Haughcross 2013

Today was Haughcross, a summer cyclocross race as part of the Aberdour Festival. For me, it was a chance to try racing again after a gap of nearly two years. For training, I mixed up regular laps of Arthurs Seat with longer fast-paced rides out to Cramond and finished with a little bit of sprint intervals. Having spectacularly hit the wall in my last race, I paid attention to what I was eating – lots of food + liquid in the last few days, plenty of carbs, finishing with a PBJ sandwich 3h before the race and some lucozade energy drink up until 1h to go.

The course was fast and flowing, laid out with tape on the large meadow next to the Silver Sands beach. Two sets of barriers, lots of hairpin turns, and a nice mix of faster turns (where you could go wide) and faster turns (where going wide was a bad idea) and one burn which you had to dismount and leap over.

As I’ve now learned several times, there’s a big difference between being “pretty fit” and being “race fit”. Straight from the start, it was clear I was going to be competing for perhaps the last 4 places. I was wary of starting out too fast, but got past a few riders on the first two laps. However, my heartrate was 167+ and I knew I had to dial things back to have a chance of completing an hour of racing. So I slowed a bit. My pace dropped off a lot towards the end of the race, but at least I avoided hitting the wall. Later in the race, I’d keep well out of the way of the leaders as they lapped me, but actually each of these micro-rests helped me last too.

I fared better in the muddier races I did in 2011. Today’s race was fast and flowing. I noticed that I made up time primarily going over the obstacles, and running uphill, but lost time everywhere else. I wonder if the 2011 races had more of the technical stuff that perhaps I’m better at. Today’s race seemed to be more about speed, acceleration and carrying momentum round corners.

I’m astonished by how fast the rest of the field is. In some ways, I don’t particularly mind dicing for 3rd last pace because I know that merely finishing the race pushes me harder than almost anything else I’ve tried before. I guess it’d be nice to have a crystal ball which told me how much of performance is about training, and how much is genetics. In other words, if I quit my job, trained every day, would I be winning these races? Or finishing half way down the field? Unfortunately, I know that Bradley Wiggins is about the same weight and height as I am, so that’s one excuse ruled out!