Sunday, March 28, 2010

100 Miles of Racing: Independence Valley & Ravensdale-Cumberland

It was a big weekend of racing, at least by my Cat 4 standards.

Summary: my legs are tired... but I'm loving racing more than ever! Read on for the details..

Saturday 3/27/10: Independence Valley Road Race - 38 miles

A bit of a drive, out to Rochester, WA (near Centralia) but the four of us piled into JC's pickup and headed out from Seattle at 8 AM. With the race not starting until 12-ish, we had time to get down there, stop for "food" on the way, and warm up a little. Jason & I in the Cat 4's, and Ian & Kyle in the Cat 5's, all ready to represent Recycled Cycles Racing in another early-season road race.

The Cat 4 Race

During our ~1 mile neutral rollout, the lead car pulled into a (gravel) driveway on the side of the road! So we're all doing 10 mph with no lead car and looking around, and eventually come to a stop. Wtf?!

They eventually backed out and came back up to us, and started leading us out again... well that was interesting, but of course it would only get better as the race went on.

From the course map/profile you could tell there were two ~5% climbs, but that profile is deceiving! It doesn't look so bad online, and when you start the climb it's gentle, but as you make a turn there is a wall in front of you! Not huge but a little daunting.. the climbs were about 3 minutes at 7% grade.

Advice from the more experienced racers on the team was to warm up very well, as many get dropped right there in the first 5 miles of the race. And I can see how.

50 Cat 4 riders in the pack at the start, but somewhere on the first lap I look back and the pack is much smaller than it should be. And I'm almost at the back. Must have shed at least 20 on the first climb alone.. one guy went off the front up the first climb (the harder one), and then on the downside a cat runs out in front of him! Then we're all yelling "CAT!! CAT!!" as it pauses briefly in the space between the break and the pack. It scooted across the road in time and all was good, but that was... interesting.

Accidental Bridging

Somewhere on the slight downhill/flat section on the first lap we're still chasing the solo break, and I accidentally roll off the front... or something. I thought I was easing everyone towards the break (it's not like I jumped) but all of a sudden I've got a gap. Then I decide to bridge up, and for a split second I'm thinking "Sweet! 30 mile break for the win.." Then I'm thinking "Wtf am I doing out here? No way I can do this!" But I rolled up to him nonetheless. He'd sat up, waiting for someone to come up and was probably happy for company, no matter who it was or how strong they were.

The tactics of racing really start when you get into break-aways, and sharing work in one. I knew he was stronger, I knew there were hills, and I knew our chances (well, mine at least) of staying away were limited. Was it worth it to go in the fist 10-ish miles of a 40 mile race?

Dude was trying to talk me into working with him, and coaching me on pulling through.. I felt cooked/winded, and I'm trying to tell him, "Nah man, I'm can't do it. The hills. No way." I sat up, couldn't hold his wheel anymore, but then someone else was bridging up, and I hopped on that wheel to get back to the break. It was a chance I couldn't pass up, even though the legs/lungs were screaming.

We got swamped within seconds, so we must have slowed too much or the pack decided to chase. Or maybe the pack was barely behind us - sometimes it can feel like you're way in front of the peloton, but don't realize how fast they can gain ground.

The second hill came and wasn't too bad, but I was close to the limit. Just push over and hope nobody attacks on the incline to string things out.

The hills started to hurt more on the second lap, and the speed was upping. One of my team mates was with four others in front on the hard climb and got some space off the front towards the top. What a heart-sinking feeling, still climbing hard and watching five riders go over the top with a gap... now you're having to chase and climb at the same time.. and dodge those who are (understandably) going backwards.

In the ensuing chase I got gapped off the back, but was able to chase back on during the downhill. Maybe some people were playing it safe and braking a little, but somehow I was passing people - maybe I was willing to risk it a little more.. I heard some did get dropped on the downhill after all.

The last 5 miles are here and I look around and there's only 20-25 of us, and start thinking about the upcoming bunch sprint. Max from is here, and though he's a junior and maybe half my age, still a competitor to look out for. Dan from First Rate Mortgage is also in the mix, and I'm figuring if I'm feeling as fresh as I do, they must feel pretty good too.


A few miles from the finish guy in the middle of our mini-peloton touches a wheel (his front wheel touched the wheel in front of him) and is all of a sudden "laying it down," sliding on the chipseal, only two bike-lengths ahead of me, at about 28 mph.

It was a little miracle my team mate Chris and I didn't go down with him/others... After getting around it I looked back to see a team mate in the grass (Jason), just as he caught his front wheel and did an endo...

I slowed a bit, braced for impact from behind (there was none), and then went around the guy's bike on the ground. Thoughts of "wow that chip seal looks sharp" and "here we go" came to mind, but somehow things worked out and we rolled away. That's racing, I guess.

We had to chase a little to catch back on, but Chris and I were able to bridge the gap and get back in the race. I couldn't believe what had just happened. And Chris even had to calm me down a bit, and get me thinking about the upcoming sprint.

The Sprint

The 1 km sign came and we sped up a little, but nobody went. 200 meter sign and the road is open. I'm actually accelerating and passing people, for once!

But I had nowhere to go, 1st through 6th were spread out right in front of me. Ended up 7th place! Finally, a top 10 in the Cat 4's. That means 3 points (out of 20) towards my Cat 3 upgrade! (If I'm reading this correctly)

After the race we turned around and rode back towards the finish to check on Jason, and he was OK, though his rims were a little bent.

And then the Cat 5's had just finished, and we got news that Kyle (on our team) had taken the win! One of his crazy attacks paid off.. nice work! It'll be great to have him in the 4's..


IVRR Cat 4 (no rollout, cooldown):
Duration: 1:36:35
Work: 1197 kJ
TSS: 128.9 (intensity factor 0.895)
Norm Power: 255 (~3.8 w/kg)
VI: 1.23
Distance: 37.57 mi
Elevation Gain: 3230 ft
Elevation Loss: 3231 ft
Grade: -0.0 % (-1 ft)
Min Max Avg
Power: 0 999 207 watts
Heart Rate: 115 184 159 bpm
Cadence: 18 145 84 rpm
Speed: 2.7 61.3 23.3 mph
Altitude: 120 502 231 ft
Crank Torque: 0 1603 202 lb-in

Race #2, Sunday 3/28/2010 - Ravensdale-Cumberland-Ravensdale Road Race - 61 miles

Waking up for the early 9 AM race, it was dark and raining. My legs weren't hurting, just a little sore from the race from the day before, and I had a ride to the race, so there was no excuse not to go. And I wanted more points!

Well, it was a tough race. The longest race I'd done was the 40-miler the day before. And that was also the hilliest race I'd ever done.

The race started off relatively heated, with attempted attacks stringing out the group as we chased to close down the gaps. Nobody was getting away that early. But people sure were trying, and it definitely took some work to reel some of them back in. And sometimes you'd be sitting 20th wheel and see five guys roll off the front, and think, "there goes the race."

Again the course profile was a little deceptive. It looks like only 2-3% grades the whole way, and it was for the most part. But there was one climb that was a mini-wall, well only 7% but it was a bit of a shock and I was drifting backwards on the climb more than I wanted to. Hurting more than I wanted to.

We were doing two laps fo the course, so that hill would of course come back into play.

Made up any lost ground on the downhill section, and then the pack slowed waaay down on the flat section with all the turns. Definitely a few of us that also raced yesterday, so perhaps some legs were tired.

One the route back towards Ravensdale on the first lap, we were chasing a solo break on a slight uphill. The pack seemed to slow and nobody was doing work, so I came up the side and raised the pace. Not an attack, but slow enough people would (hopefully) follow my wheel and we could bridge the gap that much sooner. Some people like to sit in the back of the pack and yell, "go faster!" (seriously, people do that!), but I figure it's up to me to make the race play out. Otherwise I paid $25 for a scenic group ride..

But it was probably more work than I should have been doing. On the second climb I was really in pain, the legs were screaming. I could really feel yesterday all of a sudden.. Soon after the downhill we were chasing and coming into a turn, but somehow a little too hot. I hear screeching brakes behind me, and hear a rider sliding out. Whoa. Barely made it out of that one..

Once we made the turn there was somehow another gap to be closed, and it was either close it or race over. I had to lay down a sprint worthy of the final 200m just to latch back on, and had that unfortunate feeling of legs of fire, but behind the pack with space to close. Resting is not an option. But again, what did I come out here for? To race dammit! So I chased as hard as I could and latched back on. Resting at 25 mph, ahh..

The roads on this course had a nice wide shoulder, unlike most of the other road races I've done so far. And the Apex guy who is strong, and has been attacking a good deal, played his hand excellently. He came screaming up the right side of the pack, moving from the back to the front, on the nice wide shoulder, on the slight uphill on the way back to Ravensdale. People yell stuff like "attack is coming," etc, but doing it like that is enough to catch the people in the front off guard, and that's really what matters.

His pace was enough to get a nice gap, and before too long a Bikesale guy left the pack and bridged up to him. So in the last 10 miles of the race, the guys are getting smaller and smaller, and there is no real organized chasing. Given that Bikesale had 5+ riders in the pack, I would hope they were doing their part to not chase..

The last 15 or so miles of this race were really tough for me. I was really sapped of energy, I knew I should have brought more than one gel for this race.. I was only drinking a green tea/honey mix, but besides the one gel before the race that was it. Not enough fuel for a 60 mile road race like this..

I found myself at the back of the pack, and was content sitting there. Phil from Lenovo, also in the race yesterday, was back there and we talked about how we were feeling it now for sure. At this point my goal was really just to finish with the pack.

The final 200 meter sign came (there was no 1km sign, to the confusion of many), and it was on 3% grade... and I had no legs. You try to stand up and go but nothing really happens. The pack leaves you, and I rolled in for 22nd (out of 32).. hurting and just glad to be done. Probably at 10 mph if not less.

I haven't felt that way during a bike ride since... last summer, when I was doing all those crazy rando rides! But I have to thank all those crazy rides for building some of the endurance I have these days.


R-C-R Cat 4 road race, no neutral/cooldown:
Duration: 2:30:06
Work: 1682 kJ
TSS: 174.9 (intensity factor 0.836)
Norm Power: 238
VI: 1.28
Distance: 59.044 mi
Elevation Gain: 4392 ft
Min Max Avg
Power: 0 981 187 watts
Heart Rate: 105 182 151 bpm
Cadence: 26 155 83 rpm
Speed: 2.7 46.7 23.5 mph
Altitude: 644 953 816 ft
Crank Torque: 0 1725 183 lb-in

All in all it was a great weekend of racing. Huge thanks to JC for carting my ass around the Puget Sound!

Next race will be the Volunteer Park Criterium - this is one I've been waiting to do for years. April 10th, mark your calendars! After these long-ish road races a 40-minute crit sounds great..

Edit: Found some photos from this weekend's races!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Tour de Dung #2: Hello Cat 4

The scene for the last 2010 installation of the annual "Tour de Dung", named after the nearby locality of Dungeness, closer to the more famous Sequim, Wa - with the Straight of Juan de Fuca to the north and the Olympic mountains to the south:

Compared to some of the pics I've seen of training crits in industrial parks on the east coast this is like riding in heaven. But we weren't here for the scenery, it was time to sweat.

The "Tour de Dung": a road race on a 12-mile loop with a few ups and downs, but nothing to really slow us down all that much. Nice and smooth and fast. Really fun racing, but a bit of a trek to get out there with the ferry and all.. still worth the trip even with a long day for a two-hour race.

I hitched a ride in the team van, along with a bunch of other Recycled Cycles racers - some in the Cat 3's, some in the 4's, and some in the 5's. Other RCR (Recycled Cycles Racing) people drove out separately.

My trusty Ciocc alongside the van:

This was my first race in a Cat 4-only field, and while I'd done Cat 4/5 crits & circuit races last year doing Sequim in both the 5's and the 4's allowed me to see the differences between how the two categories ride.

As you can imagine the 4's are a tad faster - but in addition the race is a bit faster, there are more breaks/attacks, and it's actually kind of smoother. Oh and you race longer, so one more lap or 12 more miles of racing in the 4's. I have no problem with that, it's more mileage for the money! Gotta say this was the fastest 48 miler I've ever done.

Took a few photos & videos throughout the day, and posted a few here.

The registration line was long but we had time:

The Race

After a quick change in the van (you can stand up in it!) I lined up with other 4's getting ready to get it on. Saw Rob M. from 2nd Ascent who also just recently upgraded. Didn't see Mark M who is about to upgrade to the 3's, but I knew he'd be here and gunning for another win.

Recycled had decent numbers in this race: Five in total! Three racers that have been 4's for a while now, and at least one of them is close to getting to the next category (based on wins/points), and then two brand-new 4's including me. The plan for this race was to just keep it together for the final sprint.

The race was off and the first thing I noticed was that there was no real 15-mph neutral rollout like in the 5's. The lead-moto just took off and we were gunning up the hill.. so much for a warm-up! Nothing too blistering but I was a bit surprised. Sometimes there are inconsistencies in local amateur racing like this (even in pro racing I'm sure), and it's just part of the game.

The weather was great, clear skies and a tad chilly. My new team kit was great - bib shorts, short sleeve jersey with just arm warmers felt perfect. Added the white "belgian booties" from Castelli for that Faux Pro look.

Looking back at the stats somehow the first (of four) 12-mile laps was one of our fastest! Everyone feels fresh in the beginning I guess, and thinks they'll muscle through the whole race. Then on the second lap things tone down a bit (e.g. 23 mph average instead of 24). A few riders went off the front, but nothing really threatening, and it all got reeled back.

It was tempting to try an attack of my own on the short-ish climbs, but I really just wanted to save it for the final 200 meters. Every time I get out in front of the wind off the front of the peloton after about 30 seconds I feel like I'm cycling through molten lava - the legs are burning and barely moving in slow motion. Must be a pacing thing, e.g. I'm jamming it too hard to make the separation and having nothing left to keep it up.

Maybe one day I'll perfect the solo attack... and since sprinting doesn't seem to be a natural talent of mine I might have to start thinking about The Attack a lot more. What it will probably take is a group of riders going up the road from different teams.

The race was relatively uneventful, and I just tried not to half-wheel too much (sometimes it seems like you can't fill a gap without doing it) and keep it smooth. The course is tight but the turns are wide enough that they're pretty safe.

After the left-turn-to-downhill-to-right-turn everyone mini-sprinted out of the turn, naturally; but somehow one guy was all of a sudden dancing on the asphalt, no longer clipped into the pedals and the bike's rear jumping around like a bronco. Must've done the "I'm a pro so I look down while I sprint" thing and probably turned the front wheel too much. Or something.

I rode by and yelled "nice save!" as he somehow kept it upright after all the scary stuff.

Final Wind-up

I made sure to stick in the upper 20 or so riders on the final lap, which might have been somewhat a waste of energy but moving up during a one-lane road race can be... challenging. So I prefer to stay up front and not have to battle through the pack when the time is right.

Two other team mates and I are up in the mix in the final wind-up (Josh had flatted out the last lap, Todd had done a lot of work on the front and was tired, I presume). Cool. Not exactly lined up for any kind of lead out, but at least most of us there in terms of not crashing out or blowing up.

Last weekend in the 5's race I ended up 10th in the sprint and felt like I could have done better if I'd gone to the outside (left) of the road, since the wind was coming from the right. But this time the wind felt more like it was coming from straight on... I'm not sure if anyone really likes sprinting into a headwind but I really hate it!

Even though the wind was different this time around I tried to line up like I wanted to for last time, I guess just to see if I could hold a position in the final 1 km. Well I held the position but that didn't really do me much good..

The 200-meter sign came and people starting winding up, a few started going full-on. Team mates and I were all seemingly in position for a top ten, if we could hold position to the line... Which I could not do. My sprint only lasted 150-meters, or something, because near the line Chris & I were swamped and lost what seemed like 10 spots in a split-second. Then I was still trying to at least overcome the bike in front of me, but couldn't do it.

I must have been too far up front initially, since I don't have enough power/speed to lead out the pack the whole way in the final drag race. Or something.

Anyway in the end I came out in 25th place, out of 60-something starters. No points, not one step closer to the Cat 3's, but another notch in the experience column. JC got 9th place, and Chris came in 21st, so RCR did pretty well overall.

I hear the winner has been training hard since last year and this was the first race he's won - congrats, Bart!!

After the Race

The Recycled Cycles Cat 5's were still racing and since we were all riding back together we stuck around and cheered them on. We heard over the radio that Kyle, a strong junior, was off the front of the 5's pack! When he came by we cheered him on, and were impressed with the distance he had on the peloton - later on he said it was reported at 1 minute 45 seconds - you couldn't even see the riders behind him, and were talking about how Joe Parkin said something like, "the best way to win is to be the only one in the picture." We were sure of an RCR victory, and it was only a matter of time before he came around again since it was now his final lap.

The field came by and didn't look like they were really chasing hard, so then we really thought it was in the bag. But we had to wait about 30 minutes to find out...

In the mean time we were invited into the GCRacing (FinishLynx cam) tent, to see our sprint photo finish.

In addition to the crazy finish-line camera they also have a cool computer setup - I believe this was the Cat 3's finish picture.

Some Cat 5's coming through:

Eventually the results from my race, the Cat 4's, were posted. The preliminary results included time splits, which I'd never seen before in a RR! (calc'd via the FinishLynx cam, each pixel represents some fraction of a second) - the top 25 riders all came in within one second - a small consolation:

More Cat 5's coming around.

The staging scene:

Eventually we heard over the official's radio that the lead car was coming around the final corner, so 1 km to go. Would we see Kyle crest the hill and approach the finish line solo as expected? It was not to be - the pack appeared instead, and Kyle wasn't in it! We were baffled but he said he just blew up eventually and they overtook him. Excellent try though! I think he had the best result out of all of us that day.

Video of the Cat 5 peloton coming through: pack #1, pack #2

Video of the Cat 5 finishes: pack #1, pack #2

Cat 4 Race Stats

Final (weak) sprint for 25th:
Duration: 0:25 seconds
Distance: 0.23 mi
Min Max Avg
Power: 248 816 588 watts
Heart Rate: 182 188 184 bpm
Cadence: 99 116 109 rpm
Speed: 28.3 34.4 32.4 mph
Crank Torque: 207 682 454 lb-in

Looking at the speed & torque values, I feel like I was under-geared to really get the speed up.. and that I also needed to spin it up faster.

Only hit 34.4 mph max... no wonder I lost! I heard Bart, the guy from Starbucks who took the sprint, hit 37 to take the win.. gotta work on my sprint for sure. Or maybe I should forget about sprinting and just think about break-aways? Time will tell.

Stats for the entire workout - 24.2 mph average for almost 50 miles! I must admit that's the fastest long-ish ride I've ever done. And that's pretty slow as far as bike racing goes.. Now I really can't wait to do one of those 30-40 minute crits this summer!

Entire workout (183 watts):
Duration: 1:58:06
Work: 1296 kJ
TSS: 136.8 (intensity factor 0.834)
Norm Power: 238
VI: 1.3
Distance: 47.68 mi
Elevation Gain: 2861 ft
Min Max Avg
Power: 0 995 183 watts
Heart Rate: 117 189 152 bpm
Cadence: 30 142 84 rpm
Speed: 3.4 49.4 24.2 mph
Crank Torque: 0 1774 175 lb-in

Peak 5min (293 watts) - last 5 minutes of the race - not wasted energy in the middle of the race - good.
Duration: 5:00
Work: 88 kJ
TSS: 11 (intensity factor 1.15)
Norm Power: 328
VI: 1.12
Distance: 2.138 mi
Elevation Gain: 162 ft
Elevation Loss: 152 ft
Grade: 0.1 % (10 ft)
Min Max Avg
Power: 0 925 293 watts
Heart Rate: 151 188 171 bpm
Cadence: 38 116 94 rpm
Speed: 5.5 34.4 25.6 mph
Crank Torque: 0 1199 268 lb-in

Peak 20min (229 watts) - the last 20 minutes of the race, so I at least got that part right:
Duration: 20:00
Work: 274 kJ
TSS: 29.6 (intensity factor 0.942)
Norm Power: 268
VI: 1.18
Distance: 8.317 mi
Min Max Avg
Power: 0 925 228 watts
Heart Rate: 130 188 162 bpm
Cadence: 30 131 87 rpm
Speed: 3.7 48.3 24.9 mph
Crank Torque: 0 1271 220 lb-in

Thanks to all the volunteers & organizers for putting on this event! I'll certainly be back next year.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Tour de Dung #1: Goodbye Cat 5

The scene near Sequim for the "Tour de Dung" #1 road race this Saturday:

Crisp late-winter/early-spring air, no rain, good turnout, nice views of the mountains (though I never saw them during the race - too many wheels to pay attention to), and nice wide roads. What a venue for racing!

This was my final Cat 5 race, so the goal was mostly to stay upright. Of course, a win wouldn't hurt, and like many others out there that day of course I felt like maybe this was my day for a "W"..

Confusion before the race

Waited in registration line for 20 minutes, then when I'm almost there they say "Cat 5 is full!"

And then they say, "We're running another Cat 5 field, but it's in about two hours."

****! We drove 2 hours out there, including a 40 minute ferry, and this is what happens?

Later on we hear "Odd-numbered Cat 5's are going first, Evens second, in 1 1/2 hours." Now that I can deal with, I lucked out..

The Odd-Numbered Cat 5 Race

So eventually I line up with another team mate, Kyle, who is pretty new to racing but pretty strong as well. A few words and we're off on the neutral rollout, which seemed to take forever. Guys up front were yelling and waving at the lead car to speed it up.. After a kilometer or so the car speeds up and we're on!

The pace was a bit higher than at Mason, which made since given the wider road and smaller pack. With only about 50 of us it wasn't super crowded, and even felt like a small pack at times. Some Cycle U guys (or was it just one) was setting the pace at the front a lot, along with an unattached guy. The unattached guy at the front seemed to pull forever, and pull hard, which was great for all of us resting up for the end of the race.

It was like having a team mate up front putting the hurt on the pack for you - totally sacrificing themselves for your glory. Except, they probably figured they were "racing strong" and "setting the pace" - which may be true, but those two things don't always win bike races. Sometimes racing smarts come into play and the smartest (e.g. the most rested) racer might win.

Before too long I moved up the side of the pack, and spotted another Recycled Cycled kit up ahead - rode up and introduced myself to another team mate in the pack. Cool, that makes three of us!

The course goes something like this: a little gentle climb that isn't too long, a turn, a little downhill, a turn, a longer uphill that's still gentle, some more turns, two steep-but-short "sprinters hills" and then a flat straight finish. Twelve mile loops.

Only three laps for us 5's, so this would be another roughly 1.5 hour race like Mason last week. Could I go for a breakaway, and go out with a bang in the 5's? If it wasn't for the wind I might have thought harder about it, but I was ok with just surfing the pack and basically waiting for the finish.

On the front? Sure.

Though I usually don't really spend much time on the 'business-end' of the peloton that often in races, I guess I got bored at some points in this race and decided to do just that. Cycle U was still setting a good pace up front, and I rode up front and started matching the pace and sometimes upping it slightly.

On the second lap Kyle, a strong new rider on our team, started slowly riding away from the pack on the longer uphill, and before too long had 10 meters or so on the field. An RCR attack, nice. Being used to racing unattached my first instinct is to chase, and at first I think I did speed up a little..

But I eventually settled in and watched Kyle ride away from us, getting smaller and smaller. Given his nice result at the TT a few weeks ago I figured he might have a chance to stay away. And stay away he did for a few minutes, but once we took a turn and got the nice tailwind we started gaining on him and swallowed him up. Nice try though!

One interesting thing about being on the front was how challenging it can be to get off the front! In a training ride or most other rides you just swing off when you're ready to rest. But when pedaling into a headwind with 52 people on your wheel, and nobody wants to work, swinging off may not be enough to shake them.

Apparently if the pack is comfortable with your pace they'll just swing with you and stay on your wheel. Once I swung off, thinking I was safely out of the way, and slowed down only to hear a bunch of people yelling "slowing!" behind me.. ooops, well at least I didn't hit the brakes or anything.. a learning experience though.

To 'break the elastic' I just sprinted off the front for about 10 seconds, and then sat up. Then the pack came around and I was able to get in 10th wheel, just where I wanted to be in order to rest but not be too far back. (But it sounds like next time I should just be more patient, and the pack will come around eventually)

Last Lap!

The last lap comes and we're all antsy, and the pace picks up. One rider took off somewhere in the last 5 miles or so, and I figured it was "too early" and the pack just let him go. So many times I've seen people go off the front only to be reeled back a minute later - hell it's been me a few times.. though this guy is holding a nice pace, and gaining ground on us.

Breaking Away?

The solo guy is way off the front, and I'm holding in decent position up front - and as we get in the last few miles I decide maybe this is my chance to bridge up to him? So I launch an attack off the front, though I didn't really give it everything.. I didn't want to blow up early so I was putting in about 90% of a true break effort, hoping I could somehow a) hold off the pack and b) not blow up.. but in reality I'm not sure anything besides a 100% break effort will work.

About three strokes into my "attack" I'm looking down at my burning legs and thinking "what the fuck am I doing??" They're on fire but I press on, just trying to keep the gas on. A quick look back and they look smaller than normal, cool.

Once out there alone in the wind you realize (yet again) how hard it is to go fast solo. Soon I let up and the pack was quick to come around, and fast too - it took quite an effort just to grab a wheel while recovering from my attack. What was probably only 20-30 seconds off the front felt like a micro-eternity.

I was just barely recovered when we hit the first hard riser, and those of us up front were standing and going all out - it seemed like a "selection" was being made. So I dug deep and found something and hung with them. We crested and the solo break is still up the road, fending us off.

Final Wind-up

The 1 km sign is here and now we see it's just a field sprint for 2nd place. The pack is fast and fluid, and I'm smack dab in the middle of the mix, just hoping nobody in front of me crashes for no good reason.

An unattached guy in red got DQ'd for going over the yellow (center) line near the end - ouch. It was weird having an official in a moving car next to us yelling at someone in the pack, and a tad distracting at about 30 mph, but those are the rules. (yellow/black kits) guys are out in full force with 4-5 guys up front. My team mate Erin seems to be a good sprinter and is in front of me. We're all poised, ready for the 200 meter sign and ready to sprint it out.

Going through my mind are "Cat 5 pack-sprint horror stories" so I'm just hoping it's a clean sprint and nobody does the "I'm a Pro looking-at-my-feet-while-sprinting" thing and ends up riding off the road (it happens).

The 200 meter sign is here, and.... nothing happens. !!!!

Someone behind me actually yells "GO!!!!!" and finally those up front open up. The sprint seemed to go by quickly and I felt like I was gaining ground on a few people next to me, but not close enough to the front. Crossed the line somewhere in the top 10 I figured, so I was happy. (Official result was 10th)

Prior to all the chaos at the end of the race I had a plan for the sprint - since the wind was coming out of the east, this meant a cross-wind from the right on the final sprint. So jumping from the right side of the road to the left, from the pack, and then shooting around the pack was my plan of attack. But in the end I was surrounded with nowhere to go.

Nice job to Alan from for taking the win! It was a fun race. Now on to the 4's!


The Masters C/D field rolling out:

Cat 5's rolling out:

Cat 4's roll out:

Cat 4's rollout (part 2/3):

Cat 4's rollout (3/3) - look at all that RCR blue & gold!

Cat 5's rollout:

Cat 5's rollout (2/2):

Women's Cat 4 rolling out:

Men's Cat 4 peloton - with Mark M. from SCCA/Starbucks leading the charge. (He won the race! Nice job Mark! Can't wait to sprint against you...)

Second wheel in the Cat 5 peloton - loving every minute of it, except when the HR goes above 190 bpm or so.

The Women's Cat 4 field:

Finish Video

Check out the finish video from my Cat 5's race. If you look closely you can see me coming in for 10th! Nice job to the solo break away for holding us off!

Race Stats

Sequim Cat 5's race (no neutral rollout):
Duration: 1:33:27
Work: 1150 kJ
TSS: 120.7 (intensity factor 0.88)
Norm Power: 251
VI: 1.22
Distance: 34.918 mi
Elevation Gain: 2697 ft
Min Max Avg
Power: 0 1017 205 watts
Heart Rate: 98 189 165 bpm
Cadence: 31 146 87 rpm
Speed: 3.5 46.7 22.4 mph
Crank Torque: 0 1550 193 lb-in

Final windup/sprint:
Duration: 1:43
Distance: 0.786 mi
Min Max Avg
Power: 0 941 330 watts
Heart Rate: 160 182 173 bpm
Cadence: 39 112 92 rpm
Speed: 15.5 37.4 27.5 mph

Other blogs/videos of this race:

Thanks to Garage Racing for putting on the event, and to Kira for driving out there! Also thanks to Dungeness, WA for hosting us for the day. See you again on Saturday!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Mason Lake Road Race #1 2010: Now This Is PNW Racing!

After my abysmal performance at the Frostbite TT last weekend, I was excited to get back into road racing (e.g. in a pack), and believe it or not I'm a huge fan of the risky business that is road racing. The constant flow inside the pack, the draft, the sound of crashes, I love it all.

And I'm proud to report that I placed much better in this race than the last! Though I didn't win, it was a top ten. **** yeah. Read on for all the details.

Pack Racing Dynamics

Cornering in a criterium reminds me of diving down a set of stairs on a skateboard - you have to fully commit or you'll never make it. And while cornering isn't so much an issue in road racing, riding/handling in a pack certainly is. And you have to commit at certain points in a road race or you'll never make it to the end. You have to know when to push hard, and when to go soft.

And on a course with rolling hills, a bunch of sketchy Cat 5's (me included), first race of the season - you can be there was a lot of braking, and a lot of yelling in the race. Oh if I had a dime for every time I heard or had to yell "slowing!"

Were there crashes? Indeed, three of them.

Pre-Race Thoughts

Mason Lake is a race I've wanted to do for years now, and this time I was finally taking the dive in.

I've ridden on these roads before, though in a much different setting: last year's Fleche (24-hour ride). I remembered the chip-seal and rolling terrain, and the cold morning too.

Lots of other people out for the first road race of the season - 85 starters in Cat 5! That many riders jammed into one tiny PNW-peninsula road probably makes for quite a long train. Well, at least before the first riders get shelled and then the inevitable crashes that will splinter the field.

The Race

Rob from Second Ascent and I started out in about the middle of the pack, and I knew it was going to be tough to move up, but that's all a part of the fun!

We rolled out for a neutral start, getting around a turn, doing about 1/4 mile, then the lead-car honked - the signal that the race was on. But I don't think anyone else heard it because we stayed at the slowest pace I've ever done in a race.. but since my plan was to just get to the end, I didn't really care.

Our Cat 5 pack was doing three laps, about 34 miles in total. Very short for a road race, but as beginners this felt like a long-ish race to me & I'm sure others. So we started off conservatively, though someone went off the front somewhere in the first few miles, and I just watched them up the road, dangling in the wind. It looked like they were working so hard, head down, back flat, upper body undulating with all the work their doing out there solo. But 3 miles into the race probably isn't the place to go....

They did stay out front for a while, maybe a lap, but were pulled back in eventually.

My plan was to play it conservatively, e.g. the opposite of how I raced at Gig Harbor last year. Just wanted to save energy, stay out of the wind, and save energy. Another RCR team-mate was in the pack, but we didn't get a chance to connect once we got going and then he flatted out.


Ah, the sound of carbon meeting chip-seal, welcome to road racing in the PNW! First crash happened just a few bikes up from me on the first lap, someone's tire blew out, and then a guy's doing a flip over the bars in front of me. I had to slam on the brakes and put a foot down while coming to a full stop. Damn!! That's obviously one of the last things you want to do in a race..

The next thing I thought of was, "I hope I don't get hit from behind," and though I heard a lot of braking and yelling, I didn't feel anything knocking me down. Sweet! Made sure there was room to go around the guy who had just rolled around on the ground, and finally got going again, somehow not all that far off from the leaders so I didn't have to chase much.

Someone said they saw that the guy who fell was laughing, so I was glad to hear he was at least OK and taking it in stride.

The second and third crashes I could only hear, and didn't even time to imagine or look back and see. After the race I did hear that they had to call an ambulance for a head injury - but someone said the guy's eyes were open so that's a good sign. Hope he's OK...

Yes, this is racing. Love it.

The Last Lap

The last lap finally comes and the pace picks up a bit. This is when the action starts for us. I've done some work to get up to the top 20 riders or so, and the field is going into the wind on a backstretch, getting stretched out into an echelon of sorts. I was stuck on the outside, in the wind, but eventually someone came around and shielded me. Ahhh...

With 5-6 miles to go, at the top of the big hill near the end, the first serious attack comes. We all chase, of course. Soon after two guys are kind of off the front, and I chase on. I hear one of them say "let's go!" (e.g this is our chance) so I latch on and see how far we can get. Surely the pack is right behind us but it's fun to be on the 'sharp end of the spear' once in a while.

We're holding good speed, and taking short turns, but it doesn't last long and people start to come around. Then I jump on another train - I think it was the of Wa team that had four people together at the end (actually pretty impressive for Cat 5's).

Speed is picking up now, and looking back at the stats we hit at least 45 mph on one of the steep downhills. I remember screaming "no brakes!" hoping that we could jam down that hill as fast as possible.

At the bottom of the hill we shot by some riders like they were standing still - but it wasn't because I was stronger, I was just on the right wheel and essentially being sucked along in the draft. (And they'd also gone too early, in the wind, and were fading as a result)

Then the final straight-away appears, and I'm in the top 10. Excellent. Legs actually feel decent, as if I could sprint. (E.g. not on fire, which is usually the case at the end of a race for me)

Things are extremely fluid, and the 1-km-to-go sign appears. But I'm just waiting for the 200m mark to go, or even later since it was a slightly uphill sprint (~3% grade).

We finally all unleash and surge toward the line, and I try to jam in between two riders to eek out a top-5, since I could tell I was in contention for once. But it was too crowded and I had to ease off, nowhere to go. The final 5 minutes was a blast, especially the sprint - I think I yelled out "**** yeah!" during the sprint like one might do if they enjoyed a roller-coaster..

Ended up 7th overall, my best result yet!

Cat 5 Race Photos

Here is our Cat 5 field coming in for the finish.

That would be me in the blue Recycled Cycles Racing jersey behind the Rad Racing guy in red:
(Interesting that the pack started 85-strong, and ended up like what's pictured above - did we drop everyone just on that last fast stretch, or was that pack that thinned out just from the race itself?)

Looking behind the guy in the fore-ground in the shot below, you can (barely) see how the two riders on each side of me just barely edged out my wheel. Some may say a more aero rim would have gained me those few inches and thus two spots:
But I'm willing to believe if I'd played my cards right in the sprint (e.g. gone to the outside lane, where it wasn't crowded) my non-aero Open Pro could have sailed me to a victory, or closer at least.

More Photos

A shot of the pack from the Women's Cat 4 race:

And here's Jordan R. at the front of Men's Cat 4 race. He ended up third in the race, while his SCCA/Starbucks team-mate Mark got 4th - nice work guys! Can't wait to get into the 4's and chase your wheels.. (also congrats to Jordan L. who won the Men's 4 race and can now upgrade to the 3's - good luck!)

Kira took some shots of the Masters race as well, posted on her kirafoto site.

I'm so happy she was willing to drive all the way out there, and stand in the cold for a few hours! Sounds like it was really cold out there, as you can imagine standing around in the shade on an early March morning on the peninsula.. I think the temp was somewhere in the high 30's/low 40's? Anyway, thanks so much for coming out, Kira!! Couldn't have done this without you.

The Race by the Numbers

Lap 1: 20.8 mph avg, 152 watts, 150 bpm
Lap 2: 22.7 mph, 172 watts, 157 bpm
Lap 3: 23.0 mph, 208 watts, 164 bpm

mason #1 (w/o neutral rollout):

Duration: 1:28:56
Work: 934 kJ
TSS: 87.5 (intensity factor 0.768)
Norm Power: 219w
VI: 1.25
Distance: 33.108 mi
Elevation Gain: 2623 ft
Min Max Avg
Power: 0 971 175 watts
Heart Rate: 114 187 156 bpm
Cadence: 31 132 83 rpm
Speed: 1.5 45.8 22.3 mph

This is the race (smoothed) graph from WKO+ - from it you can see how the energy required to keep up increased, and how it wasn't until the very end that the hammer really came down.

(blue=speed, yellow=power, white=elevation, red=heart rate)

What I Did Correctly
  • Stayed in the front third of the pack - keep out of most of the 'accordion effect'
  • Played it conservative - don't sit in the wind, and just conserve energy until you really need it. I've read that the strongest sprinter doesn't always win the sprint - sometimes it's more about who has the most energy left at the end of the race. Therefore even though I don't have the most powerful sprint, I'm at least strong enough to be there at the end of the race and still have some sort of kick left at the end.
  • Stayed upright - though I must admit I had to slam on the brakes a few times, due to people in front of me, and Rob reminded me at one point that I was half-wheeling someone. And there was an instance on the last lap where I touched my front wheel to someone's back wheel, with a little overlap. What a strange feeling when you want to lean one way but your bike won't go! You just have to let your body move independently of the bike in cases like that. But it was a close call, and I would have been run over by a bunch of riders had that happened...
  • Don't jump too early - while it was temping to go at 2-3 miles to go, I don't think I'm quite ready for that yet..

Room For Improvement

There's always room for improvement, especially when you didn't actually win the race. And though I'm very happy with this race result, I've made some notes on what to do better next time:
  • Save myself the trouble and just line up in the front of the pack; working your way through a pack on a one-lane road takes time!
  • Get ready to jump out of the pack in the sprint - I need to be move around the peloton in the end and try not to go up through a crowded field.
  • Don't jam into a gap - ease into it. I think this was why we kept having to slow and speed up - I hear the higher categories are much "smoother" in that sense.
  • Don't forget to put on my frame number..
Anyway I had a blast at the race, thanks to the organizers for putting the whole event on, and the Mason Lake neighborhood for letting us take over their roads for a day. Can't wait for next weekend..

Monday, March 1, 2010

Frostbite Time Trial 2010: The Truth Can Hurt

They call the individual time trial the "race of truth" - I'm guessing that's because there's no draft to hide in or rocket out of, no pack-dynamics that might box you in at the sprint finish, etc. It's just you, your bike, the wind, and a stopwatch.

In the end there are many things to blame, but generally in an individual TT other racers is not one of those.


Woke up early, since my start time was 9:23 and we had to get there by 8:30 anyway to register. Tried to eat some two egg & cheese english muffin sandwiches, but I couldn't down the second one. Pre-race jitters were too much I guess.. this was the first race of the season after all, and my first race on the Recycled Cycles team!

I actually put some aero-bars on the Ciocc, and practiced a few times on them the week before the race. Honestly I should have spent more time on these, and worked on the aero-position more. At first it was a bit unsettling riding on Lake Wa Blvd with traffic, and settling into the aero-bars. Felt like I could easily topple over on a bump or something, but eventually you gain confidence and hopefully a little speed.

Race Goals:
  • Not keel over while riding aero-bars in front of anyone
  • Not get last in the Men's Cat 4/5
  • Don't start too hard
  • Do your own race (e.g. don't chase anyone, just pace)
  • Keep cadence high
  • Don't start too hard
My Race

Lined up in time, got up to the start where they had an official and a holder that would allow you to clip in from the start. The official reminded me, "I will count down from 5, DO NOT go on one!" Guess they've had issues with that..

I had done the Carnation TT a few years ago, so I was all too aware of the classic TT mistake - going too hard from the gun, and then blowing up before the finish. Usually in a TT you want to accomplish what is known as a "negative split," e.g. to do the second leg of the race faster than the first one. I wasn't really shooting for the negative split, I just wanted to pace correctly this time.

So the count-down starts, I go, and I'm off. It felt great after days & hours of preparation, practice, and visualization; the rubber was finally meeting the road. Whether or not my time would impress anyone, I had made it to the race, didn't forget anything, and pulled off without unclipping or keeling over. So far, so good.

I knew that the Cat 4 guy behind me, Kevin T. from Second Ascent, was pretty strong and that there was a good chance of him passing me. I had 30 seconds on him to start. But I was trying to "race my own race", and just try to do the best I could..

But I must've ignored the PowerTap for the first two minutes on the road, because looking back I was putting in around 400 watts for the first two minutes or so - nothing spectacular but also not anywhere close to "pacing." Argh! A few minutes in and I settle down, but I'm already feeling kind of cooked.

Three or so miles into the 9-mile event sure enough Kevin came by, and I actually gave him a cheer of encouragement. Might as well help a friend along since I'm just trying not to blow up before the finish.

Not too long after that I heard the whoosh-whoosh-whoosh of a disc wheel, and someone in a full skin-suit/aero-helmet/TT-bike setup came flying by, as if I was standing still. Hopefully that was one of the Cat 1's.. but all I could think of was "ignore all that, just keep it around 270 watts for now."

So I just tried to keep the pace steady, and look forward to the turn-around point at about 4.5 miles out on Lowell-Snohomish Road. Seemed to take longer than I wanted to get there... that was a long 4.5 miles!

Turnaround, to finish

Kevin was probably only 15-20m ahead of me at this point, but enough that I didn't really plan on catching him, but certainly wanted to keep him in sight. And I was kind of hoping I could just "go faster" on the second leg, which I did, but then again he did too. The way back had a slight tail wind and is has some ever-so-slightly-downhill sections. You can really get going on the way back.

I kept him in sight, but I was fading in the last few miles and he was gaining time on me.

There were a few times on the way back I actually coasted for a seconds, just to give the legs some relief the burn and to give the mind a change of pace. Somehow nobody else passed me in that time... definitely will be an easy place to improve for next year, in retrospect it was stupid but at the time I felt toasted.

Finally the 200m sign came up, and I started ramping up the speed/rpms. Stayed in the aero-tuck since the legs didn't really feel like they had enough left for a stand-up sprint anyway. A sense of relief rushed over me after finishing - first race out of the way, no mechanicals, no crashes. But it didn't feel like a fast ride..

And of course then you start thinking, "why didn't I just go faster. I could've pushed harder here, and there, and yada yada.." Oh well.

Post-Race Stats & Thoughts

The (smoothed) Speed/Cadence/Power graph:

- Placing: 52nd out of 64 entrants in the Men's Cat 4/5.. (time was 23:31, ouch)
- the Men's Cat 4/5 winner had a time of 19:59
- median was 22:26
- the Cat 1/Pro winner was 18:18 (!)
- Plenty of room for improvement for next year, hopefully I can shave at least a minute off that

Out leg: 21.8 mph, 277w
Back leg: 24.3 mph, 264w
Avg speed
: 22.9 mph,
Avg power: 270w (4.12 w/kg)
Avg cadence: 99 rpm (close to the 100 rpm target)
Avg heart rate: 176 bpm

For next time

Though TT's aren't my focus, I will have to do them from time to time, especially at the Tour of Walla Walla stage race in April. So I will need to improve at them at some point...

What I'll change next time:
  • Scope out course more before-hand
  • Spend more time practicing the aero-position, getting used to the bars
  • Warm up for more than 20 minutes prior to your start
  • Bring a trainer to the start maybe
  • Pacing, pacing, pacing... this is the essence of the TT
  • And of course improve threshold, which is something any (competitive) cyclist should probably be working on

Kira was there and took some excellent photos of a lot of the racers: - great shots, baby! Some highlighted photos:
  • Me, attempting to look aero, but feeling like crap
  • Kevin, the guy who started 30 seconds behind me and finish almost 30 seconds in front! He got 5th in the Retro division
  • This guy, who was truly "retro" with a full 70's outfit on
It was great seeing a bunch of old faces from last season - Chad, Kevin, Jordan, Jordan - it was a bit like returning to school after summer break. You could call it Washington University of Suffering.

Welcome back everyone!