Thursday, May 21, 2009

Another Go At The Seward Park Cat 4/5 Race

Last week I didn't go to the Seward Park race, in preparation for the big ride that was coming up. But now the big ride is over, and my legs aren't sore like they were from Sunday to about Tuesday. Last time I went to the race I felt decently strong towards the end, and had big plans for "next time."

Yesterday I took a little spin down to Seward Park just to warm up the legs, and make sure they could still do some hard work after all the riding on Friday/Sunday (640 km total). Felt pretty weak, actually, but then again it was the first ride since Saturday.

I took a few laps on the course, it feels way different (slower) solo. Without the competition, and more importantly the draft, I was doing 13 mph up the hill when we seem to normally do 20 or so. Definitely made me think a little differently about my plans of "breaking away," though I looked for a good spot to do it anyway, just in case I felt good when the time came.

Pre Race

I left work early, but it's always hard to get out when you want to. Got back to the house in time, and left with time to spare. But since I needed to get there in time to sign up and pin on my number, it was a bit of a race to the race, yet again. OK, so I burned a few matches on the way down again, but I'll count it as a warmup.

There was enough of a tailwind so that I was cruising at 36-40 km/h (23-25 mph), although I certainly wasn't soft-pedaling. Heart rate was around 175-180 bpm, damn I really was pushing it!

Upon rolling up to the start area, I heard someone call out my name. Holy shit, it's Ryan Hamilton, another randonneur! And in my category?! Sweet.

I met Ryan riding out to a 600k last year, he's an accomplished, and fast, rando. On one of the 600k's last year with four passes, he finished 27 hours! If any rando should be out there racing, Ryan's definitely one of them! Was happy to see him at the race, though tentative about making any promises about working together. At this point, I'm mostly trying to hang on!

I paid my $10 and started pinning on my number, something I should have done before the ride. I've seen more experienced racers joke about a "Cat 5 parachute" and I think I devised a pretty sweet one.. It wasn't flapping in the wind too much, but it wasn't sitting quite how I wanted it, oh well.

Lined up, in the back. Damn. I should've just squeezed into the middle or something.

Ryan was smart about it and had lined up in the first third or so, out of the 50-60 riders in the Category 4/5 race. I ended up smack dab on the back of the pack, which is not a good idea for a number of reasons.

During the pre-ride instructions they said we were doing clockwise this time, the reverse of what I'd done the previous two races. Any tactics I'd devised, and all the envisioning I'd done about when/where/how I was going to do it was now out the window. I've heard it's a fun direction, and it is - but it's also a little more challenging.

They warned us not to get on the right side on the downhill going this direction, since the curb bows out to the left just before a hard right turn at the bottom of the hill, so you would end up getting spit out into other riders. Sounds interesting, hopefully I can remember it in 30 seconds!

The Race

They were off and it seemed like ages between the time the front started rolling and we did, at the back. That's basically starting at deficit of a few seconds, but soon enough we were on the downhill. This direction is a shorter but steeper downhill, with a nice tight turn at the bottom. The uphill is more gentle, but longer. I was on the inside (right side) on this turn, which is somewhat of a mistake because it's a slower line. Guys in front of me were braking when I wanted/needed to be jumping!

The real difference with this direction was the 140-degree turn. I was still somewhere near the middle of the pack when we got back to it (a full lap), and on the right side of the road. You really get squeezed on the inside of that turn, and slowed down to what seemed like 10 km/h. And from that you're sprinting again to catch up.. repeat for 15 laps.

Going the other direction you can keep more speed going through that tough turn, but I'm sure it will get easier with practice. Also I seemed to be in too big a gear for some reason after the turn, even though it's at the top of the hill. So I'd end up sprinting from 10 km/h in 53x13 or so.. doable but not a good way to conserve something for the finish! I had to make sure to downshift before that turn so I was ready to get back up to speed.

By the second lap you can tell that people are getting blown off the back. At one point I swear I was in the middle of the pack, but looked back to see only a few straggling riders behind me! They say you should be passing two or three people for every one that passes you in a mass start race like this, so I should've seen the signs that nobody was really swarming around any more.

So it was time to move up.

I found that I could move up pretty well after the downhill, on the flat-ish section leading to the uphill. Just get to the outside, or find a gap, and go. Of course, when I say "go" here that means accelerate from 45km/h to 55 km/h, so you really have to dig to make any ground on the other racers.

I eventually settled in to about the middle of the (shrinking) pack and just tried to be efficient. No point in spending time in the wind when you can be on a wheel, so I made sure not to lose contact with one. Of course on the prime laps the pack gets stretched out, but I held on with the peloton and just kept on chugging.

The laps started to just go by and while I was hurting, I knew that if I could hang on I'd be better off in the future. Kind of like "pulling yourself up by your bootstraps." At some point, you have to really push yourself in order to improve. Push yourself over your limits, and hold them there for a little while. It hurts, but it makes you stronger. At least I hope.

Ryan was doing well, and seemed to be up in the first 10 riders the whole time. I wanted to get on his wheel but there were 20 riders in between us, it was harder than it might sound to choose your spot once the race is going.

The final lap came, and I didn't want it to be over! I needed more time to move up if I was going to do anything useful at the finish. I felt like I was at my limit, but had enough in the tank to keep it going, and sprint a bit, at the finish.

On the final uphill before the finish, I moved up into the top 15 riders or so. As we got closer to the line, people started to go and then we all went. But someone up ahead gave up, and all of a sudden was coasting backwards through a sea of sprinting riders. After barely skirting around that guy, I ended up getting boxed in by other riders and the curb, and could only watch the final sprint from a short distance away. Damn, and I could sense myself accelerating faster than some of them, but it just wasn't to be. Bad placement in the pack during the race had indeed come back to get me in the end.

But I had a ton of fun! Not sure how Ryan did, but he must've been up near the front at the end.

Post-Race Thoughts

I was super glad to have hung on with the pack again, and especially happy to not crash. There were some people that couldn't hold a line very well this time around, and there were some close-calls, but not involving me. It's definitely becoming easy to see how you could get sucked into a crash pretty quickly.

Since it was a sunny day the pack was bigger, and the pace was faster than last time when it was wet. I think I had a better chance in the rainy race - I wonder if that was from the smaller pack or the slower speeds? Or both?

Also going this direction the turn at the bottom of the hill squeezes the pack way more than it does the other way, and changes the race. Glad to have done it once now so I'll know how to take it next time.


Duration: 28:13
Distance: 18.217 km
Elevation Gain: 354 m
Min Max Avg
Heart Rate: 166 193 182 bpm
Speed: 5.2 82.7 38.8 kph (24.1 mph)

No power data, but I'm sure it was similar to last time. The powertap hasn't been working for the last week or so, and I thought it was just the batteries in it. But after replacing them, I noticed some chalky green residue on the chipset, e.g. corrosion on the inside.. Could all those rainy rides with it this winter have done it in so quickly? Need to take it into the shop soon.

Here's the graph for the race itself (blue line is speed in km/h, dashed blue line is 40 km/h), orange line is elevation, and the red one is heart rate):

And the graph for the ride down, the race, and the ride back. Somehow part of the ride back got chopped off, but at least I captured the hard part of going all the way up Madison St at the end.. fun.

It was a great day for racing, and I hope to make it out there next Thursday as well, rain or shine. Xoming up on June 6th is the Ballard Crit, and I think I'm going to give it a shot. Also a road race down in Ravensdale that I want to try the day after that. I just need to keep the 600k coming up on June 13th in mind, as I don't want to be drained going into it.


Anonymous said...

So you didn't stop to take any pictures of beetles during the race?


matt m said...

I did find some pics from the race, hooray!

Here's a good shot of Ryan kicking ass out there. Look at that rando go!

I'm in the background of a few of the shots; this one is nice, you see barely spot me on the left, boxed in during the final sprint!

Dr Codfish said...

Excellent, keep racing and keep posting! Next time make a point of getting there 10 minutes early so you can get a good start place. There are some things you can't do anything about, this in not one of them. I bet you'll make top 10!

Yr Pal, Dr C