Monday, April 26, 2010

Vance Creek Road Race 2010

Staging for this race is at the terminated* Satsop nuke plant, quite the scene to get you motivated to ignite your legs for some solid NW road racing. 53 miles for the Masters 30+ 4/5's (read: old and beginners - yikes!)

Took some pics before the race (click for larger):

More pictures: Video of the Cat 3 winner coming in after 80 miles - solo no less!

Found some better photos of the Women's 1/2 race, Men's Cat 3, Men's Masters 30+ 4/5, and Men's 1/2 race.

The Race

Pre-race instructions included the note that "For some reason this [Masters 30+ Cat 4/5] field has had the most crashes this year - people moving into spaces that don't exist, etc. Keep it safe, fellas."

While I seem to always hear that Masters fields are "smoother & safer," this note from the race director was not a good sign. And indeed, there was a lot of sketchyness, but in the end I don't think anyone ever went down in this race.

We started on a downhill and there wasn't much of a neutral rollout, we just dove right into it. I don't mind descending in the pack, even at speeds close to 50 mph, but when you spot someone up ahead who is wobbly or "sketchy" doing that speed, all you can do is hope nothing bad happens. A crash that happens right in front of you can be really tough to avoid. And with gravel on the shoulder, it would be all too easy to take the wrong line and go down on it. Plenty of opportunities for mis-haps, but we came out in one piece.

We were doing four 13-mile loops, so we got plenty of time to see the course, and scope out the finishing climb. On the flat & windy section on the backside of the course, we were on a tiny farm road (smelled like farms too!) that was just about one lane wide.

First time through I was mid-pack and we hit a little patch of gravel, and I saw a guy's bike fishtail a bit, he'd hit the brakes.. lots of yelling & jostling up ahead... "Ugh, here we go," I thought.. sometimes I long for the velodrome, where you have no brakes and can't do stupid stuff like that. (no gravel there either)

The way people were yelling "GRAVEL!" and swerving all over the place, I thought it was a real patch of missing road - but on the second time through, I could see it was just a small island of gravel, not that big of a deal. But somehow enough to scare half the field half to death in the first 20 minutes of the race! Nerves I suppose.

The pace through the farm area the first time around seemed ridiculously slow, like 17-19 mph on flat, but it was windy and I wasn't up front so I didn't care too much. Nobody was off the front, so there was no rush I guess.

I was just trying to keep track of what speeds the pack was doing where, to get an idea of what I needed to do if/when I went off the front.

We got back to the finish climb, which was rolling hills then led to a 1km or so 3-5% grade, followed by a short 10%+ kicker leading to a false flat where the finish line was. Then some winding roads next to the Development Park, then back to the downhill. It was a day for the big ring indeed.

Break-away attempt

On the second lap there were two riders off the front, but not too far, attempting to get away. They looked pretty good, like this might be "the winning move", and I was in good position (about 10 wheels back) so I shot up the right side of the road, full sprint/1000+ watts/30+ mph, and bridged up to them. While bridging a guy from the red/black team (Olympia Orthopedics) was also bridging, at first sitting on my wheel, but I waved him through.

I think there was already one of his guys in the break, and maybe he was trying to just sit on my wheel and screw up my chances of staying in the break? (Covering the attack as they say)

We got up to the two other guys, and started hammering, but then I got caught in that damn catch-22 of bridging: I just red-lined bridging up here, and you want me to pull through?!! Doing 30 mph and getting your turn to pull, when close to red-lining, is not the best feeling. So I would just pull through, but weakly.

Just do what I could, even a weak pull was better than nothing. Then when I felt like resting, I just wouldn't pull through, even if they were verbally protesting. What do I care? It seemed like the Orthopedics guy was taking really short pulls right in front of me, leaving gaps, etc - all the classic tactics.

I've read in racing tactics books that if you want to lose a rider from the break, you get them on your wheel then open gaps between you and the wheel in front - then close then gap, and immediately pull off - making your "target" work harder than they should have to. Or maybe these two "Masters" were just that much stronger than me, and I was outclassed. But I felt like I was being worked over! Like they were teaming up on me... probably not but it felt that way.

We worked as much as we could together, but once on the flat & windy section, pulling through was tough. Really tough. Looking back the pack was catching up, but we still had a gap. 20-miles to go, hmmm. Chances not looking good. The original guy in the break was trying to coach us (or at least me) on. I'm saying I'm done, he says, "Let's just go at 80%, no need to give up completely."

While possibly true, I knew that he wasn't racing with my interests in mind. He just wanted an easier ride to the finish line.. Can't blame him, that's racing. I would do the same with a weaker rider with me in a break, no doubt. It's racing.

Before too long the pack caught up, our break only lasted a few miles. All the better though, I was ready for some recovery. Back in the shelter of the peloton, took some more sips of water, ate a gel. Now the plan turned into sit in and wait.

The Rest of the Race

A the beginning of the last lap, things sped up a bit as expected. On the flat/windy/farmy section one rider, guy I met but can't remember his name, went off the front in a well-time attack about 10k before the finish. He looked pretty strong, but if I had to guess I would say a lot of guys just let him go since he was unattached. Then by the time you realize he's got a nice gap, it's too big to bridge up to and you just have to see what happens..

Josh - strong team mate of mine who is about to be a Cat 3 - saw the opportunity and went for it. I heard grumbles of "they'll come back." from the pack, but it was hard to say. Would they? I knew I would come back if I tried, but hopefully Josh was fresher.

Casting Doubt

I think Byrne/Invent had one guy in the break at one point as well, but he came back to the pack before too long. Then his team was trying to organize a chase (their "leader" was yelling at someone to attack, but to no avail - I felt like asking him "why don't you attack?!"), but there was doubt in their minds, I could sense it.

I heard someone from Byrne (or maybe the red/black team, also with big numbers in this race) lament on the big gap opening between us and the break, and how they were about to hit a tailwind.

So I chimed in with "Oh yeah they're so far up there - we're racing for 3rd now! It's over guys, sorry." Just trying to put even more doubt in their minds. Hoping they would just give up the chase and settle for something other than a "W".

We could still see the break, but they were doing a decent speed, apparently faster than us. They were working harder than I was, this much I knew. The finish climb was coming up, so I suppose everyone in the pack was just hoping they'd come back as a result.

Since I had a team mate up in the break, I just made sure not do any work bringing us up to them, and sprinkled in a little trash-talk for good measure. Just sit in and wait to see if we caught them - and if so, go. Another option would have been to go up front and "block", but I wasn't ready to physically get in the way, just mentally.

We got on the final long-ish climb, and I was up front, perhaps 5th wheel. Nothing too grueling, we were all "saving up" for that final climb, though some teams were still giving chase, but still nothing serious. Even so, my previous break-away effort was wearing on me, I didn't have much left in the tank.

Final 1k

Once we got to the 1km-to-go sign the pace picked up, and I was maybe 10th wheel now, getting above 180 bpm (when it starts to hurt for me) and thinking about how I can't believe it's about to get steeper, then we're going to sprint! Looking up the line of bikes, that 15-20 feet seemed like too far a gap to close, when going uphill.

Just tried to use as little energy as possible, and match the pace.

I was holding good position, but the win was out of the question anyway, I figured. Still, points were up for grabs for 1st-9th places, so don't give up yet. People will fizzle on the final kick, and I was counting on passing a few of them when that happened.

Final Sprint

Near the right turn which is the steep kicker and the 200m sprint point, an unattached guy(?) came up the left side, going faster than our little paceline. Dammit! Just when I think I'm saving up for the final sprint, I have to go earlier than I wanted to - isn't that always the case?

I should have been able to respond, but felt somewhat out of gas (looking back, only took on one gel during the race + Cytomax, not a huge amount of calories) and just couldn't do it. Hold position, don't go too far backwards, was all I could think.

We hit the short/steep climb in the final 200m, and a new Cat 4 on Recycled Cycles, Erin, was in front of me looking strong - I figured Josh had already finished 1st or 2nd, but was hoping for at least another RCR in the top 10. Erin's gears started popping like metallic popcorn, at exactly the wrong time. I had visions of having to put a foot down and walk this section, but I was barely able to squeeze around him and continue my "sprint."

There were a few people up the road, and Jordan was on the left spectating, yelling at me to finish the sprint, which really did help. Well if someone was watching then I at least had to come in strong!

So I got a second wind, too bad there was only about 40m to go - one guy was about to cross the line, but I gave it all I had, and just barely beat him out for 9th. Just as he was looking over his shoulder no less - sorry bud, I needed that point!

Josh got 2nd, which gave him the points needed to upgrade to the 3's. I think their break was caught at the line after all - still, helluva show by Recycled Cycles Racing!

Still not sure if Masters races count for USAC upgrades (I've heard it both ways, but nothing official), but hopefully they do count, and I got one more point! That gives me 6 out of 20 towards the Cat 3 upgrade (and 4/10 top tens).

Huge thanks to Jordan for the ride down there! And of course thanks to the organizers for making it happen. It was a great race.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

"Thursday Night World Championships" - Seward Park 4/22/2010

The biggest and baddest names in Category 3 & 4 WSBA racing showed up for the 6 PM race today. I heard someone in the pack say, "there's something in the air tonight" and he was right - most of us failed at meeting goals the previous week at Walla Walla most likely, and felt a refreshed sense of urgency to get That Win.

The air was cool, a little too much since I was only in shorts and a jersey - left the door in a hurry and didn't bring a jacket or anything - but that thought was soon washed away with the warmth of 170+ beats-per-minute of the heart.

The Race

We got to go clockwise, which I hadn't done since last year - I had a love/hate relationship with this direction - the climb sometimes felt harder going this way, since it's longer but less steep - but I seem to place better this way too. I think it's because we're sprinting on a 4-5% grade at the end - and if you start out the wind-up/sprint behind others, you're in the draft and can build up some nice speed. Tonight was no different.

The race started off pretty quick, the first few laps hurt, a little reminder of the big turnout tonight (50?), and the fact that this isn't the beginner's 4/5's race at 5:30 anymore. (Ok, so we're not the p/1/2/3 7 PM race either.. somewhere in between)

There were four other Recycled Cycles guys in the pack, all Cat 3s - wasn't sure what their plan was but I was mostly just gonna stay out of their way, and try to keep up. After all it's only been about a year since I started racing at all, and they've been doing this for years.

On a prime lap I thought I had a decent position to move up for it, and went to the left around the big group and shot up towards on guy close off the front, but didn't see that there was already a break of three that had a bigger gap up the road (including a team mate I think). Oops. You're not supposed to chase your own team mates, but at least it's just a training race so it's not a big deal.


The group came back together, and 15 laps & 30 minutes later it was time for the final few laps. I had decent position near the front and the pack was speeding up people jostling for the top few positions. I didn't want to be up on the front, and couldn't really get up there in time anyway - was about 15 riders back at the bottom of the hill, and wound up the sprint to shoot up through a few people who had gone early for That Win. I could see the sprint pretty well, and could see three other RCR riders (Mike, Pauh, Adam?) in front of me - four team mates in the top 10, not bad! Ex-RCR rider Randy took the win, he's a strong guy for sure.

In the end I came in for 7th or 8th place - though points for the summer series are only given to the top 6. Still, I'm really happy with that placing in a pretty strong field. Good racing!

Next up: Vance Creek Road Race

Oh yeah, Tim: you were asking about cadence during the race? I'm impressed you can think/talk during a race like that! Anyway feel free to post that question here, I can't remember what it was.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tour of Walla Walla 2010: The Data

So my gigantic post about ToWW covered the story-side of the racing, but not the data. The Powertap Pro+ I have is kind of like a flight data recorder - every second's data is stored for later analysis, telling the good and bad.

You might ask, what good does that do me? Some might say "all you need to do is go faster than everyone else." Yeah, yeah...

With all this speed/power/heart rate/cadence data I can see what race-level efforts (like sprints, breakaways, painful climbs) looked like in terms of actual power output. Taking that, I can try to repeat those efforts in order to get better at them. Repeat them until they feel easier.

This is my first season of relatively structured training, and so far it's been going well. You don't need a power-measuring device to do structured training, but it's nice to have.

I peaked just before the Walla Walla stage race, and even rested for three days (no riding!) before the event to make sure I was fresh for it. I think the training approach worked pretty well overall, and felt great going into the event.

Walla Walla Time Trial: 9.3 miles - 38th place

In the graph below you can see how the power was harder on the way up, lower on the way down. Looking back I wish I'd saved more for the downhill, but it's easy to say now. Power was actually decent (when I wasn't coasting on the downhill), but my aero-ness (e.g. frontal area) needs to be worked on no doubt.
ToWW TT: 277w/284w:
Duration: 23:55
Work: 397 kJ
TSS: 38.3 (intensity factor 0.98)
Norm Power: 284w
Distance: 9.309 mi
Elevation Gain: 618 ft
Elevation Loss: 675 ft
Min Max Avg
Power: 0 885 277 watts
Heart Rate: 147 189 177 bpm
Cadence: 30 125 86 rpm
Speed: 3.7 ? 22.? mph
Crank Torque: 0 875 272 lb-in

The first half of the TT broken out - 306 watt average for almost 12 minutes! More than I usually do, I probably need to start training around this wattage more.

TT part 1 - 306w:
Duration: 11:55
Work: 219 kJ
TSS: 22.4 (intensity factor 1.062)
Norm Power: 308w
Distance: 3.862 mi
Elevation Gain: 501 ft
Elevation Loss: 78 ft
Grade: 2.1 % (424 ft)
Min Max Avg
Power: 0 885 306 watts
Heart Rate: 146 189 181 bpm
Cadence: 30 125 89 rpm
Speed: 2.3 33.7 19.4 mph
Crank Torque: 0 696 293 lb-in

(compared to the Frostbite TT I at least didn't go too hard at the beginning, but as you can see pacing still wasn't all that smooth. Kind of feeling around for a good zone I guess)

Then the second part of the TT, mostly downhill. Didn't have the legs or lungs to really spin out the 53x12 going down, and was recovering for the first minute or so of the downhill.

Then when the guy passed me, I sped up a bit, a second-wind spurred by the motivation of being chased and caught.

TT part 2 - 246w/256w - 27.1 mph:
Duration: 12:03
Work: 178 kJ
TSS: 15.7 (intensity factor 0.883)
Norm Power: 256w
Distance: 5.457 mi
Elevation Gain: 118 ft
Elevation Loss: 598 ft
Grade: -1.7 % (-480 ft)
Min Max Avg
Power: 0 640 246 watts
Heart Rate: 165 186 174 bpm
Cadence: 36 103 83 rpm
Speed: 3.9 41.6 27.1 mph
Crank Torque: 0 875 251 lb-in

Overall I think for next year (and this years other TTs) I need to work on spending time in those zones - simulating/practicing the TT position and all. Lots of work needs to be done here.

Walla Walla Cat 4 Crit - 25 minutes - 5th place

Now this was a race I was fairly confident about, and just wanted a top 6 for upgrade points. Of course 90-something other Cat 4's had the exact same idea I'm sure.

It was really short - scheduled for 25 minutes, but I think we only got 23 in. Is that even long enough to count towards a USAC upgrade?! I hope so..

Cat 4 Walla Walla crit!
Duration: 23:05
Work: 355 kJ
TSS: 35.1 (intensity factor 0.955)
Norm Power: 277w
Distance: 10.058 mi
Min Max Avg
Power: 0 1045 256 watts
Heart Rate: 114 206 182 bpm
Cadence: 24 137 83 rpm
Speed: 0.9 36.3 26.1 mph
Crank Torque: 0 1793 224 lb-in

Here's the power/speed graph from the crit, with a little smoothing. Nothing special but you can see how it gets speedier towards the end.

Cat 4 crit - 5th place:

Below is the last 3 or so minutes of the crit, no smoothing - as you can see, lots of bursts above threshold, and lots of coasting. The usual for my crits, unless you're on or off the front.

Not the best example of a sprint, but good enough for 5th. Jordan said he saw me coasting (again!) and thought he could catch me, which he almost did. Dammit, no more coasting in the last few meters!

Waitsburg Cat 4 Road Race - 58 miles - 14th place (~40 secs behind winner)

Looking at the data for the road race, no wonder I got bored in the first 9 miles of it. Some stats:

  • before breakaway (incl. neutral rollout, big downhill): 72w average (130 watts Normalized Power)!
  • the break was 259 watts average (281w NP) for ~40 minutes
  • after the break was 160 watts average, 221 watts NP
  • overall: 175 watts average (2.62 watts/kg), 236w (3.54 w/kg)

Waitsburg Cat 4 RR - 14th place
Duration: 2:35:00
Work: 1628 kJ
TSS: 170.7 (intensity factor 0.813)
Norm Power: 236w
Distance: 57.547 mi
Elevation Gain: 4482 ft
Min Max Avg
Power: 0 1053 175 watts
Heart Rate: 91 190 149 bpm
Cadence: 16 129 74 rpm
Speed: 0 43.4 22.2 mph
Crank Torque: 0 1694 189 lb-in

ToWW Men's Cat 4 Road Race - 14th place:(the highlighted section is my breakaway - note how the red line (heart rate) and yellow line (power) go up and stay pretty steady there..)

breaking away?! 259w/281w:
Duration: 35:23
Work: 551 kJ
TSS: 55.5 (intensity factor 0.97)
Norm Power: 281w
Distance: 12.85 mi
Elevation Gain: 1066 ft
Elevation Loss: 774 ft
Min Max Avg
Power: 0 1053 259 watts
Heart Rate: 107 190 170 bpm
Cadence: 28 106 82 rpm
Speed: 1.6 42 21.7 mph
Crank Torque: 0 1694 262 lb-in

Failed breakaway, caught on climb - the horizontal line is 171 bpm, my "Lactate Threshold Heart Rate" - when I'm above that for long, it hurts. And boy did it hurt once I got caught on the climb (non-highlighted part) - you can see the HR going way above threshold there. Ouch.

And going out with a bang, here's the final 5k or so of the Cat 4 RR, including the big climb...

uphill finish 309w/309w:
Duration: 7:41
Work: 142 kJ
TSS: 14.6 (intensity factor 1.067)
Norm Power: 309w
Distance: 1.793 mi
Elevation Gain: 533 ft
Grade: 5.6 % (527 ft)
Min Max Avg
Power: 131 797 309 watts
Heart Rate: 160 187 182 bpm
Cadence: 60 89 75 rpm
Speed: 1.5 22.7 14.0 mph
Crank Torque: 136 910 352 lb-in

(yellow=power, blue=speed, orange/brown=elevation, green=cadence)

You can actually see the exact moment on the climb where I cracked, right at about 2:46:00 - that's where I sat down, looked back and saw a gap on the rest of the pack, and just tried to defend my 14th spot for no good reason. Couldn't keep going hard to maintain contact with the leaders.

Hopefully given enough training, I can be one of those leaders next year.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Tour of Walla Walla 2010: 3 races, 2 days, in the Big Ring

The Tour of Walla Walla stage race - apparently a big deal in Northwest racing, though I'd never heard of it until last year when I started racing. All the big teams from WA/OR/ID/Canada send people (8 per team per Category max) to this race, as there is some serious money up for grabs - over $10,000 in cash overall.

And with over 90 Cat 4's alone, the races were sure to be challenging and risky - just what we came here for.

What's a Stage Race?

In cycling, a stage race is when you compete in a number of events over a number of consecutive days, and a leader emerges based on finishing times. The overall leader is the "General Contender" or GC rider.

And besides adding up your cumulative time, you also have to deal with "time cuts" - if you are more than 20% behind the GC leader in your Category, then you are pulled from the whole over race. Of course, nobody wants that but it happens. And depending on how fast the winner was, it could happen all too easily if you did really bad in the TT.

The most famous stage races being the Tour de France and the Giro - so instead of a few weeks of racing, us Cat 4's just did two days worth. The 3's were doing four days with a 75-mile RR, while the 1/2's did four days with a 95-mile RR. Wow.

My race schedule:

  • Saturday 9:10 AM Walla Walla TT start - 9.3 mile course, with a little climb in the middle. I'm not a fan of TTs, but your "GC" position pretty much hangs off of this.. so I wanted to do well of course, but didn't have any aspirations of really cracking the top 10 at all.
  • Saturday 4:05 AM 25-minute Walla Walla Criterium (with photos) - .59 mile course (I think this is the one we did, the "old" course), 6 turns, my kind of race. 25 minutes is not very long for Cat 4's, so it was going to be a fast race for sure. I'm not a sprinter but I can hold position up front and seem to be able to pass a lot of people in corners (e.g. handling). And with all those turns, positioning would be key (it always is in crits anyway, but in a technical one like this especially)
  • Sunday 8:05 AM 58-mile Waitsburg Road Race - featuring a 3km-long climb finish on a steady 5% grade. But like I've been saying a lot lately, "I used to think I was a good climber, then I started racing." That finish was sure to hurt, and we were actually start the race on it (neutral, ~8 mph), then going to do it during the race was well (on the short loop), at the start of the second lap, then do the "long loop", then of course the finish after 56 miles..
  • Local race lore says that Cat 5's have been popped off the back of that neutral climb start! Ouch.
The great thing about stage races it that it awards consistency rather than specialization. There may be people who can TT really well, or sprint really well, or do road races really well, but can you do all three better than you competitors?

I didn't have plans on taking the overall GC, I'm more concerned about points for the Cat 3 upgrade. (have 3 out of 20 needed so far) I knew I wasn't going to do all that well in the TT, but that I had a fighting chance at points in the crit & road race. (top 6 needed in the crit, top 9 in the road race - no points available from TTs for the 4->3 upgrade)

With my randonneuring background I hoped that recovery - key in a multi-day race - would be to my advantage.

Stage 1: Saturday Time Trial

After failing hard at the Frostbite TT earlier this year, I wanted to at least not get cut from the overall race.. I thought the winner would be closer to 20 minutes, so I would need to get in under 24:00.

You don't have to have a dedicated TT bike for this event, though it certainly helps. And many in the 4/5's are rocking nice TT bikes with aero wheels, TT helments, the whole deal. I just threw my clip-on aero bars on the Raleigh (w/ Open Pros), scooted the seat forward, put on some "aero" booties, and got ready to suffer. The TT is really about how long can you sustain the pain, right? Can you meter it out correctly, or will you fizzle too soon? Or not go hard enough?

I figured I needed to put in a good dig on the uphill section, but that I needed something for the way down. You can't just coast down in a race like this, you've got keep pushing, and sometimes that can be harder than pushing hard uphill (in terms of power). You've really got to spin fast in order to get much power when doing over 30 mph.. but I know that my strength, if anything, is on the uphill, so I would put in my work there, and hope for the best after that. Perhaps a bad plan but it was enough to get me through the race.

Got in a decent 30 minute warm-up rolling around up and down a local road near the start at the community college, though I wish I'd just brought the trainer I never use (was too lazy to pack it). I had put on some Conti "Supersonic" tires that are light and thin for the crit, but forgot I'd have to use them in the TT too. They weren't super worn but the trade-off is of course puncture protection - get a flat in the TT and it's over. But by the time my start rolled around, I'd forgotten about any tire worries, it was all about pacing and suffering.

The First Rate Mortgage guy in front of me looked strong and had some decent aero gear, so he was a good "carrot" to chase. Each rider starts 30 seconds apart, so you at least have someone to go after (unless you started first), and have someone chasing you - both great motivators.

I tried to get off to an easy start, and save something for the hill. We drove the course the night before, and got an idea of the layout/grade, but the hill of course seemed more looming when I saw the climb in the daylight, on the bike, in the race, heart pumping hard. My carrot was just in front, perhaps 30 meters up the road.

Overtaking can be tricky though - you don't want to have to do some hard acceleration to get around the carrot, since that will cook you and you'll slow down as soon as you pass, and probably get passed. I just kept it in the big ring, cross-chained at 53x25, and jammed up the hill out of the saddle. It hurt.

Passed the guy, tried to say something like "I hate TTs, this hurts!" but I doubt he heard it through my heavy breathing and drooling. Kept turning over the pedals, even though the pain was growing, and knew that I could have some sense of recovery - if only a little - on the downhill side.

As I crested the hill I felt the hurt from that hard climb, and was just happy to be over the top - the rest was downhill or flat from here, in theory. The only problem was that I needed to recover, and probably coasted too much (a running theme lately) here and there. Felt like I was spinning out the 53x12 and that just might have been the case, especially when tired.

After a minute or two I heard the sound of a bike behind me - oh no! My laziness had come back to bite me, and I was now being caught by someone, maybe the guy I'd passed earlier? Nope, this was someone that started behind me somewhere, and was in a full aero setup with a good, low, position. I was doing 30-something and he flew past me! Better aero, obviously good fitness, and probably perhaps 55x11 to boot.

But this put a new wind in my sails, and once again I had someone to chase. Of course you can't draft in a TT like this, but you can give chase after they've passed you. But he was gaining distance on me and getting smaller and smaller. The 3k sign came, I think it was, and all of a sudden I look back to see the First Rate Mortgage guy closing in. Dammit! Pacing had failed, because now I was going too slow. But again good motivation to keep on pushing.

The last 500m had a little riser, but I hit it hard (or tried to), took the right turn at 200 meters to go, and gave it really all I could. For some reason all those seconds I lost while resting/costing/being lazy during the TT all of a sudden mattered to me, the results sheet with split-second differences flashing in my mind. It hurt but I put in a sprint and came in decently fast.

But in the end my time was 23:55 (22.57 mph average) - 38th place out of 82 riders. Not too hot. Pacing is definitely something I need to work on, along with the aero position, and of course overall strength endurance. A pretty low bar I should be able to raise next year..

The winner did a time of 21:04, a good 30 seconds in front of 2nd place! (25.6 mph avg)

Saturday Walla Walla Cat 4 25-minute Crit

So with the flat technical course, 80-something Cat 4's (you could call us beginners), I was expecting a huge crashfest like the Ballard Crit was last year. Rolled around local streets with Josh, a good sprinter on our team, and got ready for a what promised to be a snappy race. Set in downtown Walla Walla, with lots of spectators, there was a little pressure too.

Since it was only 25 minutes long we all knew that the contenders in the race were really going to make it hurt for everyone else. (In the 4's, this is plenty of time to do so)

The lineup was funny - after the Women's 4's race was done, the officials said, "Cat 4 men, take a practice lap!" But instead all 80 guys except me did a 10-foot sprint/run for the start line. I was actually looking forward to seeing the course, as I had no idea what it really looked like yet - but the pre-race for the line caught me off guard. Talked to a Cycle-U guy (was it Jed?) that said he and a few others really did take a warm-up lap, and ended up lining up at the back of the pack.

Here's the pack, getting ready for the race in downtown Walla Walla:


Unlike a road race, starting position in a crit can matter a lot, depending on how good you are at moving up in a fast and tight race. Some people don't have the speed, some don't have confidence, some don't have either. Also, you have to be able to clip into your pedals quickly in a crit; you'll find that at least 30% of the field in any race can't actually do this. Many are found looking down and fumbling with their pedals while everyone else is sprinting away.

Josh & I started in the back, but really only one or two rows back, I wasn't too worried. I've gotten pretty good getting into my Speedplays quickly, so when we started I passed probably 30 people in the first 10 seconds.

Here's a shot of the 4's rolling out - GO GO GO!!


We got up to speed and got ready for the first turn, and 90-degree right. Nice and quick, you could really dive around it with a good line. The turns came so quick that you were barely getting upright out of one before you were entering another. And somehow I seem to have some kind of magical cornering skill, where I can pretty much pass people at will on the corners.

Once I got up to the top 10-15 of the race, I just tried to hang on to that position.


Here's the front end of the pack, with me hiding a little further back - checking out how much time was left - easier to look to the left and see the big clock than the tiny one on my handlebars.

Closing a gap at some point after a prime, I think - the great Raleigh Prestige under me, transferring power to the road efficiently:
img (disclaimer on bike fit - I forgot to put the seat back in normal position, it was jammed way forward after the TT earlier in the day)

A helping push from a team mate? Sometimes that's all it takes to stay in the race.

Josh was really strong, and at one point about half way through the race he got on the front and strung it out. (e.g. went fast, turning a "pack" into a huge paceline) - in the end this would be crucial to our placing in many ways - he's got good handling skills and was taking great lines through the corners, allowing those of us just behind him to ride nice and smooth.

The less braking you do, the less work you have to do to get back up to speed, and the less gaps you have to close. Resting is key, as it always is.

The primes in this race were cool - helmet for 1st place, cash for 2nd, etc - but I as usual ignored them. You might get bragging rights and even cash from primes, but you don't get upgrade points from them and that's all I'm after here.

In the last 5-10 laps we sat in the top 5 positions or so, Josh and I pretty much sitting pretty and waiting to pounce out of the last corner. In a race like this with not much space between corners, we knew that the final placings would be more or less the same as it was coming out of the last corner (or last few in this crit).


When the last lap came I expected more fireworks, but we just held the quick pace and since it was fast enough nobody could, or wanted to, come around. For some reason it didn't feel like a final sprint - I think I was confused since I felt somewhat rested - and when the final turn, we all stood up and gave it our best.

Sure enough, our positions more or less held, and I came in for 5th place! Josh got 4th right in front of me, and Jordan almost passed me (as I was coasting a bit once again in a sprint, no lie), coming in for 6th. I must be "aiming" my bike throw for the line and am just quitting to early - hopefully a little racing on the velodrome this summer will help iron out my inefficient sprint.

Still, even without a great sprint, I was able to place well based mostly on bike handling skills combined with some power. Sweet. Points!! (this gave me two more, so now I should have 5 out of the 20 required)

Sunday Waitsburg 58-mile Road Race

This was the "big one" for us - 58 miles and a decent amount of climbing (we did two loops: short, long) after a day of racing.

The neutral rollup on the big hill wasn't too bad, and at 8 or so mph I wasn't hurting at all, just chatting and it was a good warm-up. Which I needed, since I didn't get there with enough time to really get one in.

It was nice to be able to get a feel for the climb without having to race it just yet - and I chatted with a guy who said this was his local "training hill" and was gunning for a win today. Nathan Banner(?) I think his name was - younger guy, but apparently plenty strong. Lots of strong juniors in the 3/4/5's this year for sure, always impressive. (I see now he won the Cat 5 GC here last year, and also has an mtb/cross background)

After we got over the climb the race was on, and we sped it up a good deal. A nice downhill followed by some flats. I started in the middle of the pack or so, and decided to move up after a few minutes of cruising. The pace was pretty easy and I wanted to scope out who was up front today.

The pace seemed pretty relaxed and I sat about 10th wheel, and decided in a split second that I was gonna attack. The guy to my left gave some space, and it allowed me to get out into the open, but still about 5-10 riders back from the front, and got out of the saddle and wound up a decent sprint (1000-something watts for 5 seconds) to get away.

Off The Front - My First Real Breakaway

So I went - at first the plan was to do a "fake" jump, just enough to get people to chase and animate the race a little. But before I knew it I was in the middle of "real" jump, and saw 1000+ watts flash on the screen. So yeah I gave it my all, and combination of factors allowed me to get some distance on the pack:
  • I'm a generally unknown rider in the peloton, almost 3 minutes behind GC
  • I went only 9 miles into a 58 mile hilly race - this was probably the equivalent of the no-name French riders way back on GC in the TdF breaking away from the gun on a 200 km road race. Maybe get a little camera-time for the sponsors, get your name known - and who knows, sometimes these things work!
  • I had good enough speed to get off the front - looking back I held 28.x mph for a minute, way faster than usual! When I got away it was on a 1-2% downhill and there must've been a tailwind.
So based on all those factors I found myself pegging it, laying it all down, way early in the race. The phrase, "you never know unless you go" came to mind a bunch. Put in some good work and didn't look back for minutes, got into the zone.

The moto referee came up beside me, to my surprise, giving me a time check! Cool, my first time check this must mean I'm doing it right. "25 seconds, and no response from the pack." Only a few minutes into my solo effort and the pain was there but manageable, and getting time checks helped a ton with motivation, and just knowing what was going on with the race.

It was just me, a lead car, and sometimes the moto ref, surrounded by brown and green fields, and blue skies, riding over rolling hills. Kinda surreal. Just kept looking down at my faux-pro white booties and telling the legs to keep on going, let's see what happens. Don't give up until they catch you, that's the only way this will work. Don't look back, it doesn't matter how close they are, just keep chugging. And don't think about how long to go..

Moto guy came up and the time check was "35-second gap, still no attacks." I gave him a thumbs up and kept pressing on. Wow, my gap was growing!

There was a medium-size hill along the way, and I really had to jam up it, but felt like the 16-ish mph I was doing wouldn't match the pack's 18-20.. but I kept going, to see if I could make it over the top. I did! The downhill was fast at 35+ mph, but I figured the pack would be doing a good 40 mph here.. but I kept going.

To my surprise the pack was still a small blob behind me a few minutes later.

I then went into a cycle of pedaling hard for a minute, sitting up, looking back, giving up, then getting a 3rd or 4th wind and attacking my own attack, as they say.

The pain would kick in again, and I'd sit up. There were 3-4 times were I literally sat up, stretched, took some sips of water, and looked around. Nobody bridging, pack not strung out, and they're still way back there. Then the moto guy would roll up and the time-check was still 45 seconds, and I told him I was done. But he said I was looking good and I might as well try, or something, and it was just enough motivation (combined with a little rest) to get back in the drops and start hammering again.

Then we took a few turns and entered what had to be Main Street in Waitsburg, with a few scattered buildings, people, and volunteers lining the street. Rolling through this little town with a lead car and a nice big gap felt just great - I think a little kid cheered me on, which was fun - and I hammered through the left/right corners, hoping my lines were going to be faster than most of the pack's.

And they might have been great lines, but the pack had closed a good deal of space coming out of town, and I looked back and thought I saw someone trying to bridge up. I slowed a tad and waved them up, but it was to no avail. (Or did I imagine that part?)

I knew the break was about to end, and the big 3km climb was coming up (this is only about 21 miles into the 58 mile race) - but I still wanted to give it my best, and I hit the climb solo, with the pack not too far behind.

Surviving the Climb?

When I started the 3km climb I had thoughts of just maybe making it over the top alone, or with a small group, and getting a nice gap back - you know, like how the pros do it!!

But my legs, heart, and lungs had had enough, and the pack consumed me. After about 38 minutes and 12-ish miles, my breakaway was done, but I couldn't rest just yet. Still 2.5 km to climb and a 36 more miles to go.

I tried to blend in about 10 wheels back, and the pack was getting a little strung out already. The usual characters were at the front, putting the hurt on the pack and me. At this point I wished I'd been caught before the climb, instead of on it, but that's just the way it happened.

Had to fight the hardest I've pushed it in a good while, and thanks to some encouragement (read: yelling) from a strong team mate Ian I was able to maintain contact, though he could tell I was hurting and going backwards.

Looking back I wish I'd just rested altogether once I was caught, and caught back on during the downhill. But instead I fought so fucking hard and stayed in the big ring the whole time, just looking forward to the 1 km mark where it gets slightly easier, and then the downhill. Besides the finish this was easily the hardest part of the race for me.

The Rest of the Waitsburg Race (big loop)

This was a really cool course, and we had something like 36 miles of it left. After the descent, I got a chance to eat a gel and recover in the pack. Ah, the draft, I was glad to be back.

The race wasn't over, and before long someone else attacked and got off the front (a grey kit, either IJM or an eastern-WA team) and the race was getting more animated.

The Crash

Unlike the crowded crit the day before, where there were no crashes, this race did involve a bad one. We were on a descent doing at least 30-35 mph, and all of a sudden a few rows up I hear strange noises and see a bike upside down in the air amongst a mix of other bikes.

Then there was a Cycle-U guy tumbling across the left lane - and it seemed like before he even stopped rolling I looked over and saw his torn kit and him wincing in pain. Not good. In addition to him 3-4 guys went down in the middle of the right lane - I was right next to them as it seemed like two of them piled up on top of someone already on the ground. More nasty sounds, including yelling.

Had to swerve to avoid it all, and then chase back on. Then something kind of cool happened - who ever was at the front slowed down a good deal, I guess to actually let people chase back on, which I think some might have done. Sometimes at the end of road races when there's a crash, the opposite happens - people attack.

But the Cycle-U guy broke his collarbone & separated his shoulder in the fall. Damn. I hope he can get back out there before too long. It was such a nice day before that, and then to be staring up at the blue sky in pain must be a really lonely feeling. (photo of the crash scene)

The Rest of the Race

Actually I don't recall too much after that, except getting into the last 5km or so when the pace really picked up. Coming back into Waitsburg we had a nice huge lane to move around on, and Ian made a great move, with me on his wheel, to move up the side of the pack and gain 10-20 spots in one fell swoop, doing 30+ to get around people already going pretty hard. Cool.

We hit the left/right turn and then the straight away that led to the final climb. The pace was speedy but we hung onto our positions, getting ready for the big climb ahead.

Final 3 km Climb

Was in the top 20 or so starting out on the climb, feeling alright but pretty taxed after a hard day or two of racing. Nobody went too early, we all knew the climb pretty well by now, but the pace was hard enough that I couldn't stay under 182 bpm or so, when I really start to hurt.

Maintained contact with this lead group for a little while, though I could tell there was no way I could match this pace the way whole up, much less the acceleration closer to the finish. Looked back and saw that we'd opened up a good 10-20 second gap on the rest of the pack. Selections were being made every moment, the pool of possible winners was getting smaller and smaller.

But I was one of those about to pop, and at least with the pressure of the rest of the pack all but gone at this point, I let up a little and let them duke it out. I was pretty much done, put a fork in me. Ian had been trying to "coach" me up the hill but this time I did the yelling, and told him to
go for it.

Except there was still 1.5 km or so to go, and the climbing wasn't over. I looked back and saw a Starbucks guy closing the gap, along with 1-2 other riders. I wanted to protect my "spot" in the back end of the front group, so I had to step on the gas a little. The race was already way up the road, I finished a good 40 seconds off the leaders for 14th place. Another top 25 but no points. Still, a good day of racing.

20th in the GC standings overall, which I was surprised with given my sub-average TT. Had I done a decent TT a top 10 GC standing might have been possible.. still, I did the best I could.


Will post some stats later - I do remember that we averaged 26.1 mph in the crit! And something like 21-22 in the road race.

The fun average was off the charts.

Thanks to all the volunteers and organizers - it must take an army of flaggers, drivers, registration people, moto drivers, etc, to make an even like this happen. The Tour of Walla Walla isn't an NRC (National Race Calendar) event or anything, but for PNW racing I say it's pretty damn cool.

It was great racing with my team mates Todd, Ian, Kevin, Josh, Tyler, JC - as well as friendly competitors Jordan, Rob, Andrew, Dan, Nathan, Jed, Forrest, and anyone else I can't think of right now. Good racing out there!

Maybe by next year I can do the Cat 3 four-day stage race: 64-mile race with 5,000 ft of climbing, TT & 40 minute crit on Saturday, then 75-mile race with 5,000 ft of climbing. Not sure I can handle that but I've got plenty of time until I'm there..

Thanks to Kira for driving out there with me, and taking pictures! I couldn't have done any of it without you.

More Stories & Photos

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Olympic View Road Race 2010

Olympic View Road Race - Cat 4, 54 miles. A new race way out in Brady, Wa. (official link)

After coming close to points at the Volunteer Park Crit on Saturday, the hunt was still on. I had a ride down there, my legs weren't sore, and it wasn't supposed to rain. Why not go?

18 mile loop, rolling hills, awesome northwest country roads (read: chipseal), a hairpin turn at the bottom of a hill. Cool.

It was a little wet when we showed up, but eventually dried up and the sun came out. This was a longish race for us Cat 4's, and after not eating enough in the 61-mile Ravensdale race I knew I needed to eat right this time. (e.g. bring gel packs with you!!)

The Race

Forgot my garmin unit in the car, which made things interesting during the race. I'll be the first to admit I'm a slave to the numbers, and probably don't pedal more than 30 seconds without looking down at the stats sometimes during training.

But if anything racing without any data made me pay attention to the race that much more.. and felt like recovery was more natural without the power data - I wasn't thinking "just put out X watts for Y secs - I should be tired!"

In the pack it doesn't really matter what the stats are - you're doing the speed you need to, most likely resting and waiting for the finish. But there are times when the stats would be nice to have..

We Are Recycled Cycles, And We Race

On the first lap the pace wasn't where I thought it should be (well, without data I had no idea, it was just a feeling) so I got up front and led out the pack. We weren't chasing anyone, or winding up for the sprint, but the legs felt good and I wanted to establish Recycled Cycles (or maintain the image) as a team that earns their keep in the peloton. You won't see us hiding in the pack the whole time (like some teams I won't name), you'll see us pulling the pack, attacking, etc. Animating the race, hopefully.

Some teams just sit in for the finish, no matter what - essentially paying $25 for a Sunday group ride.. as the saying goes, "It's called racing, not waiting around for shit to happen!"

It wasn't a monster pull or anything, but enough to establish that yes we put in work at the front too.

Off the Front!

On the 2nd lap I was about 10 wheels back from the front, plenty of space was open on the left, and I went off the front - wound up enough speed to get a nice gap on the pack, for once. The trick is to build up speed before you pass the top 3-5 people leading the pack, who are the ones that will generally respond anyway. People still yell "attack on left!" and stuff but if they see you fly by fast enough there's no chance of catching on.

It was just before the curvy section of the course and I was hoping that I could use that to my advantage. I knew I wouldn't last (maybe the pack did too), but was hoping someone might bridge up and we could use this early attack to create a huge gap. Or something. Things like that seem so easy on paper, but once you're out there it's all different.

The lead car sped up and it was just me and the car, only silence behind. I'm off the front!! Cool. But it hurts... oh does it hurt. Pacing efforts like this was the only time I missed the data.

We passed a dropped rider from another race, and even though I was going really slow it felt neat to have him pull over and see only me & the car - makes you feel special, if only for a few seconds. Though I didn't feel like I was impressing him with my speed... I was starting to slow.

Waited a while to look back (they say don't look back, just keep pushing), and the pack looked small. Sweet, that's a good sign. After a minute or so later I looked back again and couldn't see the pack, though they were just around the bend I'm sure.. It was fun for a minute or two, but eventually the legs were burning and I slowed. Slowed waaay down and sat up, essentially. Took a sip of water and waited for the pack to catch. Game over, before it really started.

I was already blowing up when the small climb came. (but it's the biggest on this course) The pack caught me there, but I was able to get back in on 10th wheel or so and recover. Was probably only a few minutes-worth of an attack, but a nice little workout, and my longest attack to date.

And hopefully etched our team kits into the minds of our competitors. Was congratulated for the "nice try" as I came back into the pack - that made it all worth it.

Race Finish - Dicey!

Final lap came around, and since the road was so skinny near the end I made sure to be in the top 15 or so the whole lap. There were a few close calls (that's racing, I guess), but nobody crashed in the whole race.

There was a lot of jockeying for position in that last lap. When riding for two or so hours with a group, you start to notice certain people. People that are strong. People that are not. People that can ride in a straight line. And people that, for whatever reason, cannot seem to ride their bike straight!! There was one guy who seemed to be almost touching the wheel in front of him way too much. I was picturing us going down in a crash and me yelling, "I saw that coming, dammit!!" as we all went down.

But luckily said sketchy guy didn't go down, and nobody else did either. But I made sure to get in front of people like that when possible.

Was set up on the yellow (center) line waiting to pounce to the left in the field sprint at 1k to go, but was eating wind, and by the 200m sign I felt like I'd already been sprinting for 800 meters. Not good. had at least two guys leading us out, at a high enough pace that nobody wanted to come around - that's how it's done. They took the win I believe..

A big nasty Cat 4 field sprint ensued but we stayed upright. Started it at about 15th wheel, not really a winning position.. I need to be in the top 3 or so to really have a chance at the podium I think.

When the 200m sign came I shot out to the left lane (as we're allowed to do), but so did a bunch of other people and I was still eating wind, if not more than before. Slight uphill grade for the sprint but I felt fast - too bad everyone else did too I guess. Almost got taken out at the line by a guy swinging to the left, and was almost pushed off the left side of the road, but kept it upright for a 14th place. Well, another top-20 in the books but not another win... still, a great day of racing! A really fun course, I'll be back next year for sure.

Also, congrats to my friend Rachel on Group Health that took the win in the women's Cat 4!! Her first win, well done!

Edit: found some photos from the race

  • From BikeHugger on flickr - from some of the races later in the day
  • Anyone know of other photos from this one? I saw a few people snapping photos during the Men's Cat 4 race..

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Volunteer Park Crit 2010

Ahh, the Volunteer Park Crit. I originally found out about this race a few years ago when we were randomly in the park on the same day and happened to see it. At the time I had no idea about what categories were what, who was who, etc, but it looked like fun and I had a road bike. That was the beginnings of me wanting to race. Took years to actually do it..

Back then I had dreams of dropping everyone in the race on my 1980's Miyata 312 with down-tube shifters (I wanted to be "that guy") - funny how things don't quite work out that way..

Then last year I watched it again, and was this close to jumping in - but advice from more experienced racers said that course (especially on a rainy day) was not the best course for your first criterium. With some interesting turns and a winding downhill/uphill section, I think that advice was right.

Anyway, it's a year later and I'm racing now. Time to see how I'll do at this local crit. I did OK at Ballard, Joe Matava, and Derby Days (well, top 20 anyway), so I seem to be better at crits than other races. I think a lot of it comes down to handling skills less than pure power or endurance - in a crit to save energy you want to use your brakes as little as possible. Going through corners in a tight pack without touching the brakes is scary at first, but slowing yourself down is a great way to get tired, quick. Coast through those corners instead and you'll have the energy needed to sprint out of said corner and get ahold of a wheel to follow.

Warming Up, Watching the 5's

Before the race Chris from Recyled Cycles, Jordan from Starbucks, and I rolled down to Interlaken Blvd to do a little warm-up climb. Chris had forgotten his helmet but scrounged one up just in time for our race. It happens.

We came back to see the Cat 5's still chuggin' along, and Kyle (also on Recycled Cycles/Raleigh Racing) was looking strong! On the final lap he attacked through the finish line (here's a shot of said attack), and coming around the last turn he was still in the lead. He finished well ahead of the pack on a solo breakaway! (photo) (His second win via a breakaway - look for this one in the 4's soon!)

The Cat 4 Crit

Here is the pack of 77 riders lining up. You can't see me because I'm in the back, not paying attention.
(from teampics)

Lined up at the back on accident, had both feet on the ground when the whistle blew... off to a bad start. And the first 50m lead to a big sweeping right turn followed by a quick left, which strung out the pack. So I started probably 50 riders back from where I needed to be.

Here's a shot of the initial squeeze leading into the turn around the tower:
(From teampics)

A shot of Recycled Cycles very own JC rounding the corner - looking good on his new Raleigh Team bike:

(From teampics)

Here are some riders coming through the little bend at the bottom of the hill. You can imagine how someone can easily be squeezed going through there in a pack...

(from teampics)

So I decided I needed to put in some work and get up to the top 20 in the next few laps. Done. The announcer said something about primes but I ignored all of them. While I'd love to take a prime one of these days (to win something) I knew I didn't have the stamina to try that and be there at the finish. (Unlike Jordan, who likes to win both in races!)

There was a comical situation coming through the final turn - a spectator, who must've known someone in the pack, kept yelling "MOVE UP!! MOVE UP DAMMIT!!" in our ears as we passed. And at this point we were all in the top 10, sitting pretty near the end of the race.

What is he talking about? After four or five laps of this same thing being yelled in our ear, I think someone yelled back at him, "Dude shut the fuck up!" once as we came through. The next time around, I think I heard "Good job guys!" from the spectator instead - hah. (Hard to tell who he was talking to, perhaps whoever it was really did need to move up - but if I had to guess they would have loved to have been able to move up. But they couldn't..)

A Little Crash Yields Opportunity

5 laps or so to go sitting in the top 20 when I see a gap on the left open on the 5% uphill and I'm taking it to gain positions. At the same time in the middle of the pack someone's rear derailleur gets caught up in someone else's spokes... not a good sound! Then I hear people crashing, and someone yelling "DON'T LOOK BACK!! GO! GO!"

Never did look back, since this put me in 3rd wheel with just a few laps to go. Pretty much perfect, at least it felt that way.

Here's a shot of us coming through the finish for the last lap (that's the chief referee indicating one to go)

(from teampics)

I remember now giving the wheel in front of me to Max, a strong junior on And come to think of it, giving that wheel away so close to the end of the race was like giving away a spot at the end... should have fought harder for that one.

Lost a few spots in the next few laps (some not on purpose) but coming out of the last turn I was way up in the top 10, and in good position for the slightly uphill 2-3% grade sprint. Just how I'd been visualizing this finish for the last few months.

Thing is, I can't sprint... ugh that seemed like a long 200 meters to the line, and though I passed a few I was just about coasting (in fact I did a bit, see video below) when we hit the line. Gave it a throw but to no avail - was 2/3rds of a wheel away from 6th! (saw the official photo finish afterwards)

Damn, one spot out of points for the Cat 3 upgrade, but a top 10 and a strong finish in a big local crit. Mission accomplished.

Here's a little sequence of our sprint finish! That's me on the left with those pretty white booties (sequence starting here)

And here's a video from the Cat 4 race! You can see me coasting a bit in the last few meters of the sprint - ugh, with 20/20 hindsight it's so easy to think "why didn't I push a little harder, pedal longer, etc?" The legs were dead, that's why!

Jordan took the win, nice job man... makes sense that he's almost a Cat 3 (or will be one soon)


Duration: 41:05
Work: 579 kJ
TSS: 68.4 (intensity factor 0.999)
Norm Power: 290
VI: 1.23
Distance: 16.827 mi
Elevation Gain: 1806 ft
Min Max Avg
Power: 0 895 235 watts
Heart Rate: 121 197 174 bpm
Cadence: 22 145 82 rpm
Speed: 2.9 49.4 24.6 mph
Crank Torque: 0 1772 238 lb-in


  • Teampics is posting pics from all Cats - that's a lot of photos!
  • Tu was there getting shots of the Cat 4 Women's race
  • Thumbprint racing (IJM) was there taking pics of the race
  • More photos from the 4's & 5's races
  • Cool video compilation from our Cat 4 race. Including the sprint finish at about 5 minutes in - I'm on the left, with not even enough energy to pedal much in those last few meters..
Hopefully everyone can find great shot of themselves suffering during the race!!

Huge thanks to everyone for coming out and cheering us on, and to Cucina Fresca for putting on this race. A true Seattle classic. Can't wait for next year's edition..

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Racing at Seward Park - 4/8/2010

Seward Park 6 pm training crit (Cat 3/4's)

It's a good sign this race is feeling slightly easier every time. Racing against 3's was at first daunting, but for the most part they seem like 4's who've just been riding for a while, and are a tad faster. The pack is smoother, and tighter too - experienced racers joke about how the 5's ride with two feet between each rider, which feels close enough for those new to racing - but in this pack we're less than a foot from each other, sometimes less. Not much room for sketchy riders, and luckily I didn't see many.

My plan, if I even had one besides getting in a good workout, was to "sit in" and save my energy for the finish. Since I weigh 145-ish lbs these days I have perhaps a slight advantage over some on the uphill-ish sprint finish. "Sitting in" always sounds easy but there are no free rides in a race.

The plan was loosely defined, and I just went with the flow. There were four "prime" laps, where the first person across the line wins $10 & some Nuun tablets and a water bottle. Enough to get the race animated! But I planned on ignoring those.

A Cat 3 on our team went for the last prime, with about 3 laps to go. On the downhill section he had a nice lead on us, he actually looked small in the distance. Chris & I got on the front and tried to control the pace, e.g. slow it down a tad to let our guy get away for the prime, though we probably didn't do the best job of it. This is important stuff folks! Winning a prime is not just for the material benefits, it's the bragging rights we're all after. A noble pursuit indeed.

But on the uphill just before the finish we could see that our guy was running out of gas.. so Jordan jumped to go for it and I hopped on his wheel. We blew buy the blown RCR guy and I'm sitting second wheel cruising up to the line, in perfect position to come around for the prime! Or so I thought..

I probably thought about it too much, and just when I was about to make my move Jordan's team mate Mark came flying by the both of us, taking the prime. Good job Mark, well played.

Well, that was fun but now I had to recover at 185 beats-per-minute & 25 mph! Only two laps to go so I better recover quick. And you'd think you can just coast on the downhill, but it seemed like there was a nasty headwind there and you had to fight just to keep up with the rest of the pack. A few seconds of coasting here and there felt great, but I lost positions on the climb the next time around.

On the final lap I was in the top 20-30 (e.g. not placed great), the pack was really fluid, but I saw the guy that won last week (from Garage Racing) and marked his wheel. He was moving up through the pack so it seemed like a good wheel to be on. We got to the climb and started winding up, but it was so crowded there wasn't much space to move around.

Still, I passed a few gassed people and was making up decent ground - certainly not gunning for a win but at least better than last week, maybe a top 20. Just as we're cresting the hill I see commotion out of the corner of my eye and look over to the right to see Mark sliding on the ground, with another guy tangling with him.. Yikes!

Sounds like the guy was either getting lapped or was just gassed, and decided to pull off to the right when he heard the pack coming - without checking behind him.. So Mark was coming up the outside (where there was some space) and this guy just ran into him. For the record, the correct thing to do when you're ready to check out of the race is just ride in a straight line; people will find their way around you. Mark ended up with some road rash, but he seemed OK and his bike was still functional.

Came in somewhere around 20th. Racing with 3's is great training for the 4's crit at Volunteer Park on Saturday, I hope. Feeling good, had fun, what more can I ask for. It was great to see all the familiar faces and get to race on dry roads.

Race Stats/Data

Duration: 42:46 (missed first two laps)
Work: 613 kJ
TSS: 73.1 (intensity factor 1.013)
Norm Power: 294
VI: 1.23
Distance: 17.095 mi
Elevation Gain: 1886 ft
Min Max Avg
Power: 0 1090 239 watts
Heart Rate: 148 189 171 bpm
Cadence: 25 139 82 rpm
Speed: 1.6 55.8 24.0 mph
Crank Torque: 0 1654 232 lb-in

Recently raised FTP estimate to 290, I think it's about right.

Peak 5-sec was 1,038w - best I've done in the last few months - alas, only 15.8 w/kg or so.. gotta work on that. (Good enough to drop your local commuter, or myself last year, but not good enough to win a field sprint outright)

Training - The Big Picture

Here is my Performance Management Chart from the last few months. It's a visualization of the "training load" you've accumulated over time. When the yellow bars are down and the blue/purple lines are up, I'm putting in lots of miles and fitness ("form") should be there. And while like any other approximation it will never be an exact representation of where I'm at (how I feel) - it gives you an indicator, a reminder of where you've been, training-wise.

In roughly the middle of the graph you can see the big dip in yellow and the corresponding rise in the blue/purple lines - I believe that was my "Base 3" phase - four weeks of 10-15 hours per week of endurance riding.

If you have no idea what I'm saying understand this: I've been gearing up for the Volunteer Park Crit!! Ready to tear off some legs on Saturday.. been waiting years to do this one. (all this mumbo jumbo & graphs is from the WKO+ app, by the way)

Bike Links

In other news I've added two pages to the blog that offer links to all kinds of cool sites.

If you have other sites you think should be on either of those pages, send me a note!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Seward Park Bike Racing 2010: Bring It On

Today was the first edition of the Seward Park race, held weekly from now until April.

Last year I did Seward a good 15-20 times, all in the 5:30 PM race or the Cat 4/5's (beginners). The first race I barely hung on for a pack finish. Through the year, as I got stronger, I got a few top 10's, and one third place.

This year I initially planned to come back and do the 4/5 race again, to see if I could actually win it - but after thinking about it, and some prodding from others, I decided just to jump into the 3/4's race at 6 PM. 45 minutes instead of 25, and you get to race against more experienced (and in theory stronger) Cat 3's - guys who used to seem like pros compared to the 5's years ago. Now I get to line up next to them. The goal for now is to be one of them.

The Race

Lined up with some the other Recycled guys - Mike, Jason, Andrew, Busto, Pauh, and Chris - some of them I haven't raced with yet since they're 3's. Compared to how I used to feel (in a word, shaky) right before races last year, this year the jitters are gone.

The excitement is still there, but the nervousness is just about gone. And that's what I came here and paid money for, to train to get and more experienced stronger - not just to "have fun." I could stay in the 4/5's and shoot for that elusive win (not that it would be easy, but I'd have a better chance), but I figure racing in the 3/4's will be better training overall.

It had been raining off and on the whole day, but it was dry when we started. Still, I kept my booties on and wore a long-sleeve jersey in case it started pouring later. And boy did it rain later.

After a few words from Dave, the organizer of this series, we were off for a new season of competition. Most important note seemed to be to "stay out of the gutters - as you should in life," and don't stand/sprint if you find yourself on the outside in or near the gutter (wet mold). Which really sucks because the left/right sides on the little climb can be nice places to move up, considering it's hard to move up in the middle.

After a few laps I'd been riding so conservatively (since this was my first race with 3's) that I'd slid back further than I found comfortable. The pack of 50-60(?) would get strung out and small gaps would form on the downhill on the backside. Doesn't seem like it's enough distance to do much damage but closing a gap in a headwind when you're doing 35-40 mph can hurt. And it seemed like I'd come around the sweeping left on the downhill and see 200 feet of racers in front of me, with gaps everywhere.

Of course, the pack would usually bunch back up on the bottom of the downhill, but I still don't like to be anywhere but in the draft, in the peloton. So I decided to stop messing with the back of the race and move up.

On the Front

A prime came along, and somewhere in the ensuing chase I find myself on the front of the pack! Not what I wanted to do, especially on a windy day like today. Pulled the pack around for a lap, and just kept the pace reasonable - I used to tend to speed up too much when on the front, which is usually a waste of energy.

So instead of battling to get everyone off my wheel, I just kept my pace steady (and comfortable), and just waited for someone or a group to come around. People will get impatient and just come around if you want them to, I learned recently.

On the next lap I was second wheel for a little while, and at some points it seemed like a group of 5-6 of us was getting away from the pack, but it's hard to tell sometimes.

After about 5 minutes (a few laps) of hanging out of the front, and riding harder than I had the whole race, I started to feel the effects and found myself drifting back again. Which was ok, I'd shown my face at the front at least, now the goal was just to finish in the pack.

I remember seeing 9 laps to go (out of 22) and feeling like I wished the end was sooner, but the extra few laps (compared to the 15-laps 4/5's race) weren't too tough.

The rain started back up during the race, at first almost imperceptible but eventually big droplets and not to be ignored. I heard guys talking about dropping out if the rain kept up... which would make me more than happy to thin out the pack.

Before too long the rain was gone, though the roads still wet. That hard 140-degree turn at the top of the course was a little scary, but nobody went down. (This montage kept flashing through my mind)

The final bell lap came, and I didn't do anything differently (usually you will have already chosen a spot in the pack and will be battling for it, at a cost of course, the last few laps) and instead just rode it into the finish. Probably a good 30 riders back but in the pack, and not DFL. Mission accomplished.


I like to think of the race data kind of like a flight data recorder. When I analyze races one of the things I'm looking for are trends, such as how my heart rate dips a bit towards the end of the race. Was that recovery from time spend at the front, or a mini-bonk? I'm guessing the latter.

Zooming in on the "Peak 5 minutes":

Entire workout (223 watts):
Duration: 42:53
Work: 577 kJ
TSS: 64.8 (intensity factor 0.952)
Norm Power: 276
VI: 1.23
Distance: 16.944 mi
Elevation Gain: 1885 ft
Min Max Avg
Power: 0 1051 224 watts
Heart Rate: 109 190 171 bpm
Cadence: 16 139 83 rpm
Speed: 2.3 56.3 23.7 mph
Crank Torque: 0 1622 213 lb-in

Looking forward to more editions of the "Thursday Night Worlds," aka Seward Park. And now that I know I can hang on with the 3/4's I should be a little more competitive next week. We'll see.