Archive for December, 2011

The Little Engine That Could: Santos, Florida State Series 2011

Friday, December 16th, 2011

by Sean Hess (, Rider for Strackacobra powered by St. Augustine Team.

Riding a heavy bike at Santos

Riding the same heavy bike at a race earlier in the year.

Florida State Series Race #9, Santos Trails, Ocala, Florida, December 11, 2011.

Every year this race at Santos is a disaster for me.

This is my slow time of year. The summer peak is over and I’m deep into building strength through long, heavy tempo intervals.

Guys who only race the FSC are peaking while I’m doing 40 minute tempo blocks at 75 rpms.

And so I was expecting to get smashed (again) in the Florida State Series finale for 2011 at Santos.

Plus I’m riding Specialized Stumpjumper that first saw action in the 2006 spring season. It’s markedly heavier than the competition.

Too smart by half, I try to be sneaky and position myself by the outer pole at the start. Trouble was, two other guys thought the same thing and I got squeezed into the second row of the age 40+ cat-2s.

I stayed with the group through the start and to the singletrack and then got scraped a bit as the line lengthened out.

Halfway through the first lap the grandmaster leader passsed me, and while I paced with him through the Ant Hill section I gradually dropped off on the lime road. Normally the flat straight sections are where I do the damage, not get damaged upon.

It could have been that the other guy was at peak (probably, being the group leader), and that his bike was lighter. And it could be that I’m in a radically different block of training as far as speed is concerned, and the bike is much heavier that its peers in 2011.

But in any case the group at Santos was faster.

Most years this is where I disinegrate. I go too hard trying to catch up. I redline and then find myself cramping in the technical sections like Ant Hill, John Brown and Magic Mountain. Then I ride in a dudgeon as the cat-2 ladies pass me.

That the girls usually pass me in this race has always made me wonder just who got who’s physiology. Are my lungs just that much smaller? Do my red blood cells have side occupations…I don’t know, like baking buffalo wings, maybe?… besides transporting oxygen throughout my body?

So this year instead of panicking I just relaxed. Kept my position up and chest straight for better breathing. I kept my pedalstrokes more tempo-ish, strong and steady. I weighted my outside pedal and dropped my inside knee on the endless buttonhook turns that make up the Santos course.

And even though I didn’t break any land speed records, I finished a respectable 12th in a race where I usually bring up 27th (though this year it helped that there were only 15 riders). My third lap was even faster than my second, and all three laps were on par.

I think it was the highest I ever finished in a Florida State Series race. My laps were consistent. I hydrated well. I didn’t cramp…I was actually pretty excited afterward. Being strong in the winter means good things for the spring.

And racing on that tough old Stumpjumper?

Well, I kind of think it’s like lifting weights. I’ve got to get stronger, right? I’ll either run out of money and have to drop racing, or somewhere find the money to upgrade to a lighter bike. And when that happens hopefully all the years racing the lead sled will pay off.

Who knows, but it keeps me hoping!