Focus, hunger, fitness; you need all three to race well. If you're missing one, forget it. We all have days that just don't go as we would like. For me, the Fairhill Classic was one of those days. But to rewind, the day before it wasn't either. I was on a local Friday morning ride, one I have done every Friday for years, with the same group of riders. We were on a quiet road when a car crossed the double line and struck two of my friends. head on. The driver fled the scene but thankfully was later arrested. My friends were lucky, though they suffered very serious injuries, they will live. Life is not guaranteed and while that reminder is helpful, its never one you want to be forced to think about.
Fast forward 24 hours later and I was toeing the line at the Fairhill Classic marathon race. As the last MASS race of the year, the field was stacked and riders were hungry. My mind however, was elsewhere, still spinning from Fridays events. I pulled it together and hoped for the best. We started, fast and furious for a 2 mile prologue. 340w for the first 11 minutes furious. The group quickly splintered in the single track and I began to realize what this race was not going to be my best.
This season has been great for me. With only one "bad" race at the Cheat Mt Ultra due to a mechanical (when a stick broke my XO1 derailleur on the Epic World Cup), I was a bit overdue to make a mistake. Long distance racing is tricky. Lots of pieces need to come together perfectly in order to have a good day, let alone win. So when one goes wrong and you don't sort it out quickly, things can spiral downhill fast. I wasn't focused, I made a nutritional blunder, and the problems began.
My stomach was giving me some issues that morning. I wasn't very careful about what I had eaten for dinner and was feeling the effects. I was hoping I could ride off the discomfort or drink enough Infinit GoFar to counter it, but that was wrong. After the first hour I was beginning to suffer as the GI issue was pairing up with my other thoughts, distracting me from the task at hand. While you're racing, focus not only helps you stay in the game mentally, but it helps you push your body to its absolute limit. Not only was I now distracted, I was now unable to hold water and calories down.
I tried everything I could until about half way, but I was losing the battle. I couldn't take in anything and it was making everything worse. My heart rate was still up as I pushed but my watts were plummeting; I was unraveling. I simply didn't have the energy to pedal. I began going backwards through the field until I crossed the line for 12th, a full 30 minutes behind the winner.
Certainly not my day, or two days really. Hopefully I'll learn from them and promptly forget them.