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.

1 comment:

Rob McDaniel said...

Nice seeing you again, Matt.

BTW, I notice you need new wheels. Check out Williams wheels. I've got his 19s, very nice. ~1400g, stiff, <$500. Great deal. Plus, he's a little fish, and I hate giving my money to giant corporations.

Plus, awesome customer service. I popped a spoke once and he sent me a dozen spare spokes and nipples. I recently switched from Campy to Shimano and he's sending me a new freehub body for free! Stand up guy.

See you next Thurs!