few of us on mtb's. I mounted the Kendas small block tires for better rolling resistance and they worked well but I'm already looking at real cross tires for the next two gravel road races in the fall. The gun went off and I was well positioned about a third of the way back counting on my roadie skills to suck wheels all the way to the end. It didn't happen, one mile into the race we go through the first covered bridge, the pace slowed and then picked up to the first hill of the day, a beast of a climb for Michigan standards. I have used Hammer race boost many times and never had an issue like I had at this race. I thought my legs felt great when we started and as soon as the road turned up, I was going backwards. It was a climb that being at the beggining I would have been able to climb with the pack and stay with the pack for a while. My legs felt so heavy I had to switch to the small ring whereas I would have pounded the climb on my big ring. To top it off, we stopped for gas and I reached inside the car for something to eat and the ribs let me know I did something wrong, had pain all night long and didn't sleep much and had pain from time to time during the race. By the way, don't buy gas in Michigan, $4.05 per gallon, don't complain Ohio at $3.74 a gallon we have a bargain.  Needless to say, I was dropped on the first climb coming out of the park with 49 miles and a windy day to go. The more I tried to go fast the slower I went. Every time I came up to a split on the road where the sign said 28 this way, 50 that way, I thought about cutting it short, but I didn't drive 4.5 hrs to quit and do 28 miles. Finally I just decided to go as hard as the legs wanted to go and try to enjoy the race turned into a ride. When I finally was brave enough to look at my Garmin I was 30 miles in and feeling real good, my legs where finally coming around (it only took 30 miles!!) and I could see several riders in front of me on the long straight roads. That gave me incentive to give it all I had the last 20 miles. I started picking up a few riders that went out too hard and couldn't hold the pace. I would rest for a few minutes behind them and then pull around and they were to gassed to draft and would drop off. My goal for the race was to try for under 3hrs and I know I can do it, but after the start I had, crawling along for 30 miles I had to settle for under 3:30, whohoo. The next time I looked at the Garmin I had 7 miles to go and I was at 3hrs. I started pounding the pedals and rode those last 7 miles in 23minutes, 18.5 mph an hr. not bad for the way I was feeling for most of the race. And those last 7 miles were not flat, this part of Michigan has a lot and I mean a lot of smal climbs that really put the hurt on you. To summarize, it was a well run race, good roads and I had fun and even though I started bad I was able to finish very strong, that in itself was very encouraging, fitness wise. This was supposed to be an "A"race for me in preparation for TSE but once I broke my ribs it turned into a "B" race and once the race started it turned into a "C" race going down to D, E, F.

My wife was there to greet me at the line which was the highlight of the race, seeing a friendly face after a tortourous 3:23 on the bike. By the way, the racer that won the 50+ completely killed me, it only took him 2:35. Man, I need a cyclocross bike bad if I'm going to keep doing gravel road races.

The course

The pain after.
Have a great day and ride your bike.

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