Okay, so technically these are crit races, but it still feels like a short track race on steroids. That's what I've jokingly called the Ascent Cycling Series in the past. A 2.5 mile lap, repeated for an hour, then the sprint to the line. All out from the gun until the finish. So much different then the cross country races of two to two and a half hours where its a hard start, then settle into a strong tempo for the rest of the race. There's no strong tempo at the Ascent Cycling Series - just an hour of pain. And that's also very different then the marathon distance races I've been focusing on this year. No steady, mental games of pacing and fueling. No controlled efforts meant to last for four or more hours. In the red for as long as I can handle - that's the Ascent Cycling Series.
And that's the beauty of the races. Different styles of racing require different kinds of training sure, but racing in general requires one thing - the ability to go fast. All out for 60 minutes hasn't even been my strong suite - it's really hard to make myself hurt like that. It's also not what I like doing, hitting red line and holding until I pop, tasting that hint of metal in my mouth that going hard produces. I never even liked racing short track! I was starting to feel warmed up on the last lap of the cross country events. I like the long, moderate tempo, go out and ride for a few hours. After three ultra distance races this year, it also seems to be something that I can do well at.
So what's the appeal for me in the Ascent Cycling Series? Because it's hard. Because it's not what I'm good at. It's something that I really need to work on, especially considering that I don't like that style of racing all that much. But it's also going to make me faster. The all out, hard paced hour of pain will actually improve my marathon racing in several ways. One, I'll get faster from riding faster. Two, I'll be able to sustain a harder effort level for long because of the work done in the shorter races. It will also teach me to push beyond my comfort level, whether at lap four of five on Wednesday or hour 7 in the Breck 100. Breaking that steady state effort is a challenge. Riding for one hour all out will increase my ability to suffer in the longer distance. And I can think of no better place to get that hour of pain in then at a fun, local race. I'm like most riders - it's hard to push myself alone. But in a race, chasing after riding partners and hoping not to get caught myself? Then I can push the pace and find that extra gear. Something about a number plate on my bike that makes me want to just ride hard and make everyone - myself included - suffer for as long as I can. It might not be high stakes racing with huge checks involved at the finish line, but that doesn't matter. I still want to do well and I think everyone who races wants to do well. Otherwise, we wouldn't be racing1 We'd be out riding our bikes in the mountains where no one but the bears are there to chase you!