The Barry-Roubaix

After this post, I will no longer be posting my training plan every week. Now that I’ve officially entered my race year, what I work on from here to Iceman will be proprietary and I can’t afford any of my competition finding out how I will be training to beat them. I may occasionally provide a glimpse now and again, however, it will be very generic to protect trade secrets.

O.k., I don’t have competition trolling my blog and they certainly wouldn’t be trying to steal a page out of my training plan 🙂 I’m just finding that posting my training plan is overwhelming my blog content and I’d prefer to keep my updates about getting outside (still boring you with the details, of course) rather than becoming a training blog.


Pre-Race Preparations


So, the 2013 Barry-Roubaix was held yesterday, and I joyfully participated for the 3rd year running. This year’s event had several significant changes, which in my opinion, worked out phenomenally. The first and largest was that the start finish was moved to the city of Hastings. Hastings is a small rural town about 40 minutes south and slightly east of Grand Rapids. It has a population of approximately 7,400 in about a 5.4 square mile area. It has a neat downtown area with restaurants, breweries, retail, and parks. It is approximately directly opposite of the previous race start at Gunn Lake/Yankee Springs. By moving the start/finish venue, Rick Plite, the race founder and promoter was able to increase the participant cap from 1,500 to 3,000. 2,873 riders registered, nearly selling the race out again.

Because of the additional participants, the race start was split up into more waves. First off were the 62 mile competitors who went out in 2 waves, followed by 10 waves of 36 mile competitors, and rounded out with 2 waves of 24 mile competitors. This race start strategy resulted in wave sizes that ranged from 130 to 230 riders, which was both crazy and energizing all at the same time. I was in wave 3. Hastings shut down several streets for the weekend to help direct traffic away from the race course and create space for the festivities. Several parking lots were converted into team pit areas, temporary food court’s, awards area, and the beer tent.

Unfortunately, I mis-judged the time at which I should line up in my wave, and ended up very near the rear of my group, initially. As the 1st and 2nd waves left and we transitioned towards the start line, I did my best to jockey for better position, but still ended up in about the middle of the pack. When the gun went off, we were led out of town via motorcycle at about a 16-18 mph pace, which allowed me to quickly move up to the rear of the lead pack of 20-30 riders. Once the race hit gravel, a group of about 10 quickly separated and began pulling away. I decided that I needed to be a part of that group so I gave chase, crossing the gap with the help of a slight tailwind. Once on, I simply worked to stay in the slipstream of this group until I could get a feel for the course, the other rider’s strengths, and what advantages I might have. The pace was quick, particularly in the climbs, but I was able to keep it, never falling more than 10 feet behind on any climb and always able to out descend the group (often having to apply some brake). Within the first 5 miles we lost 3-4 riders to falls, which 1 was able to rejoin us.

As we caught the tail end of the two 62 mile waves, the icy road conditions became very apparent as a handful of riders (mostly on cyclocross bikes) went down. I could tell that the riders in my pack were very tentative once riders started going down, and felt the pace slow just slightly. The gravel roads up until that point were either snow/ice covered, or exposed but riddled with pot holes. Friday afternoon had been in the upper 30’s and sunny causing many of the gravel roads to become really wet and puddle up. But overnight, temps dropped into the 20’s and all of those puddles and moist areas froze. It was still only 28 degrees at the start of the race, and clouds prevented the sun from re-softening the patches of ice.

As we continued, I began developing a strategy of simply hanging on no matter what the cost on the hills with the expectation that the pot holes would take their tole on the cyclocross riders as they constantly stood up out of their saddles and hopped their bikes over unavoidable potholes. I was quite comfortable on my Epic, sometimes navigating around obstacles, and sometimes simply hammering through them just to hand over a little psychological message that I wasn’t going to get worn out because of the road conditions. The group was a bit schizophrenic in that we’d peloton out in the flats, bunch up in the climbs, and kind of stagger in areas that had either snow or pot holes as no one trusted the rider in front of them. Again, I didn’t care what line the guy in front of me took, I figured if they could handle it, I’d be fine. I was starting to settle in.

About 8.25 miles in, the course begins a small climb as the road ends in a ‘T’ where we then took a left into a short steep climb. The road at this particular intersection was covered with about a 1/2″ of crusty ice/snow. Traction was scarce. I saw an aggressive inside corner line that looked clean and decided to take it. It wasn’t my intention to make a move, but I was in about 3rd or 4th position at that point because of the aggressive line. That ended up being mistake #1. The line ended up being solid ice and I went down. Fortunately I didn’t fall hard, but I ended up getting caught on a fairly wide area of ice so getting back up and on my bike proved challenging. On top of the road challenges, I was in the wrong gear to start out at the bottom of a steep climb, but I had no choice as shifting gears under that much load had a high likelihood of tweaking something in the drivetrain. My guess is that I lost 10-20 seconds on the pack.

At that point, I had a decision to make: overcook myself to catch back up to the lead group, or; keep a pace I could push and hope that the road conditions would finally wear the lead group down (all on cyclocross bikes I believe). I chose option 2, and thus, made mistake #2. I never regained contact with the lead group, and ended up having to push my own wind for the next hour until the leaders from wave 4 and 5 caught me. Once they did, I realized my earlier mistake as I was able to latch on to that group and had no problem following them in for the last 4-5 miles of the race. I sprinted into Hastings with this group, making sure I stayed out of their way as I wasn’t in it anymore and didn’t want to cause any unnecessary mistakes for any of them. My final time was 1:54:43, about 5 minutes behind the winner of my wave,  which looked like a fun finish as the gap between 1st place and 4th place was 5 seconds. I know there were a number of riders that passed me when I spilled, but didn’t realize that there were that many as I ended up placing 11th.

I had no expectations of winning and have no elusions that I would have either been able to maintain contact with the lead group or had enough left in the tank to offer competition in the final sprint for a podium spot. What I was most proud of was that I took about 2 minutes off my time from last year and moved up 6 spots from 17th to 11th. I was able to capture a little bit of the day on my iPhone. I planned on capturing the race on my GoPro, but unfortunately left the camera on overnight on Friday night so when I went to turn it on just before the race, the battery was dead.

As far as my training plan for last week, I planned a very light week of essentially just keeping my legs fresh by doing some non-stressful spinning on the trainer. I put in 50 minutes on Monday, an hour and a half on Thursday, and just 30 minutes Friday night to liven up the legs in some pre-warm up preparation. Because diet can have just as much of an effect on performance as the race week routine, I went with a high-carb rice filled burrito Friday night and several banana’s and a Mojo bar for breakfast. I staggered my breakfast over a two hour window immediately prior to the race and it seemed to work out well. I also made sure I drank plenty of water as I didn’t want to have the same problem as Iceman last November.

After the race I enjoyed a couple of hours laughing with riders and having a couple of Founder’s ale’s and eating some taco’s from What The Truck’s mobile food truck. This 100% serious here, no matter where you’re reading this from, you need to find out where that truck is going to be next and drive however long it takes to get to it for the tacos. They’re that good.

Barry-Roubaix 2013 rounded out to be a great event. Rick is proving to be a master race organizer and pulled off a perfect event despite nearly doubling the attendance. I’m looking forward to 2014’s race.

My next post will be the milestone 100th post. I’m brewing up a doozy which will dive into a rather personal, but significant realization that has changed some of my behavior over the past couple of weeks, but has also given me a method of understanding decisions and actions. Consider this a teaser….


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