Today was my 40th race of 2012, my 40th year. About half way through the year, when I was struggling to find a suitably epic event to commemorate my 40th birthday, I came up with the idea to stop looking for one impact event and to instead focus on doing 40 races. After all, 40 years is a longevity milestone, so it only made sense to focus on a lot of races rather than just one. I opted for the epic milestone one day event to be one without a number.
There is precedent for prolific racing. I routinely did 40+ races in the 1990’s. Many of those were bike races. It was easier to accumulate races in those days. It was before kids. It was before I met Debbie. It was before work really got busy. Still, I came close last year. I was at 36 in 2011. In 2010, I did 31, choosing quality over quantity. I did 38 in 2009. My peak year was 1993 when I did 63, all of them on bicycles.
Nowadays, there is much more diversity to my endurance pursuits. With 40 year to date (and 2 to 3 more still to go), I’ve mixed it up a bit:
My first race was Brian’s Beachside Boogie in Madison, Connecticut on the first day of April. I didn’t compete in the first quarter. My 40th race was today at the Baystate Cyclocross (Verge Series Race #6) in Sterling, Massachusetts. Not all races deserved a blog post, but many did.
I’ve raced in 8 of 11 months and will likely score a race in December to make it 9 out of 12. I’ve raced in spring, summer, and fall. I’ll get winter done before the year is out. I’ve only raced in one country and five states (CT, MA, NY, PA, VT), highlighting that my 2012 races have been of the local variety. The races finished in 24 unique towns. Some were point to point (e.g. S.O.S.), so more than one town was involved.
10 of the races were at Winding Trails in Farmington, Connecticut. They were all off-road triathlons. You are probably wondering what constitutes a race. The only rules I apply are that they are officially timed and publish results. Most, but not all, have race numbers.
Thankfully, I made it 40 races without a DNF. That’s a good stretch. Hopefully I just didn’t just jinx myself. At least I finished today! I take them one at a time. It takes a simple Excel spreadsheet to track the stats. The 40 races totaled 642 miles, with the longest being the Wilderness 101. That is a 16 mile/race average.
Why? I’m often asked that question. I really enjoy it. Some of these races were with Debbie. Many of them had kids races in conjunction with the adult races. My family watched some of them. Others involved travel with friends. Several were solo affairs. For me, simply going for a swim, ride, or run isn’t enough to clear my head. On a solo ride with little intensity, my mind will still think about work or other daily things. I’m thinking that my best race of the year was the Vermont 50. I was definitely on that day. Niantic Bay, Griskus, and Greylock were pretty good.
In most races, I’m focused on my swim stroke, my running form, or that next corner. You have to focus when you are pushing. I feel good about doing what I do. Some folks spend hours a week on the golf course. That wouldn’t do it for me.
So, what about the 40th? It just happened to be that the Baystate Cyclocross was the milestone race of 2012. 39 was this past Thursday at the Manchester Road Race. Oh, I don’t race every week of the year. Year to date, I’m at 26 weeks with a race, which means that some weeks, there are two, three, or four. After today, I’ve done four in a nine-day stretch.
This is the biggest cross campaign that I’ve done in years. I don’t have the speed that I need, but I’ve been having a blast. Today’s race was another fast affair against the best 35+ riders on the east coast. I was 37th out of 50 or so riders, which means that cross isn’t my strongest discipline. At the Verge races where the fields are stacked, I’m lucky to crack the top 40 and I’m closer to the back than the front, but it’s still fun.
My lack of cross results meant that I started today’s race in the last row (thanks to my poor ranking), which is a serious disadvantage when the race starts with a full on sprint into a hairpin turn. The holeshot is more important in cross than in any other sport I do. I don’t expect to get it, but I also don’t expect to be last going through the first corner. Oh well!
I got better as today’s race went on and was able to pick up the pace (I was going slower but felt faster!) a bit at the end. My heart rate numbers seem low, but my HR monitor may have been off because my heart was pounding at times. It was frigid with the temperature hovering around the freezing mark. The wind was whipping, so it felt a lot colder in the breeze. I wore shorts, but my legs were coated in embrocation, which meant they were burning up. I wish I could say the same for my feet. They were ice blocks. The course was hard packed and dry.
I avoided calamity about half way into the race when longtime friend, Eric Fleming, crashed in front of me on a washboard descent. His front wheel washed out in the turn, sending him sprawling, but I was able to ride to his inside and dodge him, preserving my chance for a 40th finish. It was still good to see Eric (though not on the ground) and many other friends from the New England bike racing community. Today, I went to the race with Art Roti. Debbie and the kids were warm and inside at the Bushnell, where they saw the musical The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. See, that is the other thing about these races. In addition to being serious sport, physically challenging, and intense, they are awesome social networks.
I doubt I’ll hit 40 in 2013. I’m already laying out my goals and I actually want to race less and perform at a higher level in certain key events, much like I did in 2010. I’m planning a return to the Ironman distance and that means an emphasis on training rather than racing. My 2012 events have been haphazard, but that was the plan, or lack of a plan. One thing is for sure, I want to improve my cross results next year. Oh, and I have to beat my MRR time.
As for this year, I hadn’t thought about doing 40 until I thought about turning 40. That messed with my head a bit, so I’m glad that I achieved a milestone goal in a milestone year.