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.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Seward Park Race 8/27/09 - Pain Management 101

In the end bike riding, and moreso bike racing, comes down to how much pain in your legs and/or lungs can you take before giving in to the urge to quit. (For the 24+ hour events like randoneuring, it's usually more of a mental battle, at least for me)

A few laps into the Seward Park Cat 4/5 training race, after pulling the field for a lap or two, the lactic acid was building up in my legs. Slow at first, then the sting sets in and you settle into a groove. It becomes a question of can you still put down some power while your legs are burning? I can, but only for a little while.

[me pulling the field on one of the first few laps]

Most of us have a limit when it comes to this stuff - though of course it can be trained, and your "threshold" can even be raised. The sheer amount of power you can put down in a sprint or fast lap doesn't always translate into a win because that limit of ours means you need to dole out the wattage efficiently - when analyzing the race data I like to see "peak" power time-frames to be nearer to the end of a race - but in this race the opposite is the case.

[Our field of wily Cat 4/5 racers]


Today I didn't meter out the power in the right "sequence" at all - as you can see in the image below, the peak 5 minutes (power-wise) was the first two laps or so, and the peak 2 mins is in the middle of a race. While my speed peaked on the last lap, I didn't have the power required to match the final (uphill) surge.

(blue=speed, yellow=power, red=HR, orange=elevation)

Seward Park Race data 8/27/09:
Duration: 29:11
Work: 398 kJ
TSS: 52.2 (intensity factor 1.036)
Norm Power: 295
VI: 1.3
Distance: 18.517 km
Elevation Gain: 379 m
Min Max Avg
Power: 0 967 227 watts
Heart Rate: 98 187 172 bpm
Cadence: 15 132 88 rpm
Speed: 3.4 88.6 38.1 kph
Crank Torque: 0 175.8 23.1 N-m

Coming Soon..

The Carnation Circuit Race is going on this Saturday, and the two key words I keep hearing about the course are "flat" and "fast." Should be fun. And on Sunday there's the Seward Park "Season End Classic," a USAC-sanctioned race that'll get me two credits towards the 4's (Men's 4/5 race & Masters C/D). And then the Blackberry Crit out in Bremerton on the 6th of next month.

And if all that weren't enough, the SiR "Mountain Pass" 600k brevet (aka "Ramrod++") is on Sept. 11th, with a 9PM start time. A nice way to end the season, at least the official one. The 600k ride description has daunting paragraphs like this:

"These are serious mountain passes with little traffic and often outside cell phone range. Consequently a mini-survival blanket is required in addition to the standard requirements of helmet, lights, and reflective gear. A spare tire (not just a tube) is recommended."

Bring it on!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Gig Harbor Circuit Race - Failing But Loving It

It was Saturday, finally time for the 2nd edition of the Lake Wa Velo circuit race series. Part of a three-race series, this was finally a chance to try something different than .08 mile lap Seward Park race or a 1 km-lap four corner criterium. This course was four-mile laps, five laps our Cat 4/5 group. Oh, and with a few inclines along the way too. Sounds like a good time to me.

Kira was her usual wonderful self and offered to give me a ride out to Gig Harbor, to come cheer me on and maybe get a few pictures of me suffering. Thanks, baby! It helps to have someone out there rooting for you.

Still having randonneur (read: crazy) blood in my veins from the recent brevet series I completed (200k-600k), initially I thought about pedaling to the start, at least from the Southworth ferry dock. The route was about 25 miles, not too much to add to a 20-mile race I figured. But in the end I decided to save any energy I had and hopped in the car at 7:15 AM for the drive down there.

Google directions led us into a dead-end driveway, and the race's directions didn't make sense either. (though they do now, I saw on the way back I was reading them wrong - but the Google directions were still off!) We asked for directions and eventually found our way, following a group of 10 or so riders training on the course.

The Race

The Masters C/D (30+ Cat 4/5) started five minutes before us, and the 4/5 70-man peloton rolled out at 9:05 AM. Since I started at the back of the pack more or less, and since the "center line rule" (can't cross the 2nd yellow line in the middle of the road, e.g. only take one lane), I had to somehow move up through 50 or so people if I wanted to do anything useful in the race.

I was happy to be in the whir/buzz of the peloton again, and this time it also counts towards the Cat 4 upgrade. We rolled out of the Kapuchuck Middle School's parking lot and took a left down the hill, then taking a quick right on a nice 8% downhill, now on the race course. We passed the official's stand and the ambulance, and zoomed downhill at a nice 45-50 km/h. The air was cool but dry, perfect racing temps.

The officials warned us before the race that there are bumps & reflectors in the center and you really don't want to be riding there. But sure enough, about two minutes into the race someone goes around another rider and into the center, and their bottle flies out. Nobody went down but a bottle is one of the last things you want to see in front of you when doing 46 km/h on rough chipseal is a water bottle.

And of course there was the ever-present possibility of someone randomly going down in front of you and taking you down with them. In fact I watched a few riders having speed-wobble issues - or was it just control issues? I suppose for some it's hard to ride in a straight line. So it's a mix of risk & trust in the peloton, a delicate balance.

The pack dynamics on this course were interesting, as even though space was limited, you could find space to move up now and then. Some were more daring than others, but nobody went down.

One thing that really sucked at the back (reason #501 you don't want to be there) was all the slowing - the "accordion effect" as it's known. People four rows up slow for whatever reason, and of course that sets of a chain reaction of yelling ("Slowing!") and squealing brakes. In fact I swear I could smell burned rubber at few points during the race..

I tried to move up a little here and there and made it about halfway up the pack. When the uphill sections came I listened to a fireworks show of grinding gears and popping derailleurs. I stayed in the big ring, afraid of dropping my chain if I tried to downshift - in the end this was a huge mistake, though at this point I felt fine and though this first 7% uphill (w/ 12% spike) was tough, it was doable. Or at least seemed that way on the first few laps.

After the first uphill section, there's a shorter 5% section, followed by a slow rise to the finish. One lap down, and I was about halfway up the pack. So far so good.

The second lap was straight-forward, and while I wasn't hurting too much and was still in the middle or so, I wasn't really moving up either. Just wanted to stick this position out until the end, and see what happens.

I think it was on the third lap where my legs seemed to fall apart, and I knew why - pushing the 53x25 up the 8-12% grade. Talk about wasting energy! I wasn't red-lining yet, but knew it was around the corner, and it became progressively harder to recover on each lap.

On the fourth lap I started to drift back a little. I usually don't look back but as I did I noticed there were only a handful of riders behind me. Damn, at the back. We slowed down a good deal on this lap (I'm sure most were tired), and this was a welcomed chance to rest. But when the uphill came it was all I could do just to hang on.

Then The Race Went South

On the final lap I was going backwards uphill with about 1k to go.. first time in my 15-race career that I watched the peloton pedal away from me, I was officially OTB ("Off The Back"). Damn. Legs on fire, lungs gasping, it was all I could do to at least keep the pedals turning to the finish.

I looked back and wasn't even sure anyone else was back there - I'd just been passed by the official's & wheel cars, and the peloton was up and over the last little peak, someone was probably already crossing the line. I wasn't even sure if I was supposed to dismount and walk in shame to the end, or what, but I just kept going.

Not a good feeling, coming in off the back - spectators giving you the "pity clap" or the "blank stare" - but at least the official was still recording finishing numbers so I was at least still a part of the race. Finishing upright and close to the pack is good enough for me at this point, though a little disappointing.

In the three other USAC-sanctioned races I've done I got 13th at Ballard, 11th at Joe Matava, and 15th at Derby Days. Not wins or even top 10's - but I was really happy to having showings like that in my first season. Those were all criteriums and about half the length of this ride, and flat - so maybe this just isn't my type of race at this point.

I wasn't DFL like I thought at first, or even worse DNF. The official result showed me at 49th out of 70 riders - but as a Cat 5 I guess all that matters is that I started. At this point it really is mostly about gaining fitness & experience. Now just six more (official) races and I'm a Cat 4.

That's Great, But Who Won?

Hopefully my tale of life in the day of Cat 4/5 pack fodder was at least entertaining. But in the end, any race is all about winning - and it turns out my friend Jordan took the win! He's a 5 as well, we've been racing at Seward Park a lot where he's taken a few podium spots. Though I didn't get to see the finish, here was his recount:

This was my 1st circuit race and It wasn't bad, the pace seemed a lot slower than I expected with a lot of yo-yo. The 12% climb and the slight grade at the finish made the difference!

Nothing eventful happened during the race until the last lap.. I made sure I was close to the front on the 12% climb so I still had about 15-20 guys ahead of me by the time I got to the top.. After I crested I punched it and leap-frogged wheels and quickly caught up to the 15 off the front and had shit-tons of momentum I decided to just go for and jumped all of them.. Unfortunately those 10-15 guys had the road blocked, I had no where to take all of this momentum I gained going off the backside of the climb into the last 300m.. So I had to think quick and well there was no choice except to go onto the shoulder into the loose gravel and grass and go around these guys and jump back in front of them.. It sure worked, but there was still 1 guy off the front another 20 ft. and I punched it again with 200m left and that was that! I won by a few bike lengths!! Fun times!!
Huge congrats to Jordan on the strong & creative win!

Race Data

This graph from WKO+ shows all five laps - red is heart rate (horizontal red line is 171 bpm for ref.), yellow is power (horiz. dashed yellow line is my estimated FTP 285 watts), and the orange-ish is the elevation.

Here is a zoom in on one lap. As you can see my HR (red line up top) went down as we descended the hill, then a big power spike (yellow vertical line) at the turn onto the uphill section. It doesn't tell you much by itself, but compared to other laps I can see how on the last lap my HR was not recovering like it was before - and that I wasn't putting out the power I was earlier in the race.

Splitting the race into halves, I obviously put out more power in the first half (and went faster) - but I found it interesting that the average bpm (heart rate) was a bit higher on the 2nd half.

1st half:
Duration: 28:00
Work: 354 kJ
TSS: 46.8 (intensity factor 1.002)
Norm Power: 285
Distance: 17.107 km
Min Max Avg
Power: 0 946 211 watts
Heart Rate: 82 185 162 bpm
Cadence: 22 129 83 rpm
Speed: 4.9 91.4 36.7 kph

2nd half:
Duration: 27:57
Work: 345 kJ
TSS: 44.1 (intensity factor 0.973)
Norm Power: 277
Distance: 15.425 km
Min Max Avg
Power: 0 935 206 watts
Heart Rate: 132 186 166 bpm
Cadence: 35 150 87 rpm
Speed: 2.7 79.5 33.1 kph

From the complete race data I can see that my HR didn't even get over 186 - whereas I usually top out at 195 each time at Seward - perhaps this points to my lack of a warm-up this time around, not sure. Seems like I basically wasn't firing on all cylinders..

Entire workout (210 watts):
Duration: 56:00
Work: 700 kJ
TSS: 90.8 (intensity factor 0.987)
Norm Power: 281
Distance: 32.546 km (~20 miles)
Elevation Gain: 648 m
Min Max Avg
Power: 0 946 208 watts
Heart Rate: 79 186 164 bpm
Cadence: 18 150 85 rpm
Speed: 2.7 91.4 34.9 kph (21.7 mph avg)
Crank Torque: 0 203.9 22.4 N-m

The third installment of this circuit-race series is on the 29th, in Carnation - and then the Seward Park "Season End" Classic (an official USAC race) is on the 30th. But before that, there's a Black Diamond-Sunrise permanent (~300k in total) on Monday, and the Baker Lake (Redmond-Baker Lake) 400km (249 mi) brevet on the 22nd.

The season's not over yet, folks!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Seward Park 4/5 Race 8/13/09 - In The Rain

The forecast called for rain, and was it ever right. Looking at the animated weather map before the race, I could see a big blob of red/orange/yellow spots oozing towards Seattle. It wouldn't be the first time I'd race at Seward in the rain, just the second time. I remembered from last time that while the pace was still slower, it was still a race, and depending on who was pulling the pack it would still be a tough one.

As I set off at about 4:40 or so for the ride down to the race, it was lightly raining and somewhere in the mid to high 60's. My rain jacket quickly got wet, but since I chose to wear my (heavy wool) SiR jersey I felt nice and warm. Also wore Ibex wool knickers & thick wool socks I usually wear in the winter - but it also works great for rain gear, even in the summer.

I took it easy pedaling down, even avoiding chasing a strong guy in an Amgen kit, who ended up being in the same race I was doing. Usually I end up chasing people on that stretch of Lake Wa Blvd down to Seward, as there are always rabbits to chase other cyclists around to ride with.

Got to Seward by about 5:15, perfect timing though 10 minutes extra after signing in meant standing around under a tree, trying to stay out of the rain. Lining up meant two groups of people standing under two trees near the start line, trying to avoid the wet. With about four minutes to go I got out there and lined up, ready to get it on. Not a huge crowd, only 20-25 - but not surprising given the weather.

The Race

Pre-race instructions, given from under an umbrella as the rain was coming down pretty hard at this point, told us that unlike the usual at Seward, we would be doing a "win and out" format, borrowed from track racing. The idea is that instead of doing just 15 laps, we'd do 9 laps and then who ever crosses the line first wins, but then they pull out and the race continues. The next lap decides second, and then that person pulls out. Since they place up the first six riders at Seward, we had six deciding laps for a total of 15. That format change and the rain really made things interesting.

Most of the usual characters were there, including Mark on Starbucks team that usually kills it here. Jordan, riding for Blue Rooster, was also there, looking to place as he's done a few times already. Laurent, I think his name is, who rides for Byrne/Invent and who won the last two races I think. All wheels I was keeping an eye on.

The first lap of the race was a tad chilly, as I'd taken off my rain jacket in order to not overheat during the race. So my wet bare arms were catching wind and quite cold, though I either forgot about it or warmed up by the time we got on the uphill. It was a messy affair - riding in someone's draft also meant riding in their rooster-tail of water.

The trick is to sit just to the side of their wheel, and let the spray hit your shoulder instead of the face. Even then it's not perfect, but it at least allows you to see. On that note from the 2nd lap or so I had a stream of water coming into my right eye - salty water at that, so it stung.. I could barely find time to try to wipe my eye without knocking off my glasses, and even when I did it barely helped.

We stayed in a pack until the first prime lap came and Mark took it, stringing out the pack. After his prime win and going down the hill on the other side, I could see him motioning for someone to join his newly-forming break, but nobody had the energy or speed to catch him. And at that point I think people were still going around the hard left turn (e.g. way behind the head of the race), so the "pack" was now a line of strung out riders.

The order of riders from here on out was probably close to how it all ended. But remember that since we were racing a win-and-out format, once someone wins the race it keeps going for five more laps, each lap the winner of that placing drops out.

Because of that, I didn't want to try to chase Mark et al down (I was about 5-6 riders back, and maybe 20 meters) just to have him beat me in the sprint, and then have to fend off more riders after a failed attempt. If I was going to sprint, I wanted to make it stick and have that be the end of the race. Simple enough, but making it happen is tricky.

So the "final" lap comes around and Mark is way up front, further stretching everyone out. Jordan was up there somewhere, along with two or three other riders. When we came around on the final lap we could barely see but I assumed Mark won it, and we kept going, the next lap counting for 2nd place. (So there were still five more laps left, if that makes sense)

It was still so stretched out that I didn't want to chase and then lose a sprint only to have to try again. So I stayed in my spot, and after a lap or two there were only two riders around me, nobody visible up front or behind. Had everyone up front won their laps, or was this "our" turn?

As we come around the bend at the bottom of the hill, one of the riders in my group asks, "Is this our lap?" I say I'm not sure, the other rider says, "Yeah." Of course, we're all close to red-lining already so talk is not easy. I hope their right, and start thinking about a sprint which is about to happen in 30 seconds or so.

We come up to the steep uphill section, and I was happy that neither of my opponents (we were going for 4th or 5th, I wasn't sure) had gone for the sprint yet - much like on the velodrome, we were playing the cat and mouse game of who goes first, and who then jumps on their wheel and tries to overcome them before the line.

I've been doing some 1-minute intervals earlier in the week and was doing them well (480w for me, or 7.07 w/kg), and those practice intervals were in order to better in this exact situation.

So with a little confidence, as we crested the steepest part, I mutter something cheesy like, "let's do this" and give it my all for the finish, hoping that this is indeed the right lap to be sprinting for.

20 seconds or so of sprinting down, and I glance under my arm to see if anyone's there. I got the jump on them, but are they about to pass, or left in the dust? I see a wheel about 10 meters back, but it seemed to be slowly moving away - that's a good sign! Another kick and I'm approaching the line, giving it all I've got and really hoping this is the right lap to go on. No need to look back any more, I figure if they're gonna pass I'll find out, now is just the time to dump everything I have left. So I do.

I crossed the line alone, happy to have beat out my two opponents for this placing (ended up being 4th!), and started the cool-down in the parking lot next to the course. It takes me about 2-3 minutes to regain enough breath to have a meaningful conversation with anyone.

Sure enough, Mark took first (nice job!), and Jordan took 3rd. I was just happy to have sprinted at the right time, and to have enough kick to beat a few people out before the line. Training has been heading in the right direction, but still not enough for a win - one of these days..

The ride home was wet, as it was still raining - but at least it was a bit lighter now. I just looked forward to a warm shower once at home, and getting all that heavy wet wool off of me. While it does keep you warm, jeez it seemed to weigh a ton at the end of the ride.

And tomorrow: this (Gig Harbor circuit/road race - stay tuned for a report!)

Saturday, August 8, 2009

13th Annual DBB Downhill Race/Party: Insane Fun

On the first Friday in August each year the Dead Baby Bikes group puts on a huge race and party, showcasing some of the craziest stuff you'll see in the bicycle world. I've gone to the event twice, my first one was in '04. And I've missed it a few years as well, and have always regretted just hearing stories about what went down.

So when I saw this poster on the walk to the bus recently I was happy to be reminded that this year's edition promised to impress just like previous ones, and that I needed to go!
Yes, this monkey was ready to race.

I met my friend Matt down at the Comet on Pike St at about 6 PM, so we registered & hung out for an hour waiting for the race to beging at 7 PM. There were plenty of bikes to look at while we waited.

The crowd was getting pretty big, with most of the side-street blocked off by human traffic, music blaring. Yeah this is not your usual race.

Inside The Comet (note the dollar bills on the ceiling) to purchase my entry in the race, a DBB water bottle for all-you-can-drink beer, and a "contender" t-shirt.

The thing about this race is that you'll see all types of bikes in it: tall bikes, BMX, fixed gears, road bikes, and even ones like this:
Oh and there was at least one guy riding on rims, I heard he did the race like that.

Getting closer to the 7 PM race time - the crowd is getting thick and now blocking most of Pike St. It's gonna be a great night of all things bike.

The Downhill Race

Before too long a loud firework was set off (a tradition in this race), actually I think there were two, and it was time to race. Too bad we were still kind of in the middle of a huge crowd, with some people not even on their bikes yet.

The great thing about this race is that there's no official route, and not many if any rules. In fact the first time I did this race in 2004, we bombed down Beacon Hill to the same general area, and the race was cut off by a slow moving train. So what did some of the more daring competitors do? They threw their bikes onto the flat platforms and hopped up on them, scrambled across, and kept riding! Yeah, it's that kind of race. (The PI has a picture of this in action, here, scroll down a bit)

Here's a video of the start:

We weren't even sure of the best way to get down there until we overheard someone say something about 12th Ave to King St (skipping the stoplights on Jackson), and then a left on 6th which gets you to Airport Way and the destination of the race. Pretty much what I had in mind except skipping Jackson.

After weaving through the standing crowd I filtered through more riders in front of me, also squeezing through traffic and ran every red light in sight. We blazed down 12th Ave, and when people in front of me started slowing when crossing Boren a group behind yelled "Don't stop!!" - in this kind of race you can break any rule in the book, and running lights is part of the thrill - and sure enough we found a way through traffic and kept moving. Not the safest thing but I'm sure traffic survived the delay.

When it came time for King St nobody in front of me was taking it, a huge group was going up Beacon Hill. I don't know what flyer they saw but this is supposed to be a downhill race! Still, I took a right on King though it didn't' go all the way through like I thought, and instead dumped me on Dearborn.

There were other bikes around so I figured it couldn't have been too bad a route choice. Before too long we were on Airport Way, a flat stretch of rough road. And heading south we were going straight into a nice headwind. Actually I shouldn't say we, at this point I was alone, chasing a few rabbits up the road. I passed a few people here and there, but couldn't catch a larger group up ahead. I wondered what route they took.

I saw one rider bomb down the Lucile St ramp to Airport Way, which is really steep, blasting through a red light at what must have been at least 35-40 mph. Now there's some risk-taking for you.

Even though this was just a 5 mile race it was enough to make the legs burn, and to make the lungs beg you to quit. But I kept chugging along, catching a few riders at the bridge closer to our destination, but not making any progess on anyone else and not feeling super strong.

Once to the destination in Georgetown we saw a few "Dead Babies" waving us into a gravel alley. We made it! Here are a few riders streaming in from Airport Way:

Now in the alley, more riders showing up.
And more bikes.. bikes were coming in for what seemed like 30 minutes. On the way down I heard one guy say he had a flat but, "Fuck it, I'm riding it all the way," and surely others got lost along the way.

This guy had a nice race costume:

And this guy's bike was a portable sound system, blasting some kind of crunk-ish bass. Awesome.

The Party

No that's not a crucifix you see. This creation is four guitars connected to a drivetrain - when you pedal it strums the guitars and plays music! Put together by Cyclecide, an SF group that builds human powered awesomeness.

Or how about the merry-go-round powered by four cyclists? It was fast, as you can see in this video: (if you don't see a big video below, get Flash)

And the pedal-powered ferris wheel is always a hit.

Later on this wonderful bike showed up. Is it a group bike? Monster tall bike? Who knows, but I love it.

We made our way inside the venue to get some beer in our water bottles, and chow down on some veggie burgers. Later on in the night there was a huge line for beer, but Matt & I would just sneak around to the left and just make it happen, only taking a few minutes! I was sure to tip well even though we'd already paid for it.

BMX Tricks

The first event we saw was the BMX action. There was a set of ramps set up for BMX madness, and about 10 guys were doing some crazy stuff. As seen in the videos below.

BMX 360 on video:

And a back flip:

Or how about three 360's?

Here's a snapshot of one of their back-to-back-to-back 360 tricks. Wow. There was a dumpster turned sideways they were jumping over too.
Some impressive stuff:

Later on, the "guitar-ride" in action:

And the merry-go-round:

Bunnyhop Competition

This even featured riders trying to clear an ever-rising horizontal bar. I remember doing little 6" hops back in my BMX days as a kid, but these riders were serious about this shit! After all, most of the competitors were the same stuntmen from the BMX ramp course.

They started at about 6", and raised the bar by three inches each round. A guy on a fixed gear got pretty far into the rounds, and cleared 18" I think, pretty impressive.

Eventually it came down to two BMX guys, hopping over the bar raised up to 36" or three feet. And when they both cleared it, the judges decided to have their helpers put the bar on top of their hands, adding an inch to the height. They both cleared it, so they went to best two out of three, and they tied again. So it was best trick over the bar, as judged by crowd feedback, best two out of three. Something like that - anyway eventually there was a winner, who I think landed a 180 over the high bar.

Bunnyhop video from early in the competition:

The Bicycle Belles & B:C:Clettes

The Bicycle Belles doing a Tour de France-themed performance (the music was Kraftwerk's TdF song, I believe). Note the malloit jaune:

And here's a shot of the B:C:Clettes from Canada doing one of their dance routines:

Tallbike Joust!!!

At 12 AM or so it was the moment we'd all been waiting for. Two people face off in what is really an amazing event, and I had a front-row seat, sitting on the ground only feet from the action. Only downside to a front-row seat in this even is that there's a good chance you might have to "catch" a tallbike and/or rider coming down on you. And by catch I just must survive the impact.

The poles were about 10 feet long, with a boxing glove on the end. Only rules was aim for the chest, not the head.

Here's a video of the tall bike jousting - yes, it's as crazy as it sounds! (again if you don't have Flash, you won't see the video)

And this one featured a rider who went straight into the crowd - lucky for me it was on the other side. I missed the actual crash since I was busy watching the carnage in person.

The Ride Home

I slowly, and a little buzzed, pedaled home at about 2 AM, cutting a hilly route up 7th Ave, 6th Ave, and Yesler to Broadway. I had my new DBB water bottle, a new t-shirt, and a new appreciation for creativity in the cycling community. It was a great night.

Here is the full photo/video set from the night. The camera was running out of batteries, but it does this weird thing where I can turn it off for a while and then turn it on for 30 seconds or so, hence missing some key moments.

Of course I wasn't the only one snapping pictures. Here's what else I've found so far:

Huge thanks to the crazy mofos at Dead Baby Bikes for putting on this crazy event! I'll be out again next year for sure. If you're interested in seeing something different, it's the event for you.