First, I hadn't gotten enough sleep the night before. I went to bed later than I'd planned, engrossed by Dashiell Hammett's excellent Thin Man. Still not too bad: my 5:30 am alarm would still be good for almost seven hours. But I awoke 90 minutes earlier from a dream in which I'd missed my start time due to clumsily trying to inflate my tires (is there a Freudian connection to this? I've never read Freud). Then I couldn't get back to sleep because I realized shifting problems I'd experienced on Friday had been due to an incompatibility between the Recon aluminum cassette and the Wipperman Connex Chain. The Wipperman is almost 30 grams heavier than a SRAM 1090 or a KMC X10. 30 extra grams? That wouldn't do at all. So I got up, drank some tea, and replaced the chain with an old SRAM that was laying around. Okay, so that generation of SRAM 1090 had been recalled... they tended to break. But I figure it's guys 50 lb heavier and 200 watts higher who tend to snap chains, not small, weak me, so I put the SRAM on. The shifting was much better.
Second, I didn't drink enough. I'd brought only a single water bottle, forgetting to put my second into my back pack, and had barely drunk any of that during the 35 minute BART trip and brisk 8 miles from Lafayette BART with Sean Rhea. Race hydration begins before the race, and I forgot that in the early morning cool air. I had around 40% of a bottle for the race, but I drank that quickly. A 28-minute race doesn't really require water, but that's under the assumption of full hydration from the start, not a state of depletion. No cramps, no dizziness, but it probably affected how I felt afterwards.
Third, I paced myself well. The goal of a race of this distance is to start to really suffer within the last five minutes or so, time enough that you can really deplete yourself, but not so much time that power droops. I think I did that this time: something to feel good about.
Fourth: goal creep. I knew I lacked the fitness level I had last year. Just finish within 30 seconds of my last year's time, I told myself, and I'd be happy. As I approached the finish I looked at my watch and liked what I saw: I looked solid to not only achieve that goal, but to even match last year's time. I crossed the lime 20 seconds faster than last year. I should have been happy, right? Rationally I should have been. But I placed only 7/15 in the E3, lower than I would have liked.
Let's say I go ride Old La Honda. I'll typically have a time I'm shooting for. I don't expect to PR the thing every time. I consider the context: what's my fitness, how's my training been going, etc. But in a race, it's different. I'm there to compete. I want to win, or if not win, at least place highly. I was of course pleased to be in the top half of the E3. My overall ranking, 42/243 among the men, was decent. Among the women, only Katerina Nash, a professional mountain biker and 'cross racer, finished quicker, and she by only a few seconds. Not too bad, right?
But not good enough. It almost never is.
Looking back, I skipped the race in 2008 (in Italy). In 2007, I was 50 seconds faster. 2006: 13 seconds slower. But there was a nice tailwind at the bottom this year, perhaps the best conditions ever. I had no justification expecting to go faster, but I hold myself to that standard anyway. I wanted top three.
Ah, well. Move on, get past the failure. errible Two next Saturday. A very different game.