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!

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