Ravensdale – Cumberland Road Race

Ravensdale Cumberland MotionBased Today I raced the Ravensdale – Cumberland Road Race, a lovely 2-loop, 58 mile course between Ravensdale and Cumberland, WA. This is the same course we scouted last week, and so I felt reasonably prepared. At the start, I found a bit of news — because the Cat 4/5 field was so large, they decided to split us up into Cat 4 and Cat 5. Well, since I hadn’t seen any Cat 5 only rides after early May, I hadn’t bothered to request an upgrade even though I’ve now hit the 10-race mark. Oops… so in short order, I’m the only Wines guy in the field, as the others have upgraded already. Turns out Steve, another rider, upgraded right after Mutual of Enumclaw as they split the Cat 4s and Cat 5s as well (I raced Masters C/D in that race, so didn’t think of the issue at the time).

Going into the race, I wasn’t too worried. It was well into the season and I’ve been riding well, and I should be more than capable of showing well against the Cat 5s than a mixed field. I had a strategy: stay in the front until the first time through the wall, get over as quickly as possible, and see what opportunities present themselves. I raced to the plan until the wall, and was towards the front when we went over. At this point, a number of other climbers sped past me, but I was OK with this as I knew I was towards the front and just needed to hang on. There were no crashes or big stalls from what I could see. We muscled to the top, hit the short straightaway, and then headed downhill. At this point, I noticed that there was a decent gap between the group I was with and the front group. The pack had split about in the middle.

At this point, I now realize why it’s bad to race with the 5s. There are two classes of 5s: those who have been racing with a good team and have a clue, and those who haven’t. By now, most of the racers on good teams have upgraded, leaving very few racers in the 5s who have a clue. This became evident when we attempted to get a rotating paceline going. Aside from this guy Ryan, neighbor of Trish, one of Wines fantastic Cat 1 Women, and an Oberto junior, none of these guys knew how to ride in a paceline. So, we gave a crash course to a bunch of Native Planet guys and a few other noobs on the basics… such as staying on wheels, slowing down when crossing over into the slow line, accelerating to hop onto the wheel of the last rider in the fast line, and so forth. But this was painful, and too often the rear pack was happy to sit on any rider (usually one of the stronger ones, like me) who was trying to take a turn at the front. Miraculously, at the end of the first lap, we caught up to the front. Seeing the thumbs-ups from the guys in the follow car was great as we passed back into the rolling enclosure.

We then went back up the initial hill and grabbed some water at the feed station 2 miles into the first lap. The field had slowed tremendously, as it seemed people were OK to take a breather until the second pass through the wall. I was happy to sit in for a bit and recover. However, here’s another trap for the 5s, as well as for riding with teammates. When you’re riding with teammates, you try to clump together, and you yell at one another when things happen. When you’re solo, you have to always pay attention, and when you’re tired and recovering, this can be tough. The pace of the front group picked up suddenly and I found myself with about 6-8 riders gapped. As I saw the gap widening, I tried to ask for help as I wasn’t going to be able to sprint my way back on. However, everyone behind me seemed more than happy to sit on my wheel until it was too late. The front pack had a huge gap, and nobody was coming to help. So we tried a smaller rotating paceline with 6 and eventually 8, and while this was more technically sound, we were all going slower than we needed to be going. I believe most of us were in the chase group, so turned out that we were all pretty much low on gas. At this point I knew my race was over, as I wasn’t going to be able to catch back on with this crew. So, we went over the wall fragmented, and had a lovely ride back to the finish line. I ended up catching a Native Planet guy and we rode into the finish together (I was slightly in front, so I wasn’t DFL!), but boy, was I tired.

Prior to writing this, I sent in my request for an upgrade. There aren’t too many road races coming up, but I’m going to make sure I can race with a team versus being all by myself with a bunch of guys that can’t even do a rotating paceline properly!

For your entertainment, the HRM report:

ravensdale-race-hrm.jpg

Mutual of Enumclaw Omnium – Road Ride

Enumclaw Omnium RR Although I wasn’t planning on it, earlier this week I decided to ride in the Mutual of Enumclaw Omnium road race. An omnium is a multi-event race, similar to a normal stage race. However, rather than scoring the winner of the GC – general classification, e.g. overall winner – based on overall shortest time, the omnium is scored on points. Points are awarded for each event; in this case, a time trial, criterium, and a road race. I ended up registering late (online only), and by that time Cat 4/5 was full. Thus, I ended up registering and racing Masters C/D. Masters C/D is similar to Cat 4/5, with the difference being Masters is 35+ (35 as of Dec. 31, 2007, so I just made it!). Also, Masters is typically previous Cat N-1… so Masters C/D is really more like older Cat 3/4, mostly Cat 3. Oh, and they’re all still pretty much in shape. Needless to say, I knew going in I was going to get my legs ripped off.

While the race bible said that the course would be a loop around Mud Mountain and then another loop north of Enumclaw, on the day of the race it ended up that the race would instead be 3 laps around Mud Mountain, similar to previous years. Mud Mountain is a about a 650 foot climb over 2 miles. There’s a short steep section, followed by a flat, followed by a medium not-so-steep section and a longer flat, followed by a long slog uphill. Then, it’s a fast, fast downhill on Route 410 back into Enumclaw.

Today, the hill kicked my ass. I was able to do OK on the first two parts of the hill, but I wasn’t able to keep the pace of the main group on the third hill and started falling behind. At the top of the hill, I regrouped with another teammate and two others and we tried to chase back on. While we made great time, we were still 200 yards away from a chase group a bit ahead of us and probably 400+ yards away from the main peleton. I had been thinking of just bailing after the first lap, but I missed the turn to the finish and ended up going onto the second lap. I let the group I was working with get ahead, as I was out of gas right before the hill. Well, some food, water, and active recovery, and it was back up Mud Mountain again. I did OK, a little slower than the first time through, but a much better heartrate. I made the summit solo, and had an enjoyable time bombing downhill. Only downside was that it had started to rain a bit, so it was getting cold and rainy. But hey, it was still nice and downhill.

I did make the right turn (literally) to the finish, and ended my day at two laps, about 1:40 into the ride. I was a bit disappointed I didn’t keep with the pack on the first hill and get some downhill peleton practice, but overall I was reasonably pleased with the two laps I had under me. I definitely need to work on my climbing though!

For your enjoyment, my HR chart from my Polar:

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Pacific Raceways CCW with S-curve

May 15th – Counter-clockwise with the S-Curve. This is the most technical course at PR. On the downhill, rather than bombing through the “escape route” the peleton rides around a S-curve at the base of the downhill. This requires some breaking and handling, and is great practice for cornering at speed. Of course, for the 4/5s, it’s slow as we all break and then sprint to catch up to the folks who were in the front of the peleton and took the S-curve with more speed than the rest of us did.

I managed to botch the 2nd lap. I was towards the back of the peleton, and let it get away on the downhill so I could zip along with momentum. I’d then catch up to the peleton on the uphill. This kind of worked, but I got gapped on the flats and burned up a lot of energy catching back up to the pack. I was able to stick with it for another lap, but then just got dropped on the next lap. Michael, one of the 1-2-3s, was also riding solo (recovering from the flu), so he gave me and an Oberto junior a wheel for a lap. We stopped at the finish, which was a lap earlier than the rest of the 4/5s, but I was done… just blew out too much energy early on, and the hill took care of the rest. Moral of the story: stay up with the pack, don’t yo-yo on the middle!

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PR S-curve

Pacific Raceways Flats (2nd Time)

May 8th, Pacific Raceways held the “flats” course. This is a speedy flat loop around the course, and tends to have a big field. Today was no different. We raced around the course for 8 laps, or about 40 minutes. At the end of the last turn before the final straightaway, the field squeezed itself into an arrow, with a long single-file line of maybe ten riders. I had swooped around on the outside, and decided to sprint a bit early to either give one of our guys a leadout (a Wino was leading the peleton) or go for it. I had some momentum, and found myself sprinting for the finish. So, seeking a new all-time Max HR, I busted out.

Sadly, about 50 meters from the finish, the rest of the pack caught up and started to pass. I was just unable to hold the speed, which was about 33 MPH. So, as riders passed, I let up, knowing my race was over. I finished with the pack as they overtook me.

So, lesson learned… I can’t hold a sprint for 400 meters yet. Gotta work on that. 😉

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PR Flats

Pacific Raceways – Clockwise with Escape Route

Today I raced Pacific Raceways on the Clockwise route, using the escape route. The main difference between clockwise and counter-clockwise is that on the clockwise loop, there’s a gradual downhill through some curves, and then everyone climbs straight up the hill at the end. It wears riders out pretty quickly.

For some reason, I wasn’t feeling up to racing today… I wasn’t breathing all that well and just didn’t feel well. So I skipped a lap and sat in for the most part. At least I got my $13 worth!

Pacific Raceways Escape Route

Pacific Raceways – Counter-Clockwise with Escape Route

Today I raced Pacific Raceways on the counter-clockwise route using the escape route. This route dips below the flats as seen, and uses the escape route instead of the S-curve. This is a steep hill that ends right after the escape route, and then a gradual hill up a few curves. I experimented a bit with positioning… it turns out for me, the best place is right in front to bomb down the hill, and then gradually take the climb up. I did a breakaway or two, and while I got great lines going up the climb, I wasn’t able to sustain the speed and was caught. I also rode in the pack down, but my mass gave me more momentum than most so I was on the breaks a bit too often.

Pacific Raceways Escape Route

Fun practice racing Tuesdays at Pacific Raceways

Yesterday, I went to my first Pacific Raceways Road Race. Every Tuesday from yesterday, April 3rd, until August 28th, at 7:00 PM (and sometimes 6:30 PM for women & juniors) is a race along the Pacific Raceways course down in Kent. This is about a mile-long loop on a good surface, blocked from most wind. The races are timed, meaning the approximate race time will be stated (last night it was 30 minutes), and a few minutes before the time is up they put up a sign for 2 laps remaining, and on the next lap it’s the last lap — meaning first person across wins the prize! Last night it was $5. Racing for gas money.

There are three groups – Cat 1-3 Men, Master’s Men, and Cat 4-5 Men. I was in the Cat 4-5 Men, naturally, which was maybe 50-odd people. On nights with no women’s / juniors courses (every other week) the women and juniors race with Cat 4-5. For the most part, this race gives people great practice in racing — the pace is fast (25-30 MPH), and attacks and breakaways are shortlived. Teammates will chase each other down, happily. Again, these are fun practice races, not officially sanctioned USCF races.

There are a couple of different courses they’re able to run. There’s the flat course, which is just around the oval. There’s counter-clockwise with the escape route, which adds a big, steep downhill followed by a gradual uphill. There’s clockwise with the escape route, meaning there’s a gradual downhill followed by a big, steep climb. And finally there’s clockwise and counter-clockwise with the S turn, although I’m not sure what that entails.

I’m going to try and head down on some (most?) Tuesdays and get in some good practicing. It’s fun, it’s low stress, and it’s great for learning how to handle the bike in fast conditions. Plus, you can do some really crazy stuff and get away with it. For example, last night I sprinted about half a mile from the end, as I had an opening and momentum and wanted to see how long I could keep it up. Turns out about a quarter of a mile, which sucked for me but gave the guy behind me the win. Maybe someday he’ll give me a ride with all that cash he won.

Here’s a quick map of the Pacific Raceway courses (blue = flat, red = escape route, and green = S curve). Best when viewed with the Aerial option vs Road. Here’s the schedule.

Pacific Raceways course

Tour de Dung #3 (Sequim)

A week after a strong finish at Tour de Dung #2, I was back up at Sequim for Tour de Dung #3, the third and final race of the three race series. This week, I was focused on helping out some teammates in the overall. Most road races are single event affairs, where the first rider across the finish line wins..Race series, on the other hand. are multi-day races (typically on the same course) where there are victories for both each individual race as well as overall across all the races. In a series, the first races set up riders who can take the overall; subsequent races tend to be about getting those riders who have a shot at the overall to the podium.

After two of the three races in Sequim, two of our guys, Mike and Duane, were #1 and #3 in the overall standings, and three riders from Hagens Berman were #2, #4, and #6. Thus, the goal for those of us who came for race #3 was to help Mike and Duane get to the podium. The HB guys had pretty much the same strategy for their riders as well. It turns out in cycling there’s both an offense and a defense. The offensive strategy is simple: have the team (save Mike and Duane) pull for the key riders until the final sprint at the end of the course, then let the key riders (who should have plenty of gas) sprint and take it. The defensive strategy is a bit more subtle: keep the HB guys from placing by enabling other riders (even other HB riders) to win. Today, we applied a bit of both.

The first lap of the four were relatively slow. The wind was stronger than last week, the field was smaller, and the two biggest teams present (Wines of Washington and HB) were content to conserve energy. On the second lap, the HB guys started testing the peleton to see if they could make a breakaway stick, which is something that would be tough given the wind. Testing the peleton means putting a bunch of riders towards the front and trying to create a gap, which then turns into a full-on attack if the gap isn’t closed quickly. This is where having a large team presence helps. Towards the end of lap 2, Steve, a fellow WoW rider, and I were closing those gaps. This meant that we’d take our turns pulling at the front to slow down the peleton and ensure that the pack was with the front riders. In other words, we’re taking it for the team. Oof!

About a third of the way through Lap #3, one of our riders, Geoff, who wasn’t really in the running for overall, had a lazy breakaway – he was out in front by 100 feet or so. A random HB rider (not one in the running for overall) and 3 other random riders pushed out to join him, and then they were off on a breakaway. At this point, with a WoW and a HB rider in a breakaway, the remaining team members of WoW and HB were content to let the breakaway go and not give chase. This lasted for a full lap, until the HB rider who was #2 asked Duane (#3) whether we were content to let the breakaway win. Duane looked at the guy and said, “yup!” We knew the points, and if the breakaway stayed, Mike would take the overall as we’d deny points to the other HB riders in contention.

At this point, the HB rider told the rest of his team to get in the front of the pack and chase for the final 3/4 of the final lap. They did, but Duane and Mike just sat on their wheels while they did. Then, as they closed in on final sprint 200 meters from the finish line, Duane and Mike were able to ride around the tired HB riders, finishing behind the breakaway but ahead of the other riders in contention. Hello podium!

As for me – I lost a lot of gas pulling in lap two. Heading into the 5 mile straightaway into the tailwind, the HB and WoW guys at the front poured it on, and the pack started to stretch out and disintegrate. I was towards the back in a small group. We started working together in a paceline, and picked up other stragglers ahead of us who had also popped off the pack. I and Greg, another WoW rider, finished out the race with a pack finish (for whatever definition of the pack was left). Also along the way, we did manage to lap the women (again), but unlike last week we weren’t lapping them as a big pack at the end, so there weren’t any problems.

All in all, another good race. This was much more painful than last week, but that’s OK. I wasn’t out to win, just help the team win – and I’m happy to say, mission accomplished!

Next up: rest week over Easter, and then some rides with PPTM to build up some endurance miles.

Update 4/4/07: Results are online. Apparently, my lame-ass finish was good enough for 19th place. I need to learn how to count the field better… apparently, the field started at about 30-40 people, and looks like all of 20 or so finished. That wind is brutal!

Tour de Dung #2 (Sequim)

A week after my shellacking at Mason Lake, I was ready to try it again. This week, the race counted. Initially I was slated to do the Independence Valley Race on Saturday, but life got in the way a bit an I ended up doing Tour de Dung #2 on Sunday. Independence Valley was my speed, or so I thought — 2 laps for 39 miles, so a bit longer than Mason, and I’d be racing just with Cat 5s. Only big difference is that there are two hills per lap.

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Sequim, aka Tour de Dung(eness), worried me… at a training camp along the same course, I got dropped in two of the three practice laps. The course is fast and the wind is brutal, and if you’re dropped, you’re done. And if you get shelled (exposed to the wind in the peleton) for very long, it doesn’t take long before you’re too tired to catch up! Plus, the course is 48 miles (4 laps of 12), a combined field of Cat 4 and Cat 5 (Cat 5 = rookie, e.g. me), and in general it’s a very “fast” course. So, I headed off about 6:30 AM with a mug of coffee, steeling myself to feel good if I could make it at least two laps.

I think I ate much better for this race, as even though I was a bit tired, each lap I still had some gas. Perhaps the pancakes Saturday AM and spaghetti and meatballs in the evening that did it! Or perhaps I was able to stay in the middle of the pack much better this time, as the road often allowed for four riders riding abreast instead of a tight 3 that was the norm at Mason. Plus, the wind was far more favorable, as least to my style of riding. At the training camp, the wind was from the east, so as we started off in the course we were heading into the wind and just got shelled. Today, the wind was coming from the west at a decent clip. This meant that the first part of the course was fast and with a nice tailwind, and then the course turned into about 5 miles worth of straight road right into the wind. Translation? Breakaways weren’t going to last long — and there were a couple. But keeping ahead of everyone in that headwind was just a monstrous task, and the peleton kept roping people back in.

The field started out about 60 or so, and we were maybe half that on lap four… there’s a rolling hill at the beginning of each lap, and that’s often what dropped people from the back. I was feeling good, so I was able to move ahead on the hill and get myself in reasonable position for the rest of the race. The final lap was actually somewhat slower than I expected — people were tired! Plus, everyone was saving up for an attack towards the end and a big sprint — attacking earlier, while some were doing it, was dicey due to the headwind. However, we were all in for a rude shock — there was a recreational rider on the course, and right afterwards was the women’s peleton — we had lapped them! This caused a great deal of confusion as we passed, and thus the final sprint was somewhat muddled. This being said, I and most of my team pushed forward anyway, and got 3 in the top 10 and another 3 in the top 20 — I was 16th! Woot! I had finished, and actually still had wind. I was amazed!

I looked at the HRM data… here’s the heart rate compared with last week at Mason Lake:

HR Comp - Sequim 2 vs Mason Lake 3.jpg

What leaps out is that I wasn’t discovering a new Max HeartRate this time — I was spinning between 150 and 170 for the most part, spending most of my time between 80% and 90%. Very little time was spent in my 90%, as compared with Mason. Thus, less energy for roughly the same time. But what about speed?

Speed Comp - Sequim 2 vs Mason Lake 3.jpg

Hard to see, but the average at Sequim was 24 for me, with a lot of time spent at the 30s. The straight-away into the wind was much slower. Mason, on the other hand, was about 18 or so. So, less heart rate, and 6 miles an hour faster on average. Wow!

Cadence was about the same… and like Mason, I spent all my time in my big chain ring. In fact, there were times I was spinning as fast as I could in my most powerful gearing, and I was still struggling to keep up with some folks — time to improve the gear ratio (I believe my max is 52×13, vs 53×11 on a standard race bike… gotta check that).

Cadence Comp - Sequim 2 vs Mason Lake 3.jpg

Anyway, this was a great race… very fast, and we had a number of fellow Winos in the peleton that were able to help out. Big kudos to Greg on the team who yelled at me to take a wheel on somebody who was busting up the line in the wind — enabled me to move up a number of spots and keep me going. Overall, it was great to race with more people from the team and have a big presence — it definitely helps my racing!

Next week, Tour de Dung #3… let’s see if I can’t muster another finish!

Update 3/27/2007: Results are online. Officially, I’m 16th, but the guy who got 7th, Rob Anderson, was actually busy filming… so not clear if somebody got hosed or there’s a phantom rider and I’m really 15th. But do check out the video!