The Daily Grind: Final Workout Before Intelligentsia
This was the final prescribed workout team coach Jacob Fetty gave to us as part of our Intelligentsia Cup build phase. One final kick in the teeth as prep for 10 days of getting our teeth kicked in. The day before, we established the meeting spot, agreed on where each segment would be, and some of us packed an adequate amount of SiS gels (lesson learned). Luckily, we gained two more teammates when Corey and Erwin showed up immediately after racing in Prospect Park. The ride out to 9w from Grant's Tomb was more casual than normal. We all must have had a feeling for what was in store. Though we had said that there would be "no stops except for water," I was a bit relived to delay the first effort when one of us had to attempt a fast Di2 charge at Strictly.
But there was no stopping the inevitable. The first segment started just before the Cloister Dock traffic light and was set to end at the Palisaides on-ramp just after Kiku restaurant. Before I knew it, Matt Vandivort yells "we're on." Whoops, I'm currently sitting second wheel to Clay who lays down a solid threshold effort. As he pulls off, I realize how silly this all is. I am currently a cat 4 racer doing these race simulations with a bunch of very fast and skilled cat 2 and 3 guys. And I'm on the front, making those typical cat 4 racer mistakes. Before I know it, Matt does a massive (to me) attack which I am able to - barely - respond to. Thats where this segment ended for me. I continue to push my own pace to the "finish line" and pick up a few of the other guys who got dropped after me.
The second segment started much farther down the road on the way to the Bradley-Tweed climb. Those back neighborhoods actually make for some fantastic riding, despite the two sketchy merges onto a high traffic road. Between tons of attacking, two-man breaks, and chase groups catching back on, I come to believe we are approaching the end of the segment. I do one attack myself, knowing I can't contest a bunch sprint and find myself dangling off the front until I cross the second "finish line." As I sit up, Clay yells "keep going [you idiot]" but I had no juice left to squeeze. The rest of the guys finished the second effort somewhere up the road where yet I again I wasn't.
The third effort was just "do Bradley-Tweed climb." It's approximately a 10 minute effort and though it isn't necessarily good crit effort practice, the mental practice was hugely helpful for me. As soon as we started, multiple fast/skinny guys went off the front. Small groups formed. I had one goal: beat Clay. For the entire segment, his gap oscillated between 5 seconds on the climbing parts to 10 seconds on the flats. He might be a sprinter but he also has the watts and the brain game needed to beat me on this climb. As we both hit the final peak of the segment, I dug as deep as I could to get right on his wheel and as we started pointing downwards towards the finish line, I was able to muster just a bit more "oomph" to pass him. He might have stopped racing at the crest of the peak, but that didn't matter to me. I didn't give up on the third segment - progress.
We took a long slow ride back towards the city and planned on doing the fourth and final effort once we hit Kiku. The climbs out of Piermont were slow but still complete agony. I was dreading this final effort as I was thinking over the workout directions. "Technically, coach said to do 3 OR 4...so maybe I just do..." It was too late. I was in the middle of the group as Colin Keaveny took off. If I dropped out, the guys behind me would have to fill that gap I left open. The finish line was set to be the traffic lights just before CNBC hill descent, which seemed torturously far away from us.
I can't really describe what happened in this last effort, as I pushed myself harder than I probably ever had. Multiple times I tried to drop off of Erwin or Colin's wheels but Matt was glued to mine and would not let me stop. "Its the last effort" he'd yell if he'd notice I was slowing down. He even physically pushed me to get back on as we got nearer to the finish. Eventually I could not go anymore, though this workout forced me to realize that line is much farther than I thought.
"You can bite your own thumb off, but your brain stops you." This is a common refrain in the team slack when chatting about the mental battles we face in the middle of a hard race. Doing this workout, with this team, showed me that I can certainly get closer to the bone than I thought. Perhaps the best lesson to learn before a week of death in Chicago.