Crit: Des Moines Masters State Championship Criterium

2007 Des Moines Crit - MapThis morning, I rode in my first crit. The Des Moines Masters State Championship Criterium, hosted by my team, Union Bay Cycling / Wines of Washington. Crits are short (< 1 mile) courses, typically in a city around a few blocks. I had been nervous about this for quite some time… from what I’ve read, crits are hard, fast, and intense. Plus, the main factor in a crit is corners – no sweeping, gentle corners like you see in typical road races. Corners are city street intersections.

Well, the day of the event came, and I headed down. The first thing I realized about crits – later start times! The typical road race is 2 hours away and starts about 9 AM, meaning people in Seattle are leaving about 6 AM. Des Moines is 30 minutes away, and the first race for us (Cat 4/5) was 10:50 AM… amazing what a few extra hours of sleep will do.

The second thing I realized is that crits really are a spectator sport. At road races, there are some spectators near the start / finish, but for the most part the peleton is busy riding through tranquil, rural scenery. At a crit, there are spectators all over, as the peleton makes a loop every minute or two. At this crit, there were a number of spectators at the start / finsh, as well as a homemade grandstand at turn 3 (SW corner) where a bunch of residents were throwing a party while watching the race. It was quite the event.

Back to the crit itself. In road races, the pack starts with a neutral roll-out, which means a few miles of riding for a quick warm-up and to make sure everyone’s comfortable in their bikes. At a crit, you race when the official says go, and you’re going at 25 MPH as quickly as you can. Clipping in and sprinting fast is key so you don’t get towards the back. This is what happened to me. The back is dangerous in a crit, as the corners yo-yo — the first people through go a bit slower through the corners and then pick up the pace, which means the rear ends up going much slower and has to sprint to catch up. Much more energy is expended.

The Des Moines crit isn’t flat – the two short stretches are, but the straightaways are at an incline. Now, the incline is about 30 feet total according to the altimeter in my HRM, for about 1,300 feet – a 2% incline. This would be considered a false flat if anything in a Road Race, but going up this at 25 MPH 15-20 times, it certainly saps one’s energy — fast. Talking to some of the other guys, apparently this is one of the tougher crits because of the hill.

I was in the back third pretty quickly, and tried to hang on. After maybe 4 laps, I was dangling. a big gap would open on the hill, and while I could catch back up on the downhill straightaway a few times, after a while I was unable to make it back to the pack before they rounded turns 3 and 4. I ended up with a small chase group with a Hagens-Berman racer and an Oberto junior. We tried to get the junior back, but after lap 11, the official pulled us as we were about to get lapped. Just as well, as we were sagging badly.

Looking at my HRM data, it’s clear I was well above my normal intensity levels… a road race typically has my heart rate between 150 and 170, with spurts to 180. We started out the crit about 170… far too high for me to keep going for 35 minutes. And that was while I was in the pack, so it wasn’t sucking wind. Clearly, need to work more on speed and hill climbing for next year!

All in all, a fun experience. I spent the rest of the day as a corner marshall (well, intersection marshall) guiding traffic through the course and watching the races. I took a few videos with my cellphone, so we’ll see how they turn out. And now to see when the next (flat) crit is!

2007 Des Moines Crit - Erik HRM

Cat 4 Baby!

I forgot to post what came in the mail on Monday:

The following request to change your USCF category has been approved
and processed by USA Cycling:
Member: Erik Selberg
License: Road Racer
Request to change category from Cat 5 to Cat 4

Yeah baby!


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:


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:


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.

sequim course.jpg

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!

Mason Lake #3

Today I raced in my first road race, Mason Lake. Mason Lake is a training race series, meaning winning doesn’t count for anything as far as the WSBA is concerned. It’s more like the Chilly Hilly of racing – the first race of the year to figure out what you’re doing, how in shape you are (or aren’t), and so on. I’ve been doing training rides with the team on a sporadic basis, but I’ve been keeping up lifting and trying to ride to / from work a few times a week (22 miles each way). However, I haven’t been doing much long rides for a few weeks as I was in Pittsburgh. My plan was to just stay in the pack for the 36 miles and finish, and perhaps help one of my teammates push out a win. From some of the guys who had done one of the earlier races, I heard the pace was around 18-20 miles on average, so not too bad at all. While the skies were gray, no rain, and relatively warm, so looked like a great day for a race.

Mason Lake is a bit under two hours from Seattle, near Shelton on the peninsula. The race started at 9:30 AM, so I left about 6 AM in order to get there with some time to warm up and get my head together. I arrived about 7:30 AM, got my kit on, and started to mentally prepare. Many (most?) of the people there had brought their trainers and were warming up in the parking lot. About 20 minutes prior to the start, I hopped on the bike and went up and about a nearby hill. I didn’t want to burn too much energy too soon — just get the glycogen burning a bit.

The first lap of three was fine, as everyone was figuring out the course and the field. Everyone had plenty of gas. There were four other Winos there with me, and we were hanging a bit in the back letting the field tow us around. Around lap two, people started feeling things, and by the end of lap two I was really starting to feel it. I, Andy, and Geoff, were in the very back at this point. Andy and I were feeling it. About mile 4 into the 12-mile loop, I started to just run out of gas. Worse, I had thought I only had 2 miles left instead of 6, as I misread my odometer. So I let myself hang back, looking to catch up to the peleton on the downhills. Bad idea — at some point, I just couldn’t get back and there wasn’t a downhill, and I ended up getting dropped. I was still going 18-20 MPH, but the peleton had picked up the pace to 23-25 MPH, and there was just no way I could get back. So, I grinned and bore it, and finished up the remaining miles by my lonesome. But hey, it’s a training race —- I’m just here to see how out of shape I am!

I looked at the HRM readings just to compare it with a club ride around the lake, which is a reasonably speedy lap around the lake. Here’s the heart rate comparison:

HR Comp - Mason Lake vs Lake Washington.jpg

My heart rate was about 10 beats per minute higher. I also discovered an all new maximum heart rate — 191! Hmmm… my old STP number returns. For the most part, this was also due to an increase in speed, as shown:

Speed Comp - Mason Lake vs Lake Washington.jpg

Now, I know it doesn’t look like much of a difference in speed, but notice the dark blue spikes up and the many light blue spikes down. A club ride has stops or slowdowns, as they’re riding on the road — stop signs, red lights, and the occasional bathroom break. This allows the rider to rest and recover. A race, on the other hand, doesn’t have any breaks, and worse, has the occasional surge or sprint. Plus, again it’s a few miles faster — which is what pushes that heart rate up 10 beats.

Initially, my cadence looked the same:

Cadence Comp - Mason Lake vs Lake Washington.jpg

However, what this doesn’t show is that for most of the race, I was in my big chain ring, while on club rides I’m usually in my smaller ring. So that’s an average of 80-90 rotations per minute, but on the big ring. Oof!

So, what did I learn? Well, I need to put more work into this if I’m going to finish races. I thought my endurance would be fine for a 36 mile race with other Cat 5s (rookies). Most road races are 40-50 miles, closer to 50, and it’s a combined Cat 4/5 field, meaning the Cat 4 racers are there to pick up the pace. Time to lift, and time to ride more!

However, that being said — this was still a blast. I went faster than I ever have on the bike, and I hit a higher heart rate than I ever have. I was racing, and even though I wasn’t a contender for first place, and even though first place didn’t matter, I was still there. This felt good.

Incidentally, Geoff, who was hanging with us at the back, made a great move towards the end when the field spread out. He was able to jet up the left side and get to the head of the peleton, and managed to take first in the sprint. Like Dave who upgraded from 5 to 4 two weeks ago after he won, looks like Geoff will upgrade to Cat 4 as well. Oh, and Dave got 4th in the Cat 4s, being part of an 8-man breakaway that was over 2 minutes ahead of the peleton. Great job, especially as Dave was the only UBC racer there!

Update: some pics showing the suffering from Amara Boursaw of Wheels in Focus:

Erik and Andy at Mason Erik suffering

Update 2: A MotionBased link of one of the other Cat 5 riders at Mason Lake #3: