Friday, December 18, 2009

Seattle to Snoqualmie Falls And Back

Today was a perfect mid-December riding day: 40-something degrees and wet roads but dry skies. So I headed out to Snoqualmie Falls to get some hours in for the Base training I'm trying to do in preparation for next year.

The profile above shows how there isn't a whole lot of flat on this ride (and that's just the way out).

snoqualmie map

[full map link]

The first sizable hill the climb up to Newport Way through Factoria, and the second one is Black Nugget Road in Issaquah, which is 15-20% grade.. then you swoop down for a nice country ride out to Highway 202 and a little climb up to the Falls.

Thought I saw that pro who rides for Garmin-Chipotle out on Fall City road, but I'm not sure if it's him (he does live in North Bend though). (On second thought it looks like he's in Europe, so it must've been an impersonator)

Thoughts on Training

2009 almost over, but prep for 2010 has already begun. This season I'm doing a "real" training plan, e.g. the Base/Build/Peak/Race formula as described in "The Training Bible" book by Friel.

So instead of "Just Riding Around" like I've done in years past, I'm shifting gears a bit and slowing things down for the Base period, and just getting miles in - not worrying about sprinting, 5-minute attacks - at least not yet. OK, so maybe that's kind of like "Just Riding Around/JRA" except that I'm making it a point to go slower, err not go too fast.

The idea is to start with lots of volume, but lower intensity - then as the season moves on you dial up the intensity but bring down the volume. Of course "how much" depends on your racing category/goals, so my "big" base weeks are really just 12-14 hours total. But that can be a lot of riding when you're not doing it all at once, like the randos do.

So this is my third week of "Base 2," e.g. the second block of Base. I'm looking forward to the rest week next week, then moving on to the "Build" period.

Hell Hath Frozen Over

I recently did something I thought I'd never, ever, do: lift weights. Well, sort of. As part of the training plan I'm supposed to do some weight-training like squats, lunges, etc. (Focusing on the legs & core of course, I'm not trying to "bulk up" by any means, and the last thing I want to do is add upper-body mass)

So instead of going down to 24 Hour Fitness, I just threw a bunch big of computer-science books (like this bad boy) into plastic bags and stopped when they totaled about 30 pounds. Not a lot but you feel it after 10 or so reps of squats/lunges.

So who ever said being a computer nerd won't make you strong? I'll show them...

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Crashed On Ice Today.

With a thick fog overnight combined with temps close to 30F, I should have left the Ciocc idle today. Some of the local roads here on Capitol Hill were visibly dusted with a little bit of "icing", and I saw a garbage truck slide a bit coming down the hill this morning - that should have been a sign.

So when I headed out at about 1 PM for a quick spin down to Seward Park and back, I figured that since the skies were now blue it was safe.

Coming down Madison St (a nice 15% grade) there was some moisture on the roads, and evidence the city had been out de-icing a bit on the major roads. Made it down Madison without slipping, took a few extremely slow turns on Lake Wa Blvd (like that one S curve), so by the time I made it down to Seward Park I had gained enough confidence to go at full speed since I hadn't seen any ice or frost (on the road at least) for 11 or 12 kilometers..

The Crash

I had just wound down a little sprint coming into Seward Park, as I usually try to go for the crosswalk near the sign for the park, just before you follow the road left to get to the park entrance. According to the Garmin I was doing about 20 mph when all of a sudden there was a patch of frost on the road in front of me, and though at first it seemed like I was riding through it successfully, before I knew it I was sliding on the ground and the world was turned sideways.

I probably made an interesting guttural sound as I hit the ground, and the crash was loud enough so that some bystanders asked if I was OK. Luckily I was, and the only visible damage on the bike was the bar-end had been scraped and pulled out a bit. Luckily the winter layers mostly protected me from road rash, though I did end up with a little strawberry on my left hip.

More Carnage

Only a minute or so after I hit the deck two cyclists approached and before I thought to warn them, one of them went down in the same patch I hit.. then 20 seconds later a guy in a UW kit slid out going the other direction seemingly just as he was asking if we were alright.

I tried to warn a bunch of other cyclists on the way back up Lake Wa Blvd, hopefully had better luck on the ice than we did. So did anyone else crash today?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Meeting The Team: Recycled Cycles Racing

This morning I went to Leschi and met up with the Recycled Cycles Racing Team, for their annual "meet the team" ride. I raced last year (my first) unattached - but I'd like to take things to the next level, and part of that is surrounding myself with people that know more than me about racing. (And of course people that can go faster than me too!)

These "meet the team" rides are slow/social rides around the south end of the lake that allow you to meet people and get a feel for the team. (All the local teams hold them in Sept/Oct/Nov)

I decided on Recycled Cycles for a number of reasons, mostly team size, race turnout rates, headquarters location, and frequency of team rides. Oh and the kit is pretty sweet too. I have friends on a few local teams, including this one, so that was also a factor.

The Ride

After a few introductions at Pert's Deli in Leschi and a pre-ride talk, the group of 30 or so racers set off south on familiar roads towards Seward Park and beyond. A no-drop ride, though of course a few hotheads (including me) attacked a bit on that one little hill in Newcastle on the Lake Wa Loop.

I recognized one bike/rider in particular on the team, since he was rockin' down-tube shifters all last season (and sticking in until the end too). Though I forgot his name he'll be good company in the races next year for sure. And I was surprised to see a pair of full Honjos too - similar to SiR, this is a group that strongly encourages a fender/flap at least in the rear.

Talked to a few more guys on the squad, and they all seemed down to earth and eager to have new riders in the peloton. The team already has some strong 4/5's for sure - I witnessed some of them last year - and hopefully I can add to the mix next season.

Of course, I didn't see a ton of team tactics in the 4/5's last year, and in general "they" say you really don't see real tactics until the Cat 3's.. but still it will be good to ride with this group weekly - and get to know how they ride/race before we get into the mix.

What About The Big Rides? (brevets)

I'm sure everyone's on the edge of their seat to find out if this means I'm breaking up with big rides - rest assured I still plan on doing at least a brevet series (200k-600k) next year, and maybe the Cascade 1240k.

There are things I like about the rando rides: people, challenge, scenery, etc - and things I don't like: lack of sleep, and the feeling after about 20+ hours on the bike of "what the fuck am I doing out here?"

The nice thing about racing is that you can still get plenty of "challenge," just a different type of it - instead of trying to stay awake after 30+ hours on the bike, in racing the challenge might be clawing back onto a peloton going 28+ mph when you're already red-lining. Instead of an upset stomach from eating on the road for more than 24 hours, you might feel the burn of lactic acid being released in your thighs during a sprint - but you still push through it.

The same spirit of camaraderie and challenge is there - just in different form. So here's to the pursuit of challenge (or even fun), no matter what form you like it in.

I'll be sure to post pics of the full team kit (jersey, jacket, bib shorts, hat, socks, gloves) once I get my hands on it..

Monday, November 9, 2009

Random Rain Ride

Lately I've been riding slow, on purpose. The idea is to build up "base" for next year, and add intensity when it's closer to the beginning of the 2010 season. (Also to shed a few pounds between now and then)

It's nice since all spring/summer I was trying to focus on sprinting and intervals, basically the stuff that makes you gasp for air and hope your heart isn't going to explode.

So instead of suffering on the bike, right now I'm just tooling around and taking in the scenery. Dusted off the Surly Pacer (with full fenders), it's the perfect tool for wet & windy PNW fall days.

And they say "train heavy, race light" anyway right?

I like when the roads are wet and the skies are dry - with the full fenders my feet stayed nice and toasty. Ahh, fall!

I haven't done any distance-type riding since the 600k back in September, been taking a break from that too. I figure next year will be busy enough will a full race calendar, in addition to attempting to qualify for PBP 2011. Ride on.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Pista Rides Again

The other day I decided to dust off my 2005 Bianchi Pista track bike, and slapped on a new chain/cog/chainring, bar tape, brake pads, pedals. Not that I'm sick of my wonderful Ciocc (road) bike, but I figure over the fall/winter months it won't hurt to switch it up a bit. I rode fixed on the road and the track a few years ago, but it's been a while since I've hit the road with only one gear and no coasting.

I used to run a 40x14 and skid a ton, but that's probably what killed my knees back then (77 gear inches, ouch on the uphills!), so now with a 49x19 (68") I can hit the hills with a little more speed. It's not a huge drop but definitely gives me more room on the hills, and forces me to spin even faster on the downhills.

A few photos. The fall colors are apparent, and with the rain and colder temps it's hard to mistake this time of year for anything else.

In the I-90 Tunnel:

As a side note, after years of suffering through winters with knickers, I finally bought some full-length tights. I was really missing out, the extra warmth is nice!

Track handlebars are more curvy than road bars, and without hoods to rest on you're usually either up top or in the drops. And as you can see I have a front brake for the oh-shit moments. But 99% of the time I'm either speeding up or slowing down using the legs. Downhills become a workout, it's definitely different.

Another great thing about fixed gear riding is that once you settle into a nice cadence, it's so smooth and you really do feel "one with the bike," as they say. Though honestly half the time the drivetrain is pedaling for you, e.g. on the upstroke. In fact many road riders/racers train on fixed gears to improve their pedaling 'form', but in fact I think it can make your stroke a little lazy, e.g. you might not be pulling up as much anymore. So I keep that in mind and try to apply force all the way around, to make sure I'm getting a good workout.

And the fixed definitely helps makes me spin! According to this nifty cadence calculator, at a peak speed of 47 km/h on my 49x19 gearing (68") I hit 154 rpm. Of course, that was for all of 30 seconds so there is still work to do, I'd like to be able to hold that for longer by the time next season rolls around. Last year in crit racing I had the gas to stay in the race until the end, but didn't have much to show for a sprint. Hopefully that will change in the coming months, and this bike is part of that plan.

>By the way, I'm not sure how anyone can ride a fixed for long distance rides! I recall Robert slaying a hilly (aren't they all?) 200k last year on his fixed gear.. and SiR extraordinaire Bob B. has been known to do some big rides on fixed gear as well. Hats off to you guys! When I did a two-day STP on this bike back in 2005 my knees were killing me on the second day. But maybe I'll break this out for a 100k populaire next year or something.

Another reason I brought out this bike was to get ready for some track racing out at Marymoor next year! I gave that a shot years ago, but back then I didn't have the endurance even for a 5-lap race. I'm pretty sure I'll be able to do better next time around.

Gears or no gears, here's to a wet fall...

Friday, September 25, 2009

Climbing Hurricane Ridge

I've been itching to do some more high-elevation riding, especially since the warm season is soon ending and I want to squeeze all I can out of the current nice weather. At first I was thinking of doing Snoqualmie Pass (starting from Seattle) for my "one last pass" ride of the season, but I've already done it a few times and though I was going to explore the backroads up it, I set my sights on something else, something new.

Hurricane Ridge - out on the Olympic Peninsula, this gem of a climb came on my radar last year when it was closed to cyclists due to washouts. 28km at about a 5% grade, what's not to love?

Though I've previously spoke of riding out to this climb - that was too much of an undertaking for what I had in mind, so Kira & I drove out to Port Angeles so I could start the climb fresh and we could meet up at the top. I'm really glad we did this, since from Kingston (or Bainbridge) I'd forgotten how hilly Highway 104 is! It had some serious climbs that looked painful on the way to a big climb. Huge thanks to Kira for taking me out here - we made a great day of it.

But on to the cycling. I started at the bottom visitors center, about 17 miles from the top. Didn't really warm-up, just hit the climb and made sure to stay in the little ring (39 tooth) at first - which was easy to do since it starts out at about a 6-7% grade for the first 8 km or so.

The road starts as worn chip-seal surrounded by greenery that would soon turn more sparse and more alpine.
While I was keeping the pace in the Tempo zone, I was also taking a little time to take in the scenery and capture a few shots like this. It was the perfect day for a climb in short sleeves - it might be a while before I get to do this again. (Snow is expected at the top on Monday!)

In the middle or so of the climb I felt that it was time to kick it into the big ring (53 teeth) and push it. The road wasn't as steep in the middle section of the climb, and I could feel it since the pedaling was getting easier. So I kicked it up a notch. Sometimes I can hit a "sweet spot" on climbs where a 53x23 gear feels just right, and keeps me going relatively fast. Towards the end I could see my heart rate start to rise and my legs start to get sore, but I kept on truckin' for the first hour at least to see if I could set a new personal record (see Data section below).

There are three small tunnels to go through, but they're short and traffic was light anyway.
I used a rear flashing light just in case.

After this the road gets pretty twisty and kicks up a bit (6% for the last few miles at least), and you start to see the views you've come to hope for. You can see the top of the road up to your left as you near the top, cars glistening in the sun light, but looking really high up too. I thought to myself, am I really going that high in this short of a distance? Ouch.

Right as I hit the one hour mark I let up, happy to have pushed hard for an hour, and took it easy the rest of the way. Enjoying the scenery, which is easy to forget to do sometimes if you zone out staring at your front wheel.

The scale of these views/climbs can be overwhelming sometimes but that's why I love it. I love the humbling feeling of looking over a mountain vista, up at a star-filled sky, or at an ocean view and thinking about how insignificant we are. Oh and it was a great workout too.

5,242 ft at the top Visitors Center at Hurricane Ridge. I bought a coffee mug as a souveneir.

A few more photos here, and Kira took some great shots of some wildlife there as well. (Thanks again for the ride!)


Set a new peak one hour record. My previous best was back in April, 243 watts for one hour (was on a SiR winter training ride). The season of riding and racing has increased my capacity to turn the pedals harder for an hour, and this time I came out at 268 watts. Perhaps could have "scored" higher with more effort (HR average was just 156 bpm, max is 196). Anyway it's nice to see a noticeable increase in the data as a result in training.

Peak 60min (268 watts):
Duration: 1:00:00 (1:01:37)
Work: 966 kJ
TSS: 91.3 (intensity factor 0.955)
Norm Power: 272
Distance: 17.946 km
Elevation Gain: 991 m
Grade: 5.1 % (916 m)
Min Max Avg
Power: 112 565 268 watts
Heart Rate: 93 175 156 bpm
Cadence: 16 87 64 rpm
Speed: 0.4 51.6 17.9 kph
Crank Torque: 0 169.9 40.8 N-m

Data for the full ride.

Entire workout (251 watts):
Duration: 1:40:34 (1:43:32)
Work: 1514 kJ
TSS: 137.8 (intensity factor 0.907)
Norm Power: 258
Distance: 27.624 km
Elevation Gain: 1659 m
Grade: 5.4 % (1477 m)
Min Max Avg
Power: 0 565 251 watts
Heart Rate: 93 175 155 bpm
Cadence: 16 87 62 rpm
Speed: 0 51.6 16.5 kph
Crank Torque: 0 177.1 38.9 N-m

I definitely want to do this climb as part of a full ride next year! It'll be worth the slog out there.

Monday, September 14, 2009

SIR's Windy Ridge 600k 2009 - Another Great DNF

Of course I went into this ride with a determination, or at least some kind of afterthought, that I really needed to complete this ride this year. It's a tough course, not just in terms of time/distance, but also in terms of terrain. (Check out the profile here) Four major climbs: Paradise, Windy Ridge, White Pass, Chinook Pass. And extra challenging this year also in terms of sleep deprivation what with the 9 PM start.

If this is rando school then this 600k brevet is certainly an advanced course, not for beginners. Even as an intermediate rando at some points I feel like I'm over my head a bit on this ride. This is truly advanced suffering. But like they say shoot for the stars and you just might hit the moon, right? (e.g. I always figure that even if I DNF these big rides they at least make for a good story & photo set)

This year at least my camera's batteries were fresh, so once the sun came up I had plenty of opportunities to take some shots.

The Ride

After some pre-ride notes from Jan, the group of about 11-12(?) of us set off From Enumclaw into a clear summer night. Nice and warm, no need for a jacket or leg warmers yet. Seemingly within meters of starting a few riders were already way up the road, their red rear lights getting smaller and smaller - for some reason it always seems like they're on a motor scooter since you can't see their feet moving, and they seem to move away so fast.

The group of about 10 of us congregated and settled into a nice speed - I have no idea what that speed was as I was saving my Garmin's (15-hour) battery for closer to the start of the Paradise climb. Night riding can be a drag sometimes (well, most of the time for me), but in a large (and fast-ish) group time seems to fly and if you aren't conversing maybe you can listen to others and generally enjoy the ride.

Somewhere before Eatonville Chris & I noticed that Robert wasn't in the pack anymore. (read his ride saga here) Had he suffered a flat? We had no idea but were hoping we'd see his light behind us catching up at some point. Looking back, I kind of wish we'd waited but in the rush of the first few hours I think we were happy to be sailing along in the group.

Then, a Disaster of Sorts

I forget which road it was on, but some time in the first two or three hours I hit a large pothole (the kind that seemingly grabs your front wheel for a moment) that sent my handlebar bag into the top of my Schmidt E6 front light, knocking the whole casing of the lamp onto the ground. I heard the sound of plastic hitting the ground just after the pothole, looked down and saw my front wheel in darkness, which was bad since the light normally partially lights up my front wheel.

So I cursed loudly and slow down, hoping to recover the light and get it back working. After all it was maybe 11 or 12 at this point, so we had a good deal of night riding remaining in (not to mention the second night of the ride). Once the lights were out, and the group had quickly gone up the road, I realized how utterly dark it was on this road. As I was turning around I saw a bright bike light up ahead, and was relieved to see Chris roll up asking if that was my light that fell off. Indeed it was.

I found the light casing, screwed it back into the mount and spun the wheel. Nothing. Shit. Then Chris asked a great question - do you have a spare bulb? I didn't think that the bulb had fallen out altogether. The advantage of riding with someone else (especially at night!) is that when your brain isn't really working maybe theirs is.

In fact I did have a spare bulb, even if in the rush of this little disaster I'd forgotten it was stuffed into my handlebar bag. I was more than relieved when slapping it in there and it did the trick. Nothing like the feeling of fixing something broken, especially when you're depending on it to move forward.

Only thing was that part of the plastic mount the E6 on had broke off, so it wasn't mounted quite as solidly as it used to be. It was jiggly but stayed in place. I rode for an hour or so with it pointed way too low, only maybe 20 feet of light in front of me when there should be 100+.. I was too impatient to mess with it since it was at least partially working and Chris' LED E3(?) more than made up for my lack of light.

The thing about this handlebar bag was that I usually don't use it on this bike just for this reason - it comes down too low for how I mount the E6. So this time I thought I'd be slick and tie it around my brake/shifter cables instead of the bars, thus raising it a few inches - though this stopped working as soon as the weight of the bag was pulled down onto the light by that damn pothole. So after fixing the light I flipped the handlebar bag over so that it sat on my stem - an odd-looking position but it was the best I could do to help the light stay in place. It got the job done.

(For what it's worth I also had a backup light, but it was a weak CatEye LED I use for commuting - a true last resort that I luckily never had to break out - not something I would have wanted to descend a pass with, for sure)

Moving On To Paradise

We passed through the tiny town of Elbe, which I've passed through quite a few times this summer on various rides, but never at night. Water supplies were fine (had 2.5 bottles on the ride, 1.5 left at this point maybe), so it didn't matter to us so Chris & I just pedaled through.

At the Rainier National Forest Entrance I decided to finally fix up my light which had been pointing too far down. Chris was nice enough to stop and wait while I fiddled with it. I was hoping Robert would still catch up to us but still he was not to be found. Eventually my light was pointing straight again, hooray, I could climb & descend the mountain with confidence.

Paradise Climb

I always enjoy this climb and was excited to do it again even though I wasn't expecting to see any scenery since it was so dark out. It never gets overly steep, and this year I felt a little quicker up the mountains than last year's version of this ride (last year was on the Surly Pacer, which weighs about 10 lbs more loaded, and more importantly isn't as stiff as the Ciocc).

At one point we turned a corner and were met with what seemed like a blast of furnace air. Weird. It felt like riding into 12-noon out of nowhere, but it didn't last long and the temp got back to the 50-ish it was before (I assume).

To my shock we bridged up to Dan Boxer soon after Longmire - he's a pretty amazing climber and usually drops me on climbs of length. Seemed like he was a little tired and was happy to have company. We stuck together and the three of us got to the summit before too long.

Oh, and on the way up we could see Mt. Rainier's peak in the moonlight! A sight I'll never forget.

The Ciocc atop Paradise (4,000+ft) at about 4 in the morning.

Dan took a 10-minute cat nap (Chris might have as well) up at the top, and another rando was up at this control (Barry?) sitting down and possibly also napping. After all it was 4 AM.. I was antsy to roll but at the same time didn't feel like descending into the night alone, most likely to have them catch up later anyway.

The four of us left eventually, and the descent down was a blast, albeit a bit risky at times I suppose. I led it out and was pushing it on some of the initial straight-aways, trying to spin out my 53x11 gear. Before too long there were three small lights behind me, off in the distance. Soon we hit the stop sign and they weren't too far behind me so we continued together.

Sometimes on a sharp turn my E6 lamp (which doesn't have the widest beam) didn't quite cover the whole road - so I was either going off of moonlight to see or maybe the riders' lights from behind. It was a rush though, I loved every second of it!

On To Packwood

After the descent we took a right on Highway 123 (Cayuse) and got a nice little downhill for the most part to Packwood. By this time it was starting to get way colder and I donned my leg warmers & long-fingered gloves. It seemed odd that it was getting coldest at sunrise or so but that's the way it was.

I had a breakfast "burrito" here at the store, and refilled my water bottles. So far, so good. I think we'd done about 100 miles at this point and while we weren't breaking records we were moving along.

This section on US-12 & a backroad we got to Randle the last place we could buy food or water for something like 90 miles. Next up was the climb up to Windy Ridge, just 30 miles away. Sometimes 30 miles can seem like an eternity, especially when the overall average speed approaches 12 mph not to mention this is a mountain climb.

Climb to Windy Ridge

In fact this portion of our ride encompassed the High Pass Challenge, a century+ put on by Cascade for the last few years that was my first intro into mountain climbing on a bicycle. Funny how things have progressed since then, though I still wouldn't say the HPC is an "easy" ride.

The difference with our approach to the Windy Ridge takes us up a slightly smaller & steeper road, FS-26. Leave it up to SIR to find an even more challenging route than the "Challenge."

I felt stronger here than last year, as I remember being dropped by our little group early in this climb then. I stopped for a photo-op/rest opportunity shortly after reaching FS-26, and let Dan and Chris go ahead. After that I felt invigorated and found myself climbing in the big ring (well, part of the time), hoping to catch back up to my companions before too long.

Eventually I caught them, though they'd taken their own break so that certainly helped.

Dan on FS-26, a Forest Service road heading up to FS-99 and Windy Ridge. It's got some nice kicks up towards the top, I think this was where they started.

Up towards the end of FS-26 it seems to just go straight and no more switch-backs to help you with the grade, the engineers decided 10%+ was OK for the last mile or two. Ouch, that section hurt with a 39x27 low gear, but I somehow made it. If nothing else a good workout in itself.

We got to a "control" where a lone volunteer had been sitting in the sun and signing brevet cards and handing out water all day. Though I had enough water to get by it was nice to munch on some chips and get some ice in my bottle. Huge thanks to John(?) that sat out there forever helping us out.

We started the ascent and were now in the blast zone, taking in all the scenery. Almost too much to take in at once: St. Helens crater in the distance, Rainier behind us, Adams and Hood over to the left. Wow. It just doesn't get much better than that.

The only thing I hate about this climb is that a) I can never tell where the end is, at least based off visual clues, e.g. all those turns look the same! and that b) there's a good deal of down along with the up, so on the way back you're not always descending. Ugh.

Finally, the Windy Ridge viewpoint! At about 12:00 PM we reached the viewpoint of the blast crater and Spirit Lake. Here's a shot of Dan & Chris taking in the scenery, and enjoying some off-bike time.
(As a side-note, I learned yesterday on my return visit here with Kira that there's a much better view of St. Helens at the viewpoint just before Windy Ridge - next time around I'll stop there for a photo op too)

We didn't take too long here and before too long were rolling again. We were well within the time limits and I felt decent, though was looking forward to some "real" (e.g. hot) food back in Packwood, which was hours away.

We went back to the mini-control and I had a Sprite that really hit the spot. Chips also hit the spot as did some pancake pieces that were offered. I'd been running off Clif Shot Blox/Gels, and some peanuts I bought in Packwood, but I didn't bring any real food and was depending on resources to fill in that void. Possibly a mistake but it's worked on other rides..

We set off and started the (annoying) descent/ascent back to US-12 and onward to Packwood. I actually felt pretty strong on US-12 heading back east and we had a nice tailwind so I geared it up and got it going - then a big truck came by and gave me an extra woosh, so I geared it up to 53x11 and got it really going. Only for a few seconds probably but it feels good to do that ~20 hours into a ride. Dropped my companions but I knew I'd see them again in Packwood which was only miles away.

Back in Packwood, I had two orders of mozzarella sticks, a piece of Dan's burrito - which hit the spot, but looking back I should have had more food here. Also, I probably shouldn't have doused the burrito scraps in "Taco Sauce" that ended up being spicy.. I like spicy but not on long rides.

I caught a case of the hiccups here in Packwood that lasted, off and on, all the way to the overnight control at Rimrock Lake which was something like 30 miles away. In fact the hiccups even re-surfaced a little the next day, weird. Rando rides do strange things to your stomach, this much I know.

Climbing White Pass

Leaving Packwood I started to feel less and less "good," and the ride started to be less and less "fun." Also, food/drink seemed less and less enticing. Uh oh. These are signs of either dehydration or inadequate fueling.. I probably should have had a real meal at some point along the way. I was thinking about calling it a day/night at the control if possible. The ironic thing is that Chris was feeling a bit ill up to this point and was saying the "D" word a lot, but I kept silent and hoped we'd both get past our ill feelings toward the ride at that moment.

On one hand this was "the big brevet" for me this year, but also I didn't feel a great sense of urgency to carry on for some reason. I'd already accomplished Super-Randonneur for this year so that wasn't an issue I guess.

Now climbing White Pass (4,500ft) at about 7 PM or so - the sun was setting and we were nearing the "overnight" control - the mile markers seemed to take forever to tick down, we "only" had 12 miles to the summit or something like that. Just a few 6% grade stretches for 2-4 miles and some slightly less steep stuff and we're home free. We'd covered about 370k (230 mi) at this point.

Chris said we were holding about 6 mph and I was happy with that, it was faster than it felt. It was a pace we could all live with, and we reached the summit at about the same time. It was getting darker and colder now, and Dan & Chris stopped to add some more layers for our descent to the cabin at Rimrock Lake.

I just wanted to get this section over with and only donned arm warmers for the descent, I didn't feel like digging out my jacket or leg warmers even though I might regret it. So I set off and told them I'd see them soon, most likely at the control.

An Early End

I made it to the overnight at about 8 PM and was extremely happy to be there but still not feeling good about the rest of the ride. We'd get maybe an hour of sleep and then need to set off or else be in danger of getting close to the control closing times. I felt like I needed about four hours of sleep in order to tackle Chinook at this point - things just weren't adding up to me finishing.

Would I be able to even stay there at the cabin? Since there's no SAG wagon, would Kira even be up for picking me up and taking me back to Seattle? How much would a taxi back to Seattle cost anyway?

Ryan generously offered chili, minestrone, cheese, water, all kinds of good stuff. Mostly at that point I just wanted plain water, which I hadn't had in hours since all of mine had Nuun-tablet flavor in it, which I was now sick of.

I picked at my chili and couldn't really get much of it down, and the hiccups were still off and on. I didn't feel necessarily sick but didn't feel like riding over a pass in an hour or so either. The options were clear: sleep for an hour, get up at about 11 PM and head up and over Chinook Pass in the night, or stay here, sleep in, and hope Kira would pick me up in the morning.

I was relieved when Ryan said I could stay there overnight no problem, and even more relieved when I called Kira and she agreed to pick me up the next day. Thanks baby! That was a huge favor). My ride was over and I couldn't have been happier, at the time. Though of course in the back of my mind I already knew I'd regret it, but oh well. It's just a bike ride.

When Ryan woke Dan & Chris up after their hour-long nap, I was soooo glad to be curled up in bad and able to just stay there.

My incomplete control card - a memento for motivation for next year.

The Next Day

Kira came and got me from Rimrock Lake pretty early in the morning, and since it was such a long drive I figured we might as well make the trip worth it for her and visit some of the local sights. We went back up over White Pass, stopped at the scenic overlooks and headed out to Windy Ridge.

Kira had never been there so we figured this was the time to do it! And even though I was there the day before it would be fun to visit Windy Ridge as a passenger and take in the sights. (She posted some cool photos from our mini day-trip here)

I kept thinking about how if I'd continued on I'd still be riding at that moment - which was hard to imagine after having slept in and now going on a road trip. The latest one could finish the ride was 1 PM Sunday morning, and had I continued on I'm sure I would have been close to that. It was more riding than I was ready to deal with I guess.

Chris said later that he and Dan took three "ditch naps" on the way up Chinook Pass, and got up to the top at about sunrise. Wow. Kudos to them (and everyone else that finished!) for being strong and sticking it out - I'm truly impressed. Hopefully I can join the club next year, but until then this will just have to be another one of my growing collection of epic DNFs.

Friday, September 11, 2009

From 35 Minutes to 35+ Hours, Again

Once again it's time to switch gears a bit and set my goals to things much longer, and much slower, than the local races. A 600km brevet. (that's 372 miles in case you're wondering)

But not just any 600k - this is Jan Heine & Ryan Hamilton's "Mountain Pass 600k" - and the elevation profile says it all: (thanks to Robert for the pic)

The first "bump" there is the climb up to Paradise through the Rainier Natl. Forest, followed by the Windy Ridge climb, White Pass, and finally Chinook Pass. Holy shit.. of course part of this course won't be new to me, as Robert & I DNFd this ride last year partway through.. this year, finish!

It's gonna be great though. The weather looks like it'll be clear and fluctuating between 50-90 degrees.. perfect riding weather! The views will be epic, no doubt. So tonight at 9 PM we roll out, 9 people heading into the darkness. Can't wait.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Blackberry Crit 2009: A Wet One

Sunday we headed to Bremerton on the 8:45 AM ferry, shooting for the 11 AM 4/5 race, to the tune of light rain. The last crit of the season, I was looking forward to it but also sad to see the season end.

Huge thanks to Kira coming to the event, and also for taking more great photos!

We took the ferry over, enjoying views like this of downtown Seattle: (click here for full photo detail)

The Race

I'd seen the course raced a few years ago, before I was bold enough to give this racing stuff a try. This year I was on the other side of the barriers, a competitor amongst 21 other hearty souls on a rainy day in September.

This is a classic criterium course, four 90-degree corners, but it wasn't quite flat - starting on a slight uphill, we took two quick lefts (featuring two manhole covers on the first turn) for the back straight-away, a wide section of decent road (with bumps and cracks though), a slight rise in the road leading to two more quick turns and a nice downhill leading to a slight uphill and the finish.

When it came time to line up at 11 AM, it was still raining pretty hard but we all dragged our bodies to the start - there was no line since the official said he didn't want to put down tape or paint on such a wet day, so a set of cones were used, though we joked that a big crack across the road could be used as the finish line.

After some opening notes from the official, our pack of Category 4/5 riders was unleashed onto the slick streets of Bremerton, and I quickly got in the first three riders of the pack, determined to stay up front for this race. I was sure there was going to be a crash or three, so I was hoping to stay out of trouble by staying up front (black/blue jersey):

The pack:

Mark, Off the Front:

Pack on wet corner:

With 10-15 minutes left in the race a few riders went up the road, attacking. Someone in the pack yelled "it's too early, let them go," and I stupidly followed the advice. It made sense to me - usually breakaways in a 4/5 crit don't stick, and there were still a few laps to go to the finish.

Whoever it was that went first probably sensed our slower-than-usual-rain-pace, and figured it was a good time to attack. Of course looking back I wish I'd tried to bridge up to it, but at the time it didn't seem like a good idea.

The breakaway, still away with about 2-3 to go:

Trying to stay up front-ish - and my arm warmers were now falling off but I didn't have time to fix 'em:

Alas, one rider (Karl Cunningham) in the break stuck it out all the way to the end - bravo!
As the final turn approached I was feeling the toll of the 2nd-to-last lap in which I'd dug a little too hard to get a good position for the last lap. Though I was still in a nice position coming into the final turn (4th wheel?), I lost a good 3-4 spots on the downhill, since I was gassed for part of the long sprint and got passed by a few riders.

Still, 10th place, my best placing for the season! Two more races to Category 4, though they won't happen until next March.

Coming in for 7th through 10th:

In the end, it was truly magical there weren't any crashes in this race! Though I know I had some minor sliding going on with the two manhole covers on two laps, and there was the usual occasional rumble of "hold your line!"

Full photo set here.

In other news, I'm getting ready for the quickly-approaching 600k on Friday. Looks like the weather will be great, I'm looking forward to this big ride.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Seward Park Season End Classic: 4/5 & Masters C/D Races

Today (Sunday) was the finale of sorts for the Seward Park race series (there's actually one more left I think) - I'd been looking forward to this event since starting racing back in April and doing the 5:30 PM (Cat 4/5/beginners) race. Having done this course about 15 times now I figured I at least knew what parts of it I was strong on, what parts I could move up on, and where I was weak.

And unlike the Thursday night training races, this one actually counted (e.g. USAC licensed). So to say the least I was looking forward to this race. Got up at 6:30 without an alarm, I had a magical feeling it was time to get the day started I guess. Ate a better breakfast than usual, and left the house with time to spare.

Got down to Seward at about 8:15 or so, trying to keep it tempo on the way down and not chase someone on the ride to the race, no need to waste too much needed energy.

The Course

Which direction we go on this course makes a big difference, and I wasn't sure which way we'd go, as they like to switch it up a lot. When I gout there I found it was clockwise, and I had mixed feelings about this direction. That way means a more gradual 5% climb, instead of the more punchy (e.g. steeper but shorter) climb going the other direction. I like the steeper side, though it's not a whole lot easier. The other big difference is that the 140-degree turn at the top of the course feels really slow going clockwise, and it's slightly uphill that way.

One change from the Thursday routine was that the start/finish was in a totally different spot, on the slight downhill section instead of at the top of the gradual climb. This meant that instead of the usual uphill sprint finish (which I always liked), we were having to negotiate the sharp turn and then sprint, albeit slightly downhill. So we knew your position coming out of that corner on the last lap was likely to be your final spot. I was dreading that final corner, given that of course there would be a jam of bodies and bikes trying to all squeeze around it at once, but I knew it would be decisive.

Race Report 1 - Men's Category 4/5 - 9 AM

Jordan, Tim, and I waited next to the starting line about 10 minutes before it started, to get a nice position on the line. We got up front, waited through the official's talk, and I then proceeded to screw up by thinking that when the official said "roll out!" he meant roll up to the line, since we were about 5 feet behind it (that was the drill at some crits this year). So when everyone was sprinting away I was coasting with one leg down.. probably looked a little funny to anyone behind me, but slow people at the start aren't a new thing in bike racing.

After a few seconds I figured out what was going on (duh), clipped in and got in the race, coming in about the middle of the pack. That was stupid, but another lesson learned. No worries, it's pretty easy to move up at the bottom of the downhill or on the uphill, if you have momentum and room to move around.

It was, all mass start races are, a constant battle of moving up while being overtaken. They say if you're not moving up in the pack, you're moving back, and it's oh so true. You can be sitting in what you thought was 10 from the back, but look back and all of a sudden there's one rider behind you, everyone else has dropped off or moved around you.

So the battle is on from the gun, and the first few laps did seem a little speedier than our usual 4/5 training race on Thursdays. The swooping downhill right turn is always interesting, not everyone has the same idea of what the best line is around it, which can make for some confusion at 60 km/h leaning with your front wheel between two rear wheels. At that point you have to take their line, or end up going over their wheel on the ground.

Here's a shot of the pack coming up the hill towards the sharp turn:

There were a few close calls on that turn, but nobody went down. On the uphill if I was in back I had plenty of momentum moving up, but there just wasn't that much space to do so. Jordan said he stuck to the left side of the road there and found room, but I always found myself on the right side and boxed in. Need to remember that for next time.. but if you can find a way through it's pretty easy to use extra momentum to shoot by lots of people on that uphill.

The race was relatively uneventful, except for a few of Kevin's (Second Ascent) spirited attacks and the speed-ups that came along with prime laps.

Here we are coming around the sharp turn:

Here's a shot of me getting back up to speed after the sharp turn. Man I hate that turn in a pack, it feels like you come to a stop!

Here I am at the front of the peloton, pulling for no reason.

Last Lap

When the last lap came around I found myself toward the back of the pack, and on the uphill I watched as Jordan (team Blue Rooster) made it around the sharp turn first. Well at least he got it right!

By the time I got around the sharp corner he was probably crossing the line, and I sprinted for what felt like 30-35th.. the results were only posted for the top 20, so I'm not sure of my placing but I was glad not to be DFL, lapped, or whatever. Another pack finish, I'll take it. And huge congrats to Jordan for taking the win! That kid knows how to ride a bike..

Here's a shot of the final sprint, about 50m before the line:

Big congrats to Jordan on his second USAC victory - and he's still Cat 5! Just look how he spanked these 4/5's in the photo above - and surely some of them are about to be 3's..

After the race I was pretty spent and we sat around for a bit, and I was planning on doing the Master's race. The Women's 3/4 race got canceled since only two racers in those cats showed up. Must be tough to not be able to do the races you want! (They might have had the option of racing with the 1/2/3's, but that could be a tall order) I felt bad for them, and it also meant we had to stand around for about an hour without a race to watch.

We told battle stories from the race, and eventually I learned the Masters race was now 20 minutes earlier than expected. Sweet! By this time I felt fresher and was eager to go.

My race velo - Ciocc COM 12.5 steel, Campy Centaur, Open Pros w/ Pro+ PT: (~21.5 lbs):
Love that bike!

More photos from the Men's 4/5 race can be found here.

Race Report 2 - Men's Masters C/D (Cat 4/5 aged 30+) - 10:40 AM

It was my first "Masters" race and I wasn't really sure what to expect. Usually you hear Masters races are "faster and smoother" or something like that; the field certainly looked more experienced, so I wasn't sure if I'd be able to hang on with them or not. I was eager to find out.

Here's a shot of the field (about 45 people or so) just before the start:

We set off and it seemed the same as the 4/5's just with different faces. This race was 5 minutes shorter than the 4/5 race, and was a bit calmer. Less people trying to go off the front, but when they did it looked a little more dedicated, and the pack didn't jump at them instantly. And less "squirrelly" action from the riders as well.

The field was a mix of ages, as seen in this photo:

On the start of one the uphills Mark M. (strong Starbucks rider) stood up at the front of the pack and hammered, and he's been known to break away, so I for some reason decided to follow him. I was second or third wheel anyway and jumped behind him, soon passing him and hoping he'd jump on my wheel for at least a symbolic few laps off the front, or even a winning break. Instead he shouted "make 'em hurt!" and I pedaled on. I should have sat up, but in the moment I decided to follow through and see what happened.

Off The Front?

Here's the sequence of my jump, at the bottom of the hill:

Enjoying the silence as I briefly leave the peloton:

So going into the hard turn at the top of the course I was solo, with maybe 10 meters of separation between me and the peloton. I didn't look back, I knew I was away since it was all of a sudden silent, the clicks/buzzing/whoosh sound was gone, if only for a moment.

Going through that sharp turn by yourself is so much nicer (well any turn, but especially this one), you can pick your line and maintain speed around it. It felt great to maintain speed and be able to accelerate from a decent speed and not what felt like a stand-still, in the pack.

I passed the finish line solo, with the pack probably closing but still not on my wheel (at least I think). I jumped on the downhill but started to feel burned out... oh, and did I mention there were 20 minutes left in the race? No way I could hold them off forever, but it was fun to try, and makes for some nice pictures too.

On the flat stretch before the uphill, I was still away but not by much. As we got to the uphill (about where I'd launched my "attack") I couldn't do it any more and the peloton consumed me left and right.

Break Over

Here's the pack consuming me on the next lap. Maybe a stupid move, but a great workout!

The thing is I was doing about 25 km/h and they were doing 30-40.. so even though I felt cooked it was time to jump again, just to get up to their speed and not get blown out of the back due to a stupid early attack.

So I gave up a good 20 spots but latched onto a wheel, and tried as hard as I could to keep up. I did, but going around the sharp turn I felt like I was going so slow coming out of it. 18 minutes to go and I'm cooked, but recovering in the shelter of the wind. It was pain, but not like what I felt at the Gig Harbor Circuit Race when I got blown off the back on the last lap a few weeks ago. At least this pain was more manageable.

The rest of the race consisted mostly of me getting boxed in on the uphill (what else is new), and trying to make up spots on the flat spot on the back-side of the course. A few more attacks went off, some primes were won, and my sights were now set on the finish.

When the final lap came around I don't remember where I was in the pack, but it must not have been anywhere close to up front, since when we came around the sharp/final turn, I was pretty far off the front of the race, but not as far back as in the 4/5 race.

We came around and I think someone in front of me had a mechanical/handling issue, since they were stopped and I was all of a sudden sprinting from what felt like a track stand. More than one grunt of the release of energy was heard from behind.

As we came down the swooping downhill bend to the finish, I was giving it good gas for a possible top 20 but then a tire popped loudly, and I eased up to see who it was and make sure they weren't in front of me and about to stop. The flat guy was off to the right and slowed down a few people, and I barely squeezed around him to place 25th overall. Not great, but not terrible either. I felt much better in this race than the first for some reason - maybe not a good enough warm-up before the first race?

In all it was a great morning of racing! Thanks again for Kira to coming down and taking these great photos. Racing two times in a day was great, I wish there were more opportunities to do that. The last race of the season (for me) is next weekend, the Blackberry Crit in Bremerton. One last chance to have some fun, and maybe even improve, before the season is over..

More photos from the Masters C/D race here.

And a few shots from the Women's 1/2 race here.

Men's 4/5 Race Data

Duration: 40:26
Work: 570 kJ
TSS: 70.8 (intensity factor 1.027)
Norm Power: 293w
VI: 1.24
Distance: 25.962 km
Elevation Gain: 573 m
Min Max Avg
Power: 0 949 236 watts
Heart Rate: 116 181 170 bpm
Cadence: 24 135 85 rpm
Speed: 0 117.2 38.4 kph
Crank Torque: 0 204.6 24.3 N-m

Masters C/D Race Data

Duration: 34:45
Work: 473 kJ
TSS: 63 (intensity factor 1.043)
Norm Power: 297w
VI: 1.31
Distance: 21.965 km
Elevation Gain: 468 m
Min Max Avg
Power: 0 1025 227 watts
Heart Rate: 104 186 170 bpm
Cadence: 27 136 87 rpm
Speed: 4.2 73.9 37.7 kph
Crank Torque: 0 197.5 22.2 N-m

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Carnation Circuit Race Cat 4/5 2009

Woke up at 6 AM to the sound of wet roads and drizzle. Hmm, should I still head out to the race today? I must admit I had second thoughts at first, but then realized I'd regret missing another opportunity for training and race experience.

I figured it was raining in Carnation too so I donned my wool Seattle Rando jersey, wool knickers/socks, then Kira & I headed out to the race staging area.

And how could you not want to race with scenery like this? (course map here)

I made quick work of signing up, and pinning on the number. The legs felt fresh but I wanted to get in a warm-up lap, unlike the last circuit race. So Jordan and I took a little spin around the course, which was great to be able to see all the bumps, wet spots (on a corner), and dirt/gravel areas we'd have to contend with.

We finished a lap and lined up behind the Masters group who was heading out five minutes before us. The rollout was on grass, and a little mud, which made things interesting.

A few minutes after the Masters (35+) group rolled out, our Cat 4/5 peloton rolled out for a neutral kilometer at about 25 km/h. One guy had a big clump of grass & mud on his shoe, but I figured it wouldn't help to tell him at this point.

(Huge thanks to Kira for taking these great photos too!)
Our group of 65-70 riders was squeezed into that one little lane - so once again it was pretty challenging to move up. And once again the first few laps felt like a breeze, but almost out of nowhere things got rough for a bit.. anyway before that it was a game of moving up, Jordan and I squeezing into spaces smaller than we'd like.

Another lap (2?), and most of the group is intact. Surely a few have already peeled off the back, but nobody has crashed out. Yet.

Another lap:
And I'm still in the pack, though in the middle/back-ish area. Tried to move into little gaps but things like a crash or two pushed me back further than I would have liked. Still, I felt better than in the Gig Harbor Circuit race and was thinking about placing better this time too.

More riders, including Rob on Second Ascent (blue/black/white) coming through.

Somewhere on the backside (which had no center line, yet the "center-line rule" seemed to be enforced), a rider went down on a slick corner and took out at least one other rider. This was to my right and I was able to skirt around it, getting more than enough of a peek at the carnage that is bike racing. Here's a shot of the pack coming around for another lap.

The backside was also interesting that it had more turns, and bumps, than expected. At first I thought this was a four-corner deal but circuit races don't seem to be laid out that way. It had some winding sections, with two hard-ish right turns, one that was nice and wet from the earlier rain.

Also there was no real shoulder, except for dirt/gravel and/or grass that some riders got lucky skidding through. I think some gravel took out at least one rider, who went down alone. Also I saw a few riders (standing) in the grass on the 2nd turn, which squeezed us into a narrow lane.

Another pass of the 4/5 pack.

This spectator was taking in all of the races - a true fan:

I was starting to hurt, and yo-yoing on the back at about 35 minutes in. You'd speed up to close a gap, only to hear "SLOWING!" and have to hit those brakes.. over, and over, again.

On the fourth lap as we were turning right on to Carnation Farm Road, we hear the sound of an approaching ambulance. Uh oh, time to "neutralize," e.g. everyone get on the right side of the road and go about 20 km/h.. surely someone had gone down in the Masters race and it required some serious attention. (A photo of the ambulance below)

The fun thing for those of us at the back-ish of the pack was that as soon as the ambulance passed the front of the pack we all sprinted, but they now had quite the lead on us. We (from the middle on back or so) were all of a sudden closing a huge gap. Yet another reason not to dangle on the back of a race, unless it's your only choice.

The right turn onto the finish stretch was where everyone jumped out of the corner, and hauled at 50+ km/h over the km or so.. and since the ambulance passing happened just before that, all of a sudden after part of that finishing stretch there was road between me and the peloton - not good.

Looking back I see a group of stragglers, but I didn't even want to get into the saga of a chase group. I wanted to stay in and finish with the pack, so I fought as hard as I felt I could and still wasn't making up ground. I guess I was doing about the same speed as the pack, so I had to keep up the gas until they slowed, which we always did on the 1st slight uphill corner. It was a long few minutes..

I liked this shot Kira got of me in no-man's land, aka the "pain cave."

Lucky for me another straggler came around and gave me some shelter from the wind (there wasn't much, but at 50 km/h you're making enough of your own drag), just enough to pull my sorry ass back into the pack.

Ahh, back in the race. Though once in the pack there was a point I had to coast and drift backwards about 20 spots, just to get about 10 seconds of rest.

Sailing through:

2nd to last lap?

So then it was the last lap, only I thought we had one more to go. I guess I didn't notice the increased pace and jockeying for position at the front, since I was sailing around at the back, struggling to hang on. I also didn't notice the final lap bell, or the sign that said 1 to go. That's what red-lining will do to you, give you tunnel vision.

There would be no contention for me in this race, but I at least wanted to finish with the pack.

I was positive it was the last lap when everyone was over the double yellow line and sprinting towards the finish.. 300m to go.. so I kicked it in but could tell I was 40+ people back.. still, not as far back off as I was in the last circuit race.

The sprint up to the line was pretty close:

A true photo finish! The unattached E'cole(?) rider in white on the left got 2nd, while the Wines of Washington rider in yellow/black took the win, and Chad in the Hagens-Berman blue/white took third.

Jordan, riding for Blue Rooster, and Tim (unattached) coming in for 13th and 14th(?).

Here I am crossing the line (blue SiR jersey) for 45th place, feeling a mix of relief that the race was over, but also disappointment in that I didn't have what it took (whether it was a mental or physical defect I'm not sure) to contest the top 20. Still, the 5th USAC-sanctioned race for me and 50% of the way to Category 4.

More Photos

here (4/5) & here (Masters)

Thanks, Kira for the photos!

The Data

Final sprint reached 58 km/h according to the Garmin, though I'm not quite sure if that's correct (36 mph). Too bad it was for top 50..
Carnation Circuit 4/5 race 2009:
Duration: 56:35
Work: 735 kJ
TSS: 79.5 (intensity factor 0.918)
Norm Power: 262
VI: 1.21
Distance: 38.773 km
Min Max Avg
Power: 0 991 216 watts
Cadence: 19 129 83 rpm
Speed: 3.7 72.3 41.0 kph
Crank Torque: 0 200.9 23.2 N-m

Here's the full race graph, smoothed down a lot so you can see the trends more than the spikes. Yellow is power, and the lower yellow horizontal line is 285w (estimated FTP). Blue is speed (km/h), and the lower blue horizontal line is 40 km/h.

You might notice the two spikes in the middle of the race - that was when I was yo-yoing off the back of the race and trying to catch up! Just goes to show it takes more power to dangle off the back (and catch back on) than it does just to sit in the pack. Hopefully a lesson learned.

Thanks to Hagens-Berman for putting on the race series, and of course to Kira for driving me out and taking these great photos of the event! It was definitely "flat and fast," just as the flyer suggested - good fun.