March 12, 2013

Barry Roubaix Recon Mission

Note from Joe: You can see Juho's account of this at his blog post on SlowVelo, here.

The Barry Roubaix race is in about two weeks. So, it made sense for a few of us to go out and ride the course in advance. See, last time we did a gravel race we all ended up lost. We thought that a pre-race social ride would help us get familiar with the course and it would be a good warm up since many of us (maybe just me?) hadn't ridden on dirt since October.

It took two hours to get to Hastings, then while we were getting saddled up a few people we met who were also going to ride the course said that people who had done it the day before said it was horrible. We were naively undeterred.

Is that mud frozen and good to ride on, or wet and slippery?
You'll find out as soon as you ride on it!
 Oh, and mind the ruts!
The course was a grab bag of ice, snow, deep ruts, and just about every type and thickness of mud there is. There were lots of hills, which alone is a good workout but when covered with ice or mud the consistency of peanut butter about four or more inches deep it was quite challenging. In some cases it was tough work even going down hill because the mud sapped so much momentum you actually had to pedal just to keep going (Downhill!). There were times where I had to dismount while going up a hill simply because I had lost momentum and it was impossible to get going again. There were other times toward the end of the ride when I had to dismount because the legs had simply depleted. On asphalt the amount of energy I was putting out (just to stay vertical) would have been considered close to race effort. And this was supposed to be an easy social ride! I was not prepared for this. If I had known what was coming I probably wouldn't have done it given all the leg workouts I had done the rest of the week. It was a rude awakening. However, I did learn a few things:

  • Despite how it feels while you are on the course, it is, in fact, of finite length.
  • My updated nutrition plan was far better compared to that of Lowell 50 (as in I had one). 
  • The hill queue card I put on my top tube was helpful (until we got lost and everything was off by a few miles).
  • I was pleased with my equipment selection. The course threw everything at us and my gear responded pretty well, even if I didn't.
  • Cell phone service is non-existent.
  • It will be impossible to predict the course conditions for race day. 
  • I'm developing something of a love/hate relationship with dirt road or "classic" road races.
  • New goal: Stay vertical.
According to wikipedia, we are "expert" riders because we are riding the 34 mile course - more evidence to never trust what wikipedia says.

I realized after the ride that I only took pictures when we stopped, which was always at the easiest sections (because we could restart without getting stuck)

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