Races 4-8 were a steady progression of feeling stronger & getting better results. Each week I did better & better, climbing from 18th to 13th, which is great. I only placed 16th overall, but that's to be expected when I spent the middle of the series finishing around 20th each week.
8 individual races kind of blur together, but I did learn plenty during this time.
Initially, I was soft-pedaling into spots where I knew there would be an accordion effect, thinking that I was saving energy. "We're all gonna be wheel-to-wheel in a second anyway," I'd think. And then three riders would dive in ahead of me, which would hold me up and/or push me off the fast line, and I'd come out the other end of the accordion having surrendered 5 positions.
In later races, I reframed the typical rhythm of open trail punctuated by tight turns or bottlenecks. I relized that in a 40- to 60-minute race, it's a sprint from start to finish. Saving energy is nice, but you've gotta do it opportunistically rather than tactically.
Meaning: if someone is going a little faster than you, and you can draft, then draft. But it's almost never a good call to draft behind someone slower than you in hopes of "resting" or "recovering".
I worked on my cornering, and discovered that (possibly because of the current state of my skills) I'm far smoother carrying speed through corners if I stand.
And I found that I can totally stand & power up climbs & pass people, and that this works much better for me than trying to sit & spin.
Between standing for power and standing through corners, my approach to most of this race completely changed. I'd brake late, carry speed through the corner (leaning the bike as much as possible for more grip), then stay standing & power out, rinse & repeat.
And honestly, I think pushing myself each week did great things for my fitness. Not only was I performing better each week, I felt better after the race.
I haven't seen my heart rate hit 185 BPM in a long time, but it did duringing these races.
Most of what I learned from the 2019 Over the Hump series served me well. A few additions:
Pass when you can: the twists & turns of this race offer little windows where passing is possible. Make the most of those opportunities. Pass, then use the course to defend your position & recoup for a few seconds, then go again.
Foam rolling: foam rolling is amazing and completely eliminated any need for Sudafed/NyQuil after races. Never even thought to reach for them.
Base layer: I have a few sleeveless base layer tops, and I'm now religious about wearing them. Even on the hottest days on the race course, I felt like my sweat was actually cooling me rather than just dripping off or evaporating uselessly.
Bike fit: after getting frustrated with lingering saddle sores, I got a fit from Bosco Bike Fits, and it was money well spent. My sores disappeared as if they never existed, and have not returned.
Roctane Recovery Mix: It's not cheap, but I really do love it. Fantastic recharge after hard workouts. I ran out during the last couple of races, and replaced it with a simple mix of protein powder, milk, and chocolate syrup, and that seemed to get the job done well enough.