Thursday, July 5, 2012

Saratoga Dreamin'


This Saturday will bring my first venture into the saddle sore-filled world of ultracycling racing.  A friend and I will be competing in the "Hudson River Ramble," a 12-hour cycling time trial hosted as part of the Saratoga 12/24 weekend.  Other options include a 24-hour version of the race, and a 12-hour version that encompasses the nighttime portion of the 24-hour race.  The Hudson River Ramble begins at 8:00 a.m., and ends at 8:00 pm.

Conceptually, the race is the road equivalent of the 12 Hours of Cranky Monkey MTB Race in which I competed nearly two weeks ago.  The course is a 32-mile loop, and one rides as far as one can in the allotted time.  On the upside, it's not nearly as hilly as Cranky Monkey: about 20-25 feet of climbing per mile, as opposed to the simply ridiculous 160 ft/mi that Cranky posed.  Apparently there are a couple of good kickers in the range of 10-12% grade, but overall it sounds quite reasonable.  Of course, that presents its own challenges: being in the aerobars for the majority of twelve hours is extremely tough, and the course won't present much opportunity to shift weight around.

It's hard to predict how far I'll be able to go in 12 hours.  Winners in past years seem to have covered 215-250 miles, and I'm aspiring to be somewhere in that range.  Nutrition will be key, and here the plan is to do what's worked well for me in the ultra rides I've done so far this year: Drink mostly water, with the occasional Coke as the day progresses, and alternate eating bars and gels to taste.  If all goes to plan, I should be somewhere in the 400 calories/hr range.

One thing I've learned is that rides and races of this length are primarily mental.  At the beginning, excitement and novelty propels one forward, and sight of the finish line is a terrific motivator in the last hour or two.  The critical hours will be those from 4-10, which will correspond to the period from noon through 6:00 p.m.  In that time, one's beginning to get fatigued and things are no longer terribly interesting, but nonetheless one must continue to stay focused, execute on the nutritional front, and make good time.

In terms of equipment, I'm going straight-up race, complete with 808s and aero helmet.  Every little bit helps.

After Cranky Monkey and the Saratoga 12/24, who'll be afraid of a little Tremblant?  But "after" seems a long way away from where I'm sitting, with miles to go before I weep.