Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The McCormack Chronicles, Part One (and 1a)

So, after last month's abortive race-season kick-off (ended with a destroyed Zipp 404, some high-hip road rash, and some badass-looking (to my eyes, anyway) tears in my skinsuit and bibs), I didn't race for about four weeks. That all came to an end this past weekend, at one of the oldest road races in the Northeast, the Michael Schott Memorial Circuit Race, in Marblehead, MA (insert joke about broad Boston accent here). Keeping to my vow about no more 3/4 races, I signed up for the P/1/2/3 race (actually, that was my only option; like any good old school race, the men had three options: beginner (4/5), Masters 35+, and P/1/2/3). One of the chief draws of racing 1/2/3 in New England is that you get to ride with a lot of the big names, the real names: Jamey Driscoll, Tim Johnson (now and then), and the old-school Team Saturn guys, the McCormack brothers. At the Witches' Cup last year in Salem (which Mark McCormack won), there were no less than seven national champions in the field, most of them multiple winners. Yeah, California is warm and dry (until climate change changes all that), but if you want some hard-man studded races, come to the Northeast and jump in any of the big 1/2/3 races on any given weekend.

The race felt actually manageable, with a few attacks going off the front and getting reeled in quickly. I felt pretty nervy (first real race of the season), so I mostly sat in and tried to stay up near the front. Staying up at the front of a race is one of those things you know you should always do, but also usually manage to let slide. It's easy to say: I'll just go up to the front in the last five laps, forgetting that everybody else has the same idea. The dynamics of a bike race are bizarre, and I think there's probably some doctoral work to be done in analyzing how they work. Where else do you find a large group of people, mostly trying to avoid effort, and still cruising along at 26 MPH, average?

With two laps to go, I found myself towards the front, and 3 riders were about 100 yards up the road. I remembered Scott Wade's steady advice (Don't try to bridge yourself, but go with the guy that does), and sure enough, someone tried to jump and I went with him. Soon we were up in the break, and two others came across to help. It felt like a real move: seven people, all willing to work, most of the teams with representation. Fiordafrutta had two guys in the break, so I figured the other redshirts back in the pack would be blocking. Still, attacks have a hard time getting away as the pace picks up towards a race's close, and we were hauled back in a lap later.

With half a lap to go, I got a great view of the McCormack Brothers storming to the front of the pack. Gee, I thought. I wish I could do that. When I got to the little rise about 300 M from the finish, I was back in 30th or so, so I sat up. No sense in getting wiped out in a sprint for 27th place or so. Mark came in 4th, despite his brother's huge effort to put him on the front. A Fiordafrutta rider won it all, edging out a local CCB boy.

McCormacks 1--Chris 0

The McCormack Chronicles, part two, was slated to take place later that afternoon, at the New England Multisport Expo. I had been approached by Mark Walter, who organized the event, about taking part in a local professionals Computrainer TT (put on by Incline Training). Mark McCormack was supposed to show up, making this the second time that day I'd be competing against him. I was excited about this, because I felt that the load from the earlier race would put us on even footing, and I wanted to see how my numbers stacked up against Mark's (bike handling and race savvy, I can't even get close to him). Sadly, Mark had done two races that morning, and even he knows when to call it quits. Other dropouts were Joanna Zeiger (tired from running clinics all day, I don't blame her), and the always friendly Karen Smyers (sick). Janda, my teammate from the Craft Triathlon Team, was there, and that helped me turn the cranks over.

Time-trialling is kind of my cup of tea, but I was pleased by these results. I cranked out an average of 405 watts on the CT (McCormack's numbers are in the 407-412 range) and covered the 10k "course" in 14:15, which is pretty good. It's good to know that my bike numbers are there, and even after not doing very much bike specific work. It's getting that swim and run to come around that's going to take some doing. Oh yeah, and my sprinting.

Stay tuned for the McCormack Chronicles, part three, when I race against that other McCormack, the one whose first name is Chris, in the middle of May at the Columbia Triathlon. Maybe he'll bring his laurel wreath from Kona.