Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Domnarski Farm 2012: The Confidence Game

Recap: My first Cat 1 race on a course I love.  Climbed well, could have gone down better. Took 2 mud puddle swims. Got 4th out of 10 (2 DNFs). I felt strong, gassed near end but dug deep, and learned a lot.
Heading into lap 2 and another mud puddle dunk.

The Confidence Game
Confidence is a funny thing in bike racing.  I've found that my confidence in my own abilities is rarely a reflection of reality, and in the course of one race, I can go from having too little...to too much...and back to too little.

Lack of Confidence: I lined up next to a bunch of guys I don't know...I just know OF.  There were two exceptions - Ricky Hartman, who was also racing his first Cat 1, and Dave Terrell, another Cat1 newbie who I battled at Massasoit. Having beaten both of those guys previously, I suppose I had a bit of confidence, but I was nervous about the rest of the guys slaughtering me and propping me up on a pole at the finish line as a warning to other Cat1 wannabes.

Whistle and we're off.  I float to the back, thinking the first turn and sharp climb might give some guys trouble.  I'm correct, and pass the carnage to go from 10th to about 6th.  I settle in the train and keep pace as we head up for the next 10 minutes or so.

Misplaced Confidence: I make a couple passes, feeling good, starting to build confidence a bit. I figure I'm now in 4th and I see Charlie Beal up the trail - Charlie Beal! - and I seem to be gaining on him. Huh?  Soon I'm closing in on his back wheel.  I actually feel like I may need to pass him to keep my cadence, but who am I to be passing Charlie Beal? Damn, I think -- I must be stronger than I think. All right, cool, here we go, I'm going to pass Charlie frickin Bea......hold on....Charlie's pulling over...getting off his bike...flat tire.

Ah, I'm not the badass I think I am. Fantasy dispatched, reality restored.  

Of course, now I'm putting "don't let Charlie catch me after he changes his flat" into my motivation file, next to "catch Lucas by end of race" (my teammate Lucas started in the geared 40-49 class just before our group).

At this point I've lost the leaders and there's nobody in sight behind me.  In a Cat 2 race, this would be the time to settle in, maintain and conserve a bit, and maybe make a push towards the middle of lap 2. Then Dave Richardson flies past me on a downhill towards the end of lap 1 and and Gerry Lafleur catches me in a technical section 1/3 through lap 2.  Now I figure I'm back in about 5th place.  Gerry seems content to settle in behind me - possibly to laugh at my lack of skillz.  At the next hill, I decide to attack a bit, and I get a gap on Gerry.  Now I go hunting Dave, hoping I can catch him on the powerline climb before things go down again and he blows me away.

I get out to the powerlines and see Dave up ahead.  Two singlespeeders grinding it out on a steep hill must look like some ridiculous slow-motion race parody.  I finally catch and then creep past Dave, but I really put the hurt in my quads doing it and now cramps are threatening with every pedal stroke.  Close to the top - "$10 pass" - I catch teammate Lucas.  He looks like he's hurtin more than me so I yell some motivation and then down we head.  I hit it really hard, take way more chances than I did the first lap.  Lucas holds on, and we take the turn for the finish straightaway.  I spin my 32/20 like a blender, but it's no match for his saucers and he nips me at the line in a sprint.  Dave comes in about 20 seconds later.  I figure I had about a minute gap on him at the top, so he must have killed it coming down.

Strangely enough, I find Ricky Hartman at the bottom - he had passed me when I was stuck in a mud puddle and I never saw him go by. Damn!  It's not like I could have caught him anyway - I pretty much left it all out there.

What I learned: my climbing is solid, but could always be better - keep working on it.  Losing a few lbs would help.  My downhill and technical skills need improving.  As the saying goes - the race can be won on the climbs, and lost on the descents (at least I think that's a saying).

All in all, it was a great experience and I really look forward to racing these guys again.  I think the middle-packers could really finish in any order given the course and how we feel on any particular day.

Just one of the flock
The very best part of the weekend was that I slept over my parents' house in Central Mass with my 3-year-old, Julian. Whilst I was at my race ("working" as Julian calls it), he was having an awesome time with his grandparents at the playground and feeding geese.  I might try to pawn him off on them this weekend for Pat's Peak!


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