I was really pleased with my nutrition today. I planned 1 bottle for every 40 minutes of racing and started sipping at 20 minutes in. I had a plan for two feeds (off of a table a brought for myself (read: self-reliance)) and they went great. I consumed my endurolytes (it was a hot day and I needed the salt more than usual), and my gel. I came in otherwise quite filled up on a good dinner and breakfast.
The lesson: I planned my nutrition and I stuck to that plan. It was a success.
Monster Cross is unique in that a variety of machines and wheel options are available to riders, at their discretion. I chose my Full Tilt Boogie cross bike with tubular wheels and file tread tires. I thought it was the best machine for my body and the conditions, and I was really happy with my choice. I also took advantage of that choice late in the race, understanding the advantages and limitations of that machine.
The lesson: I carefully weighed the equipment options, understood the advantages and disadvantages of the equipment, and made tactical decisions armed with that information.
Attrition typically plays a big role in Monster Cross--its a 50 mile slam on dirt double track and fire road, so there is no real "faking it" like you can on a paved race. However, the field was stacked, and at a relatively high level with no real outlier. As a result, tactics played a bigger role than ever. Early attacks kept heart rates high, but only one solo rider was given an leash.
For my part, I had one teammate who seemed unconfident about his ability to be a factor, so I was racing with a "solo" mentality. I decided before the race that no matter who went, I wasn't going to chase a solo rider in the first third of the race. I would only go with a strong group of two, and likely any group of three. Covering every move just isn't possible--there's not enough in my body to do that, and it's bad tactics.
The solo attacker ended up able to stick his move. The chase wasn't animated, and because of two of the riders in the selection, we rode a little negatively--no one driving the pace--for about 30 minutes. At that point the damage was done.
There were attacks that started about 35-40% of the way into the race, and those needed to be tended to. I went with the "strongest rider" in the race (former National Ultra Endurance National Champion) and we kept the pressure on that blew the "selection" to bits.
We were left with 5 racers. Two were on the same team and not driving the pace. That meant I did the least amount of work because I wasn't going to get taken advantage of. Once the other guys in that group of 5 had made some efforts, I attacked. There was still about 20 miles to go. I got away and after a few miles, Keck Baker (NUE champ) bridged. He's a former teammate and we are friendly enough, though I know him to be a cutthroat competitor. We traded pulls (I tried to time my pulls on uphills and never pulled my hardest on downhills), and I decided to wait for a sprint.
There was a fast, gnarly, technical descent leading into the last 500m, and if he was going to try something it would be there. He had chosen a mtn bike (as did the rest of the top 8 racers) and would have an advantage with equipment there. I was confident that I am a hair more skillful when it comes to handling, and that would offset his advantage. And I knew my bike would sprint better--both because it wasn't squishy with tires and suspension, and afforded me better gearing.
My plan panned out, and I was able to roll in second.
The Lesson: Second isn't a complete disappointment, so making a plan and sticking to it served me well. Having a plan for success is the ONLY WAY you can ever have success.
However, fortune favors the bold. My plan was on the conservative side of bold, and my result shows it. David made a bold play, and he won. I should have had a bit more confidence and willingness to make a bold decision.
One event worth mentioning, during a portion of the course there were some blown down twigs and branches. We were in a group of 8 racers and some twigs were kicked up. One of the twigs got caught in my chain and pushed it off of my single front chainring. It required I stop, dismount, and set my chain back on the ring. The selection rolled away.
I did not panic. I made a quick dismount and with steady and deliberate hands I set the chain on the ring. I did not rush. I even said to myself "Haste makes waste," which is my personal reminder when faced with adversity. When people hurry to make fixes, fingers and movements go errant and more time is wasted.
I made a quick remount and railed a few corners and had reconnected with the lead group within about 1 minute of work.
The Lessons: Problems are only as big as you perceive them to be. Don't let mishaps rumble you. Also, HASTE MAKES WASTE!
All in all, making a plan and sticking to the plan is key. Whether that be tactics, equipment, or nutrition, a strategy with follow through is fundamental to success.
Finally, you can't win unless you make the big plays. I didn't make the big play today, and I finished second.