It doesn't get easier. You just go faster.
Perhaps not a lot faster, in my case, but faster nevertheless! After missing by 4 positions (12 seconds) last year, I set myself the goal of riding into Wave 1, by placing in the top 400 overall. For the purposes of P2A, I am not classified as a Clydesdale, but am no whippet, so I figured that on my best day, the stars would need to align just so for me to make it. (No spoilers here)
I have started and completed Paris to Ancaster 9 times now, and have done so with the benefit of, shall we say, varying levels of preparation. For the most part, in years past, my training for Paris to Ancaster has primarily depended upon whether our March Break destination that year permitted a few hard rides in the sun or not.
As always, being blessed with a family that understands and accommodates your need to get out for long rides, is critical. I am fortunate and grateful that my wife, Andrea and our kids support me this way.
It helps to have a two-time winner in your corner. I am grateful to Mandy Dreyer, both for working with my schedule as a professional with a young family to come up with a realistic but quad-burning training regimen, and for giving me the confidence to believe in the work that I was able to put in. Life happens, and things come up, so there were a few diplomatic email nudges ("what, no long ride this weekend?!?") from Mandy in my in-box over the past three months. That said, I was far better prepared for P2A than I had ever been before. There were, on a couple of occasions, moments during this year's race when I found myself audibly muttering "trust your training", and the knowledge that that by my standards, I had a lot of structured kilometres under my belt this year helped me push through the tougher spots, when it would have been easier to sit up and curse how I had chosen to spend a spring Sunday morning.
For me, the immersive level of preparation isn't the same, but mentally, training for Paris to Ancaster has similarities to when I was training for a Boston Marathon qualifier. Going into both races, your preparation is physically and emotionally comforting, but remembering the early morning hours that you've put in while being pelted with rain (or snow!), can cause some anxiety that your raceday performance reflect the work you've done. And, as we all know, chance, perhaps in the form of a broken derailleur hanger, or worse, has a role on the day.
Due to dry, favourable conditions (and, no doubt, an ever-more competitive field) this year, the top 400 cutoff turned out to be significantly faster than it had been in years past. That said, having a discrete goal meant that I had a good idea of what kind of time I needed to post to succeed, which allowed me to be strategic in how the race played out. After finishing, I realized that among the benefits of the work that I'd put in was that it gave me the luxury of feeling like I truly "raced" P2A this year, rather than to simply try to get from point A to point B by pedaling as fast as I thought I could without blowing up. Working in pacelines, making on-the-spot decisions about when to forge ahead solo to bridge to that group over the next hill, knowing that the short-term pain would pay dividends, and even a chaotic attempt at an echelon at one point were all factors that came into play to make this year's race a strategic one, rather than just a physical and mental test.
Strava tells me that, amongst others, I set PRs getting up the first rocky climb from the river to Highway 24, and down the Powerline Mudslide. What Strava may not know is that in each of those cases, I shouldered the bike without a moment's hesitation and ran. It turns out that carrying a bike weighs you down less than the ego that tells you to ride everything you possibly can!
Climbing Martin Road to the finish is the exception. Surrounded by cowbells and cheers, you'll want to stay on your bike if at all possible. Whether you've experienced P2A or not, a preride of this hill is critical, but do it at the end of a long ride. It is a different beast after 70km of racing than it appears otherwise...
Rob McEwan nailed it in an earlier blog post...due to staggered wave start times, Paris to Ancaster means that you are racing people you will never see, so it's a near time-trial mentality that you have to employ if you are trying to race into Wave 1, or (perish the thought!), the Elite Wave. That said, each person who passes you from the bottom of the Powerline Mudslide, to Gravel Pit Road, to Mineral Springs Road and up Martin Road could be the one who keeps you from your goal! So, look ahead, find your line, power up that hill and knowing the finish is only 100 yards from the crest, summon one last sprint to finish the day strongly.
Remember P2A as summer turns to fall, and fall inevitably turns to winter. Whether you want to consult with a coach, or just know that you have friends who will be waiting for you at your group ride meeting spot when it's all too easy to hit snooze and go back to sleep, for many people accountability to yourself or others is key to achieving goals, whether on the bike or otherwise.
Make no mistake, Paris to Ancaster is a test; that is why we do it. For a lot of us, it is the only proper bike race that we compete in all year. So, why not use it to motivate you to get riding outside that little bit earlier next spring? You might just surprise yourself at what you can accomplish!
If you want to get faster riding your bike? Ride your bike!
Have a great, safe season, see you on the road or the trail, but certainly in Paris on Sunday, April __, 2017!
P.S. I made it, with a few minutes to spare. :-)
How to prepare for P2A (from a mid-pack rider) by Steve Shikaze
This is my second year as a P2A ambassador and I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to spread the word and share my experience in the event. In previous blog entries by other ambassadors this year, you can read about Rob MacEwan’s push to get into the top 100 at P2A with focused training, Meg Siegel’s non-panic approach, or Alex Flint’s conversion from an ultra-distance runner to cyclist. In this blog entry, I’ll tell you about the different ways I have prepared for P2A as a mid-pack rider, having entered the event each year since 2002.
As an active member of the Waterloo Cycling Club since 2003, I have got to know all levels of cyclists, from elite racers who spend most of the year with specific training plans, to beginners who want to enter for the sense of accomplishment that comes with these types of events, and all levels in between. I fall somewhere in the middle of this spectrum. Some years, I did zero training over the winter and P2A was my very first time on the bike in months. Other times, I’ve been able to do a fair bit of outdoor winter riding to maintain some level of fitness, and other years, I spent countless hours in spin classes and in my basement on my stationary bike in an effort to start the spring in better shape. Regardless of the number of hours I’ve prepared, P2A is challenging.
To help those who need a little advice, I’ve come up with a few guidelines for P2A:
a. Ride: Indoors or outdoors. CX bike, MTB bike, road bike, fat bike. Any bike! Get miles into those legs.
b. Core: Doing some core strengthening won’t hurt, particularly with the occasional hike-a-bike sections of the route.
c. Fuel: Eat right!
2. Bike preparation:
a. 2016 will be my second year riding a Cyclocross bike for P2A. In previous years, I’ve been on a mountain bike – sometimes a full suspension bike with 2.0” knobby tires, sometimes on a hard-tail bike with narrower tires. The cx bike is ideal.
b. Tire pressure: This is a debate I have with my fellow club members regularly. Some ride lower pressure to get better grip in the slippery sections. I prefer harder pressure for the road sections, somewhere around 50-60 psi. The higher pressure also means less likelihood of pinch flats.
c. Drive train: I clean and lube the chain before every event, and I make sure the derailleurs are shifting smoothly.
d. Bike inspection: I check brake pads, rims, cables, pedals, cleats for wear and tear and make sure everything else is doing what it’s supposed to do.
e. During the race, I carry a mini pump plus a mini pack under my seat with a spare tube, multitool, tire levers, chain quick-links.
3. The course:
a. The start: As usual, I’ll be starting in Wave 2 this year. Each wave tends to have an energetic start as riders jockey for position before the first rail-trail section. Along the rail trail, riders can be aggressive as they try to pass in spots that are narrow. I find my pace and settle in to a rhythm here, allowing riders to pass if they want, and passing others when there’s an opening to pass safely.
b. Dismounting: Regardless of how warm and dry the weather has been in the days and weeks leading up to the event, expect some hike-a-bike sections. Some sections you may be able to ride, but rider traffic ahead of you may dictate that you’ll have to dismount.
c. Open roads (paved and hard-packed dirt): If possible, get into a group of riders to get some protection from the wind. You’ll be able to ride faster and use less energy to go faster.
d. The mud chutes: I’ve ridden these, but for the most part, I carry or walk my bike down these chutes. It’s slower, but the bike accumulates less mud and I’m ready to ride when I get to the bottom (as opposed to pulling handfuls of mud from the wheels).
e. The climb: If you haven’t experienced the final Martins Road climb at the end of the race, you’re in for a treat. It’s not long, but it’s steep and has enough turns in it that you are never quite sure how much further you have to go to the top. I use my easiest gear and spin up at a speed that isn’t much faster than those who are walking the hill. At the end of a 70km ride, this hill is always painful for me. But the energy of the crowd gets me to the top.
a. I eat a good breakfast of granola, a banana and juice and then I’ll have a Clif Bar in the hour before the race.
b. On the bike, I’ll carry a Clif Bar, and a flask with about 3 gels in it (mixed with water). I’ll also carry 2 water bottles with electrolyte drinks (that may require re-filling at the half-way point).
Lastly, have fun! With the exception of the top riders that are competing for placings in age groups or overall, most of us are there to challenge ourselves and enjoy the event. I ride hard and push myself, but I’m satisfied with completing the event (and making it up the big hill each year). 2016: Year 15 of P2A and counting!
THE VIEW FROM THE BACK by Mike Badyk
You don’t want to see me while you are racing the Paris-Ancaster. The reason is that I ride sweep.
Yep. If you see me then you are DFL. You’ll know its me by the plate marked “Sweep”. As the sweep, no one gets behind me. Ever. We (there are usually 2-5 of us) start about 20 minutes after the last racer departs. If you see us then you’re having a bad day. That could be mechanically or physically. I’d like to pass on some advice on how not to see me.
First, you will see me on race day. Don’t worry though. I say “GO” for the 70K at Paris. I do a whole bunch of other things behind the scenes too. I really hope that’s the only time you do see me.
Start the day right. If your start is at 10:15 don’t stage at 9:30. You are just going to get stiff legs and you will end up struggling. Stage about 15 minutes before your start. Don’t struggle to be in the front at the line. The race is 70km long. It all sorts out.
After tending to the start we head over to the sag wagon, collect our bikes and all our spare parts/food/gear, change into riding clothes and get under way. It’s a long day even before we get on the bike.
Crazy thing is that sometimes we can’t even leave because we are dealing with people who started and then had a mechanical in the first couple of kilometres and worked there way back to us. We try to get them fixed. I wish we could get everyone back on the course but we can’t. Bad luck, but it does happen. It is part of racing.
So as you can see one of the other jobs of the sweep is to offer mechanical assistance, and first aid if required. We pack all sorts of stuff with us. We usually run into folks in trouble going up the first gravel hill from the Grand River Rail Trail heading towards McLean School Road. The usual problems are broken chains and busted derailleur hangers.
On the rail trail north of Hwy 5 - a definite problem
Carry a chain tool and a spare derailleur hanger. You’re under full power and then try a shift to a lower gear to get up the gravelly climb. Then boom. The drivetrain fails. This is for both mountain and cross bikes. A chain tool will remove the broken section. I always carry along KMC MissingLinks, which will rejoin the chain without tools.
Get a derailleur hanger specific to your bike. Carry it with you. They cost between $20 and $40 on average. The idea is that when there is a drivetrain problem (broken chain, stick in the derailleur) the hanger will break not your $200 derailleur. It is about a 5-minute job to replace the hanger, if you’ve got one. There are dozens of them available. We can’t possibly carry them. I remember the race crew from Norco at Harrisburg struggling heroically to custom-make hangers to fit 2 rider’s bikes. They only got one of them going by the 1pm cutoff.
Please raise your saddle to the correct height. Rephrase – Put yer goddam seat up! I don’t know how many times we have come upon racers with their seat so low that their legs are always bent. You aren’t using your leg muscles effectively. At the bottom of the pedal stroke your knee should be only slightly bent. One of the common excuses is that the rider wants to be able to easily reach the ground with their feet (translation: fear of falling). Remember that the P2A isn’t that rough. Proper leg extension is more important. Without going through a formal bike fit, the easy way is to borrow a friend. You need to be on the bike but able to lean against something so that you can stay upright. Put one pedal down to the bottom. Put your heel on the pedal. Have your friend stand behind you and observe what happens when you lock your knee with the heel on the pedal. If you lift off the seat, then the seat is too low. If you have to lean a bit to get your heel on the pedal (your pelvis will tilt to that side) then the seat is too high. Adjust accordingly. Ride with the seat at the right height a bunch of times before the race. Simple, but it helps a lot.
Shift gears. Shift often. There is a reason why you have a bunch of gears. Use them. Fine tune to the trail surface, up or down hills and even the wind. Shift gears to something a little harder and stand up to climb a hill. It helps to stretch the back.
We tend to catch up to riders in the mud either near Hwy 24 or on the muddy rail trail leading to Hwy 5. Some racers seem to be rolling along fine on the gravel. Hit the mud and they slow to a crawl. Go and find some soft ground to train on. It is a different skill that takes practice. Find something soft enough to suck the energy out of you without tearing up the ground and creating an environmental mess.
The rail trail past Jerseyville is where we like to make up time. Then we come up to the back of the pack. The racers are going 10kph. I remember being so discouraged by how slow they were going that we sweepers stopped and had a little picnic to let them get ahead. Other times we were so frustrated by the slow pace that we considered clubbing them and hiding their body and bike in the woods. We would of course never do that but we look forward to the end of it all too.
The slowies often have extra crap with them. Make your bike lighter. No locks, no lights, no carriers, and no panniers. Extra weight is your enemy. Get rid of it. The baggage ain’t doing you any favours. You don’t need a 4L hydration pack either. There is lots of water on the course.
You are 4 weeks out from the race. If you want to make your bike faster go for lighter tires and tubes. The winners are on cross bikes with skinny tires. They don’t have a lot of tread. You don’t need that either. On the 70K there is much more gravel than mud. I ride with tires that roll fast. They have Kevlar beads to save weight. I use lightweight butyl tubes too. It is the right trade-off to make.
Don’t work on your bike the day before the race. My bike is ready now. I made some changes to it and now I’m just tweaking. The wet ride last weekend produced the need for new brake pads. I had extra pads at home so I’ve made the fixes already.
How about you? Don’t get into a tuneup at 5pm on the day before the race and then try to get to the local bike shop. It is too late. You need to think weeks out. That gives your local shop time to fix things for you if you can’t do it yourself. New chain? Guess what? You’re probably going to have to replace your cassette and maybe your chain rings to prevent the drivetrain from skipping. Not the sort of thing you want to get into the day before the race. We have tried to fix these things minutes before the start. We just can’t promise. Do clean your bike and lube the chain. A clean bike on race day always makes me feel better.
Race with the familiar. Race day is not the time to use new shoes, shorts, saddles or the like. You need to be used to what you are riding. You don’t want to be worrying about comfort. Worry about racing. On the other hand a new jersey always makes me feel sexy.
Dress warm enough. Every year we see people under dressed. The weather can change - and it has. Last year we started in bright sun. By the time we got to the most northern part of the course it was cloudy and there was a cold wind. Some were complaining about cold and sore knees. They weren’t wearing tights or leg warmers. We were. My rule is that if it is below 12C then my knees are covered. I prefer knickers. Wear layers on your torso. Adjust accordingly. I don’t remember anybody doing the Paris-Ancaster and suffering from the heat. Plenty though have become really cold. We always carry foil emergency blankets. We have given out many.
P2A 2012 - wet, cold & muddy. You need to dress for it!
Eat. Eat often. You need it. I use Clif Shot Bloks. I eat one or two every 30 minutes whether I’m hungry or not. I eat something a little bigger, maybe a Clif Bar, at Harrisburg. We carry Clif Shot Bloks and a variety of gels with us. We always pass out a lot of them to the racers at the back. For some folks we see the P2A is the toughest event they will do all year. You burn a lot of calories and you need to eat and drink.
There are cutoff times at a couple of places after the 1pm at Harrisburg. There are buses to get you back if you miss the cutoff. We always collect a few people in the Powerline Mudslide. If you are at the back of the race then the Mudslide is churned up to peanut butter. We never ride it. We want to keep our bikes out of the mud. We shoulder our bike and hoof it through. It keeps your bike lighter and doesn’t mess up the brakes and drivetrain. You should try to do the same.
Martin’s Road – the legendary final climb. We have seen just about everything going badly. Don’t worry. We will get you to the top. We have pushed many a bike. You need to repay us by riding that last 50m through the finish. Okay?
Riding sweep is not glorious but it has to be done. Besides nursing people along we are also the official signal to all of the volunteer marshals and police that it is the end of the race. We typically reach the finish at about 4pm. The awards are over. Most folks have gone home and we are just arriving. Looking back at it though, and I can’t remember how many years I’ve done sweep, I wouldn’t miss it for anything.
If you want to join us as a sweeper or if you have questions about how to set up your bike for the race, please email me, Mike, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay out of the sag wagon! The vast majority DO finish the P2A!
CHOOSE YOUR RIDE WISELY by Michelle Clarke
I've participated in the Paris to Ancaster race exactly 3 times in my life. The first time was a total newbie on a mountain bike doing the 70km course. The second time, less of a newbie on the 70km course and the third time last year on the 40km course. What I rode all three times was completely different, so how to ride this course, I can say I know a few things.
The Mountain Bike:
Depending on the distance you plan on doing, the ride will make all the difference. For the 20km or 40km it's safe to say any mountain bike will get you to the finish line. The course is not at all technical with much of it on road to get started. The 40km and the 70km take you through the mud shoot which is what a mountain bike is made for. There's generally a bit a bottle neck at this point, so speed won't be an issue. I see a lot of fat bikes in the 40km distance and although I'm a big fan of the fat bike sport, it's a bit overkill for this race. However, fun is always the most important thing, and if a fat bike is going put a smile on your face, then go with it.
The Cyclocross Bike:
If you are planning on riding the 70km, I highly recommend you do this with comfort in mind. 70km on fat, knobby tires can make for a sluggish day. Last year I rode a cyclocross bike and it's really the best way to do this race. The bike is designed for this very race. Road, trail, grass and gravel; a cyclocross bike will eat this course for breakfast. It's much more comfortable over the long stretches of road you'll get along the way and when you hit the mud shoot, it's easy. Sling the bike over your shoulder and just run through it. Don't fear the mud, the race offers a charity bike wash (with donations) or a free station to hose yourself and your bike down. Oh yeah, bring extra shoes and socks, something I always forget to do!
The Mountain Bike Hack:
Say you don't have the money for a cyclocross bike, but you do own a mountain bike, now what? You can do some small tweaks to make this ride just a fun. If you have any suspension system, my advice is to lock it off. You won't need suspension on this ride. Swap out your tires for slicks and you'll have a much better rip along the road sections. If you get caught in a bottle neck and want to get around thing about the people around your first. Mountain bikes are heavy and cumbersome so rather than trying to pick it up and maybe accidentally hitting someone, simply lift the front tire up, while holding the handle bars and walk the bike in front of you, rolling it on the back tire.
Things to pack:
The race offers technical support along the way and there are plenty of aid stations to fill up your water bottles. I like to be a bit extra prepared and pack at least one flat kit, a couple of gels, an energy bar and two water bottles. I've rode with a hydration pack in years past, but after the first time on the course, I realized it's not necessary and two water bottles will do the trick, especially if you take advantage of the aid stations. The aid stations have lots of fruit and bars, so an emergency supply is all I pack for race day.
If you don't already know how, you should take a few tries at changing a flat tire. It's not difficult, but can be tricky on your first go. I remember my first time, I blew through three inner tubes before I realized I was pinching the tube. If you ride tubeless, definitely have a plan, this is even a little more tricky to change.
If you haven't already registered but want to CLICK!
Whether you are a die hard cyclist or a weekend warrior this is the best cycling event you will do this year. It's loads of fun and perfect for a family day out. Bring dry warm clothes for the post race fun and don't forget to pack your helmet!
TRAINING AND TRAINING by Alex Flint
I’ve been an endurance athlete for a few years. I started running a while back, and eventually found ultra-marathons, and I’ve been training for and running 50km, 80km and 100km races since around 2013, and then I realized doing it on a bike would be a lot faster!
Over the past few months I’ve tried to turn myself from a ultra-marathoner to at least a good enough cyclist to survive on April 24th. Hitting the trails almost every weekend, and learning to ride with clipless (which actually means “with clips”, for some reason) has been a painful and wonderful experience. Here are some of the things I’ve learned.
1. Padded pants\shorts are a must.
My first few “long” rides were sans-padding, and I was confident that this cycling thing wasn’t for me. Maybe I should try horseback riding instead? Runners already know how unpleasant chaffing is. Now add some bruising to that, and you’ve got it. Get yourself some padded shorts.
2. Clipless (clipful!) pedals help, but be prepared to fall.
I’ve only gone down hard once so far. And I’m not afraid of jinxing myself, because I already knocked on wood, with my knee, elbow and head when I fell. There was a log pile in the trail, and my crank grabbed it. I learned all about physics that day. I guess the point of the anecdote is that clipless pedals are great for control, and powering up hills, but practice unclipping, and expect to fall.
3. Winter biking was invented by penguins.
Your hands and feet will never be colder than riding in February. I’m pretty sure ancient humans discovered fire out of desperation, after going for a ride during the ice age. Runners whine about their ice baths, but a winter cyclist could use one to warm up. And this winter was an easy one, too! But get some warm gear, and buy lots of those glove and boot warming packs, and you’ll survive.
4. I wouldn’t trade any of it, even for all the Oreos in the world.
I was sore, cold and embarrassed more than a few times this winter. But I wouldn’t change any of it. Cyclists are some of the best people out there, and the friends I’ve made while riding are incredible. The feeling of shredding down a flowing single track can’t be beat. Cycling has all the same joys as running, plus the speed and ability to cross huge distances is amazing. I’d encourage every runner reading this to give it a try. You can borrow my padded shorts if you want.
The past few months as a P2A ambassador have been awesome, and I can’t wait for race day. See you there!
HOW TO NOT PANIC IF YOU HAVEN’T BEEN TRAINING by Megan Siegel
If you’re anything like me, you’ve had the best intentions of training all winter but you ended up doing more fun training than tough training. I’ve been spending lots of time at the climbing gym and doing Pilates at home. Lots of my co-Lantern Rouge team members have been riding through the winter, but I have not. Whoops!
Now that they’re starting to do some group rides, I’m a little hesitant to join in for fear of being ultra ultra extra super slow. But if there’s ever a good time to start riding with my pals, it’s now.
1. LOTS OF PEOPLE ARE SLOW RIGHT NOW
Sure, some people have been training hard all winter. Others have not. I’m in the second camp, but I’m sure I’m not alone. I’m going to head out on my first group ride this weekend so I don’t fall too far behind with the people who also haven’t trained much this winter.
2. IT’S NOT LIKE I’VE BEEN DOING NOTHING
While climbing and Pilates aren’t cycling, it’s not like I’ve been doing absolutely nothing at all. Last year at this time I hadn’t done any winter training, so I am leaps and bounds ahead of where I was last year. That’s got to count for something! (Right?)
3. FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT
Do the opposite of what I’m doing right now and just be confident. Show up. Ride your face off. Don’t complain. Suck it up, buttercup.
4. IT’S JUST FOR FUN
This is the most important thing to remember. First and foremost, this is supposed to be fun. If you’re stressing too much about it, then you’re doing it wrong! Take a few deep breaths and maybe a chill pill or two and r-e-l-a-x. My main goal is to improve my time from last year, so as long as I’m confident that will happen, I’ll be happy.
5. YOU’VE STILL GOT TIME
Paris to Ancaster is less than two months away, but you can accomplish a lot in that amount of time. So get started. I know I’m going to!
At the time I’m writing this, we’re 47 days out from P2A and I can’t wait. Last year’s P2A was my first race ever and I did it with very little experience, very few bike friends and still had the best time ever. Now I have friends with trumpets and flashy kits (hi Lantern Rouge!) and it’s going to be such a bike party. Things are looking up for #P2A2016 no matter what happens.
Race Sense by Rob MacEwen
Aiming for 100 - Racing P2A - Feb. 18/16
Just to introduce myself, I’m not a very good bike racer. I’m a mid-pack masters 3 cyclocross racer. Which is to say, mid pack of the old slow guys who still train. I got back into cycling about 8ish years ago and have done P2A a few times now. It’s hands down my favorite race, and, for some reason I tend to over-perform and do quite well. This article is targeted at a someone who’s maybe done P2A in the past but wants to move up from Wave 2 or 1 and sneak into the Elite wave next year.
If you want to aim for the top 100 here’s a few things I’ve learned over the last several years that I think may inspire you and help you out.
Based on my experience, and some guessing. You’ll want to be riding the trainer very solidly in the three months prior to P2A. 6-10 hours a week I’d say is a minimum. Taking time off the bike in February or March isn’t going to help.
You’ll need to be aiming for a 2.5 hour race. If you only ever do 1 hour on the trainer every day, that’s not going to cut it.
P2A is a race of hard efforts, followed by slightly less intense recovery on the road and rail trail. You’ll want to do lots of over/under threshold intervals. I’ve used “The Time Crunched Cyclist” training plan to good effect a few times, but you’ll want to be following a training plan, and not just doing a bunch of long winter fatbike rides to post on instagram.
During my best P2A I spent 1 hour and 30 minutes at an average HR just above what I consider my normal threshold. I spent 6 minutes at an average that I consider to be “Full gas.” (During the final sections and climb) In total I spent 21 minutes in zone 5 HR.
Remember, many of the people around you probably aren’t on their best fitness yet. If you get to the starting line on TOP form, you might surprise yourself.
Don’t be training hard in the week leading up to P2A. You’re now resting according to your training plan that has you peaking for this. You’ve probably done some of the other spring races like Steaming Nostril etc in the weeks before, but you trained through those. But just before P2A you’re resting and getting lots of naps in. Often you’ll see people cranking up the riding just prior, because the weather is getting better.
Doing well at P2A requires constant attention as the varying sections come and go so quickly. You must always be pushing the pace and paying attention to the effort you’re putting out. It’s like a 2.5 hour time trial. (Remember, depending on the wind, and the course in any particular year, the top 100 times can vary quite a bit, from less than 2 hours, to over 2.5 hours.)
In order to crack the top 100 you’ll likely need some luck with the groups you get into on the road sections. You MUST work together to keep the pace high here. If everyone takes their pull, you will catch lazier groups on the road. Your group will break up in the tough sections but other groups will form later in the next rail trail or road.
Often I see groups slow down a lot on the road as several people sit on the back like they would at a road race. But here you’re not racing only each other, you’re also racing people from other waves, particularly the elite/vip wave. If you sit on the back, the riders who are willing to work are probably going to attempt to drop you. If you can’t pull through, talk to them so they know that you’re not just being lazy. If you can pull, do so.
Drink and Eat
Make sure you know exactly what you need to consume for a long hard effort like P2A. For me that’s two water bottles with Scratch, a rice cake with bacon and egg, or a Clif bar, and 2 gels. Make sure your water bottle holders are tight. The start of P2A is usually littered with dislodged water bottles.
P2A is a cyclocross race. Occasionally you’ll see an excellent mountain biker riding a 29r into a great finish, but you’ll know if you can pull that off. Simply putting narrower tires on also won’t be optimal. In most years 34mm file tread tires are the right tire. In some years having a little more grip can be helpful.
Most of the time riding is on rail trail or road but in very wet years the fields can be very muddy. I have seen people ride road bikes with 28mm road tires but it’s hard to make up the time they lose in the off-road sections.
It’s certainly possible to ride into the top 100 from wave 2. It happens every year where a couple people will work together and do that. Most however do it from Wave 1. There’s lots of very fast people lining up at the front of Wave 1. If you’re starting in wave 3 I’d suggest the best you could do is qualify for wave 1 next year.
Assuming you’re racing from Wave 1, it’s important to plan where you’re going to make up time.
First, you want a decent start. But it’s not so critical that you have to go crazy. There will be several slow riders to line up at the start of the wave. Go around them and maintain the high pace with those around you in the first couple hundred meters, then down the gravel road, then over to the rail trail. Be aware. Shoulder check when moving around.
The first rail trail section is fairly long. Roughly 15 minutes of flat fast group riding. You don’t want to lose the wheel here. The group will be huge, with many people out of their comfort zone. You DON’T need to pass people unless they or the people ahead, are getting seriously gapped and you and everyone else is getting held up. There’s no sense trying to squeeze through the middle just to make up a bike length. The same is true in the Elite/VIP wave. In fact, the Elite wave rides through this section slower than wave 1 in my opinion.
Every year, you see or hear someone, crash/holler/go into the sticks, after they or someone else tries to go around on the outside or up the middle. Don’t be that person. If you do need to pass, speak up and be nice about it.
The race starts as the rail trail ends and hits the small rocky climb. Unless you’re at the start of the wave, just run it. If you’re trying to ride it when people ahead are running, boo to you. Sometimes you’ll see someone try and run up through the trees on the outside. That never works.
On the next gravel road section, it’s time to push the pace. People will go backwards as it’s a long shallow climb. Sections will begin to come fast, and you’ll get into your routine. Hard section, road, drink, hard section, rail trail, eat, repeat.
There are a number of tiny technical turns along the course. 3 or 4. You can probably ride them. It’ll be obvious when you can’t. Try and stay on the bike. You’ll be going so hard that jumping on and off will cause more harm than good. However, if you do jump off, you should be running.
P2A in photos is all about the Powerline Mudslide. But by this time 90% of the work is done. To ride it or run it is a tossup depending on the weather for me. I rode it last year, and got a slow flat. Often I run it and lose a few seconds. Once you’re through, then the fun begins. You can make up places between there and the final hill as there’s a reasonable amount of hills. You’ll be hurting by now but you should still be pushing while saving just a smidge.
Hammer the final climb. You’re racing that guy from wave 3 you can’t see. You’re racing that girl in the elite wave who just finished. Full gas to the line.