Neversink Invitational Race Report

Here's my Garmin File

This past weekend, Laurel and I had the honor of participating in the Neversink Invitational in the Catskills. We don't usually do bike road races, but this one was hard to resist: 65 miles, 4 big climbs, all on our familiar training routes in the Catskills. The other draw: the Neversink Invitation is a David Trimble production…remember the Red Hook Crit? I had a feeling that even without rain and darkness, this day would be epic.

As triathletes, we're used to a hard, sustained effort from the gun. If the race is 56 miles long, we ride a pace that we know we can hold for all 56 miles. We rarely surge or sprint during the bike portion of our races because if we do, bad things will happen to our runs, or at least we'll put ourselves at a disadvantage to the other athletes who didn't "waste energy" during their rides. 

Bike racing is not like this. Bike racing is full of heart rate spikes, power bursts and also times when you aren't going hard (that's triathlete speak for anything that's not full gas!). A few days before this race, I negotiated myself out of a planned hard workout, telling my coach that I'd go hard enough in the race to replace the workout. I had it in my head I'd ride hard and aggressively or else I'd have to answer to my coach.

With that in mind, Laurel and I started the race by riding at an even tempo pace. We rode the first 13 miles (a false flat) at the front of the pack, rotating every few minutes. We'd stay at the front of the pack until our heart rates seemed like they were climbing too high, then we'd fall back into the second position. As the road started to pitch up towards the summit of the first climb, a few riders got antsy, but I told Laurel to just chill. I knew exactly where the top was because I'd knew every detail of the route from training rides. When I got a glimpse of the top, I went hard and snagged the first QOM. 

That would be my only QOM of the day though. At the top of the hill I made a tactical mistake of backing off the pace. Being so small and not the world's best descender, I can't afford to loose any speed going into a hill. Before I knew it the second and third riders were way off ahead of me. Laurel passed me right before the big 180 hairpin turn and then a 4th rider passed me and zoomed off. I was doing everything I could and trying my hardest not to touch the brakes, but my efforts left me about 90 seconds behind at the bottom of the hill. Meanwhile, Laurel worked super hard to catch the top girls, but didn't quite latch on to their pack. When we hit the Route 28 section of the race, there was a group of 3 riding fast and working together, then about 30 seconds to Laurel, then a minute to me. I was time trailing like mad. SJ said it was this spot where I had my worst pain face, even worse than my face at the top of the big Peekamoose climb. I wasn't too worried even though it was 1 vs. 3 because I knew that if I could keep the distance minimal to the base of the next climb, I'd be able to make up time on the climb and catch up. Plus, I figured Laurel would back off her pace and wait for me. Just before we reached Phonecia, she sat up and I caught her (thanks to super fan Lander who gave her some advice!). We worked together to keep the pace going, but Laurel was starting to feel tired. Her effort to catch the girls earlier and her Ironman legs were getting the best of her. We rode together until the turn off 28A towards the Peekamoose climb. Then it was back to being solo.  

The Peekamoose climb is gradual for about 5 miles and then pitches up to a ridiculously steep grade. The first time I did this climb, I got off my bike and walked. This time, when I crossed the spot where I walked, I looked up the road and saw one of the riders from the lead group. I had made up about 2 minutes on the climb. I looked back and saw that Laurel must have recovered because she was just behind me. 

Not wanting to repeat my earlier mistake, I crested the hill and went full steam down Peekamoose. When I got to the flat parts near the bottom, I downed 3 cliff shots, one after another. My race nutrition was not perfect and I knew it. I could feel that my lack of calories might hurt me for the final climb. So I consumed everything I had on me, hoping to avoid bonking in the final 10 miles. 

Because the road is so twisty, I wasn't able to see anyone in front of me, but I had a feeling they were right there. I finally saw the lead group about a minute after I turned on to Sugarloaf. I kept my steady pace and joined them quickly. They didn't know I was coming, but Cecelia (a super talented rider from Stan's No Tubes) took off once they saw me. We were right where the hill gets really steep. She flew up it. I didn't have much left to react. My legs barely were able to turn the pedals to get up the hill. This hill is brutally hard, especially after 56 miles of hard riding. I knew I was riding hard because my 56 miles split was faster than my 56 mile split in Norway last weekend. At that point, I started to focus on just getting to the top of the hill on my bike, and not racing for first. When we reached the top, we still had 5 miles and lots of climbing to go. I zoomed over the top and went flying by a right hand turn. It took me some time to realize my mistake and to backtrack to the course. I lost some time, but still was in second place when I got back on track. 

The final miles of the race were a steep climb up a gravel road. I had an escort for these final miles - Leezie, who had driven all over creation trying to find the race, finally found me deep in the woods riding solo and wasn't about to let me go! SJ was out there too, he drove the entire course with Amy (who spent the day cheering/screaming) and Maya. Jess, Lander and Cadence super-fanned too. This was a course where riders needed every encouraging word they could get. It truly was a suffer-fest. 

I reached the mountaintop finish line in 3 hours 26 minutes, in second place. And I'm already making plans for next year's race. Who's in?