Thursday, May 7, 2009

Seward Park Cat 4/5 Race, In The Rain

Found the photo above today on the web. That would be me in the middle, surely the only racer wearing wool out there! (Thanks to whoever took that pic)

Well I made it out to the Seward Park race again, after doing my first (non-TT) race last week. It had been raining for most of the day, a light rain but enough to make the ground wet, and make the 130-degree turn on the course quite interesting.

The goals were, just as last time, 1) don't crash (at least not when you don't have to - from what I hear it's only a matter of time) and 2) don't get dropped. I wasn't planning on winning either, but I didn't want to get spit out the back (my threshold is high enough that I can hang on - it's the sprinting & speedwork that I need to improve).

Photo above shows the 3/4 race just after mine - they were a little luckier than us though, since we had hard rain for most of our race.

Race To The Race

I was running late on the way down, and left my house at 5:08 when the race started at 5:30... can I cover about 11 km in 22 minutes? Let's see.. So I had to burn more than a few matches on the way down, aided by what felt like a slight tailwind. Holding 34-36 km/h, passing cyclists left and left. It had stopped raining, and this made me start thinking that my long sleeve wool SiR jersey was a bad idea for today.. but oh well.

As I got down to Seward, finally, I was still ]1 km out at 5:30. Dammit. But being used to being late and pressing on, I pressed on. I brought the camera so at worst I'd get some pics. I got to the course, and saw that the pack was indeed already rolling, since they weren't at the starting line. But I rolled up to the registration tent anyway, sweaty and out of breath, and said,

"Is there any way I can start late?" (Since this isn't a USAC-sanctioned race, they let you take free laps and it's generally less strict, so I figured there was a slight chance)

Guy, after a pause: "Uh.. not really."
Me, turning away: "Fuck!"
Guy: "Well I guess you can.. have you signed a waiver before?"
Me: "Yeah, I raced last week."
Guy: "Ok, gimme the money and you can jump in, just don't go for the first prime."
Me: "Really?! Sweet, thanks man."

I started taking off my backpack and getting ready.

Guy, sighing: "You don't even have your number on yet?!" (well, I wasn't sure which direction we were going..)

Me "Uh, no.."
Guy: "Just stuff it in your pocket and go, dude, don't worry about it."

I started taking off my frame pump and rear Race Blade fender, as I've always heard you aren't allowed to race with these, and guy was all "Don't even worry about that dude, just go! Go!"

No problem! Even though I was late, I was just happy to get the workout and experience of racing, even if it was only 20 minutes of it. I waited at the start of the course, where riders take free laps and you can jump in. The excitement started to kick in, and my heart rate surely bumped up even though I wasn't racing yet. Which is good, it's basically like a warm-up of sorts.

The Race

Finally the pack came around, and it was much smaller than last time, maybe 25 riders instead of the 50 last time. The rain was starting to come down lightly now, and that explained the shrunken pack. I jumped in at the back, shooting down the hill, just happy to be in the race.

The first few laps I felt decently fresh, and kind of felt like I could maybe "do something" this race. Of course not the first prime lap, which was in a few minutes, since I'd started early. But should I go for the next prime lap, the win, or just top 6? (for points)

I decided that it wouldn't be fair for me to do any of those things, since I got in the race late and thus had a slight advantage. It's not like I could blow away the field or anything, but I think I could do a little damage... oh well, next time.

The first prime lap came up, and things sped up. Quite a lot in fact. All of a sudden, after a few minutes of generally feeling fresh, I was hurting. On the cusp of "blowing up," to say the least. But from previous similar experiences, I know that if I can just "stay on top of it" then I'll push through it.

Our small pack stretched way out, as there was a race within the race for a water bottle or whatever the prime-lap prize was. Before I knew it, there were 6-8 riders up the road, and about 10 of us straggling 30m behind it, in the wind. People were surely popping off the back left and right at this point too, as I started to see less and less bikes around me.

At this point the rain started coming down hard. Really hard.

I fought to catch up, digging deep to find something, anything, to get me back on a wheel, out of the wind. Struggling, panting, spitting, sucking down rain, I did everything I could and eventually caught up on the downhill.

The only downside to that is that after the downhill you make that soft left, and the short uphill begins. So I was red-lining but now going up the hill. Usually you can rest on that downhill, but I didn't have that choice this time around. The pace settled down, and we all took it pretty easy going up this time. Whew. Rest, kind of.

Now that the rain was really coming down, my selection of a long-sleeve wool jersey all of a sudden felt perfect. And I was happy to be advertising Seattle Randonneurs to the racing crowd. Too bad I don't have any pics of me, I'm sure I stuck out pretty well.

Anyway I was soaked, but not cold. I ate a lot of road grime from other wheels, and was very happy to have glasses on. No way you could sit behind a wheel with bare eyes, at least I wouldn't be able to.

The general pace was slower than last time, due to the slick road. Every lap the 130-degree turn was kind of scary, we all slowed waaaay down for it. Not only is it a tough turn, it's got (slick) painted lines too. Felt me tires give a tiny bit on those lines, once or twice. Nobody crashed on it that I saw, somehow.

For the next few laps I was just trying to stay on a wheel, and recover. Sometimes it's easy to forget that you're not the only one hurting, and that thought helped me a little. Part of what blew me up earlier was that I was pushing too hard a gear on the uphill, probably 53x14 or something. That's just a waste of energy, unless I'm trying to sprint up it!

So I made sure to get into a smaller gear from now on, cross-chaining at 53x25. I didn't even want to risk dropping my chain by going into the small front ring, and going into the small ring probably wouldn't be big enough to keep up anyway. I pushed on.

The next prime lap came up, and I felt like I could've done something, but didn't. It just wouldn't be fair. The rain was ridiculous at this point, and riding in the pack you were basically drinking the water from someone's wheel. People were joking that at least we weren't thirsty!

The pack got stretched out again due to the increased pace, but I just kept steady and assumed the leaders would slow up after sprinting for the prime anyway. Luckily, they did. I made up good time on the downhill, and caught up to the front of the race (or, the race) and rested.

Right after the prime an unattached guy went for a break just as the pack regrouped, which isn't a bad idea. Since everyone else was surely resting a bit, it's the perfect time to go for it, albeit maybe a little early unless you can TT it to the end. (Two or three laps to go)

He put quite some distance between us and him, and was just about out of sight before we caught him 1/2-lap later. At the end of the downhill we enveloped him, which he was probably happy for since he was surely toasted.

The last lap came, and the pace got faster. Was definitely hurting, a lot, on the uphill as I had to keep the pace up to finish with the pack. Again I didn't want to beat out too many people since I jumped in a little late, so I watched the sprint for the finish and counted the riders ahead of me. And made sure I kept a steady pace, so as to not get passed. It's not that I felt like I couldn't easily beat everyone there, just that I had more in the tank but saved it.

I counted eight or nine riders ahead of me, so I'm thinking I got maybe top 10 in this one? Not bad for my second race..

Post Race

After the race I stuck around to change out of my wet jersey and watch the 3/4 race. Met Jim from Cycle-U, a local development squad. He wanted to see my bike and said he hadn't seen a Ciocc for a long time. I don't really think of this bike as a "relic" or anything like that; for me, it's my go-to race bike, the lightest one I own. Probably one of the only steel bikes in the pack, that's for sure.

Jim said I should look into his team, since they target beginners and offer a lot of training. But I'm not sure how much time I'll have between life, work, brevets, and now racing. Not sure I want to commit to anything just yet. They seem like a good team though.

Thoughts For Next Time

Watching the race from the middle of the pack is pretty fun, but changing the race will be awesome. Even if it doesn't stick, next race I'm gonna "take a flyer" as they say, and go off the front, or at least attempt to.

Then again, considering I was on the rivet just staying in the pack sometimes, this might be a little ambitious. But as I've heard somewhere, "Shoot for the stars and you just might hit the moon." Or something like that.

Also, I obviously need to start earlier when heading down there. Duh. Riding to the ride is a good warm-up, but I don't need to waste energy when doing that. And riding back from the ride is a great warm-down, even if it means riding up Madison St to get back to the hill.

And I probably could've used a bigger lunch or some ShotBlox before the ride - I felt a little empty during it.

The Ciocc, as raced:

Race Stats

I think my PowerTap finally emptied its battery, as it didn't seem to be sending power or cadence data to the Garmin 705 like it should. Oh well, that didn't change the race at all since I never have time to read it during the race anyway.. Although I do enjoy seeing the data after the race, I can live without it. The main point of the race isn't to collect data, it's to increase fitness & experience.

Duration: 26:55
Distance: 16.014 km
Elevation Gain: 174 m
Elevation Loss: 154 m
Min Max Avg
Heart Rate: 160 195 182 bpm
Speed: 6.3 86.2 35.6 kph (22.1 mph)

The graph below is from TrainingPeaks WKO+. The blue line is speed (km/h), red is heart rate, and the orange line is elevation. Somehow the elevation data is screwed up during the race - you can see it captured my first two laps correctly, but then thought it flattened out.. weird.

Also note the dip in the HR (red) line at about the middle of the race. That was when I was hurting bad and needed to recover.


Robert H said...

Wow, that was a really fun read.

I'm pretty positive that you could do really well if you put in the time and effort.

Don't leave us behind on the brevets!

matt said...

Thanks, Robert - I had even more fun doing the race than writing about it.

You should think about doing it some time.. just convert that Club Racer back to geared and that's your race bike! I know you've got the energy it takes to do these races.

And don't worry about me dropping you on brevets - I'm still a smoker after all! When I quit that is when you really need to watch out..

Random Menace said...

Uh, oh. I think you might be hooked. Adrenaline can be very addictive.

P.S. Welcome! I almost made it out there yesterday for the 6:00, but I checked the weather radar first and chickened out. See you out there on a dry day (I'm one of the "tomato boys").

matt m said...

Thanks, RM! Yeah I think I'm definitely becoming an adrenaline junkie...

Hell, I'm already a mileage junkie, so hopefully there's room for another addiction!

Luckily, these races are so much shorter than brevets that I think I can do both!

I hope to make it out there next week as well. Say hi if you see me.

Dessa said...

You should try to do Enumclaw omnium next

Dan O said...

Great story and proof you don't need a $5000 carbon bike to race.

Great blog.