Seward Park, Cat 4/5, Clockwise

A day after racing a wet Carnation, I awoke at 6:30 AM to clear skies and dry pavement. Dragged myself out of bed, put on the knee warmers, base layer, kit, arm warmers, and vest, and hopped on the bike at 8:00 AM to head to Seward Park for the 9:00 AM 4/5 start time.

We had about 50 people in the race, so not too big. I was a bit surprised, given Carnation’s 76 person field and the proximity to Seattle. But hey, I’ll take it. Rather than start at the hairpin, the start / finish was down about 150 feet, so the finish was a long, downhill sprint after the corner. Still, first five through the corner really decide the placings.

I had a GREAT start to the crit. Lined up in the 3rd row, inched forward to the 2nd, on the far left side. We went off, and the left side was the one that went forward. Took a bit to clip in, but was able to maintain position with teammates and start taking the sweeper relatively fast. My momentum carried me through, and on 3-4 of the first bunch of laps I was moving towards the front on pure momentum – no work! We settled, and I ended up getting more winded on the hill than I’d like, which meant I found myself in the rear. I recovered, and would take the sweeper fast and just slot into a gap when the pack when up the hill. On the 3rd to last lap, for some reason the left side of the pack stopped up the hill. Not a crash, just a few people blowing up or something. I was on the right, so gained some good position. Still didn’t have enough energy to burst out of the corner with speed – lots of people would pass me there.

Anyway, second to last lap, in the middle, last lap, I have no energy, so finish towards the end. I let the main pack go, so they had a few seconds on me for the sprint. Here, no sense sprinting for 40th – plus I was tired!

All in all, a good race… need to do more Sewards next year if I can though!

Seward Park, Counter-Clockwise, 6:00

After a tough finish to Pacific Raceways, and with both Carnation and the actual Seward Crit coming up on the weekend, I decided to test my legs at Seward for a 45 minute race (as the 4/5 Seward race Saturday was 40 minutes). I was just aiming for pack finish. Due to 3 cars being parked along the road, we ended up doing the course counter-clockwise… not good for me. There were a few other Wines, Greg in particular. We started well and led for the first few laps. I even pulled up the hill on the 2nd or 3rd lap. However, I felt I was eating too much wind, so on a hill I drifted right and let about 8-9 people pass. Fatal mistake… I didn’t have the legs to climb, so I slowly drifted further back for the next 3 laps, until 15 minutes into it I found myself off the back. Did a few more laps until I got lapped and tried to hop back in – nope. Couldn’t catch up at all. Stopped off at the top for a rest, talked with Heather Lang (who also got dropped). She then tried to hop back, so I followed… neither of us had legs. So, we stopped near the finish to see how our teammates would do. Greg did well – kept towards the front, finished 6th in the sprint.

Didn’t feel too bad about bailing early – two races on the weekend, legs feeling tired… no sense killing myself for a pack finish now.

Seward Park, Counter-Clockwise, 5:30

On a rainy Thursday night, I decided to bike over to Seward for the twilight crit. How bad can it be?

Bad.

Not Pacific Raceways Crash-a-palooza bad, but still pretty rough.

We went counter-clockwise, which meant a fast downhill then a slow uphill. Because it was raining, they spiced up the race with a Win-and-Out format. After 9 laps, the sprint would decide who got first place. First place got to stop. Second and the rest… go on another lap. Six places deep, so 16 laps instead of the normal 15 for those of us not sprinting for the win.

Oof.

After about 8 laps? Perhaps 9? I found myself off the back with a group of 4 others. We generally stuck together and worked together, and didn’t get lapped by the other ~10 or so. But of course we didn’t see them slowly peel off. Ugh.

Lap 16, I took off after the downhill on a prideful breakaway. Not racing for anything but to be faster than those 4 I was with. Got away, stayed away… my own moral victory for zero points. But, felt good in the rain.

Then I rode home.

6:30 AM, I head out to Silvana for the Lake Washington Velo Circuit Race #1 – Skagit Flats.

7:20 AM, Everett. Something strikes me, and I reach into my bad and feel the shoes… SPDs! Aw crap, wrong shoes…

7:45 AM, Seattle. I arrive back at home, run in, get my shoes, and run out again.

8:35 AM, Silvana. Made it, good time, and didn’t hit any of the speeding traps in Lynnwood and Everett. Woof!

I’m #75 in a field of #75 (well, #76, as the unattached guy next to me also got in). We have 8 or so other Wines. Anyway, from the Boston Harbor experience, we were in the front, and I made a point of staying in the front to make sure I didn’t get bottled up again. Patrolled in the front covering breaks. We had one, and I let the recycled guys chase down Rich and another unattached. I tried one on lap 3, but it didn’t last long at all — too many people sprinting after turn #2. Lap #3 was a sprint lap, and while I wasn’t interested in the sprint points, I let too many people get ahead, and then I botched turn #2 again… ugh. Was in the middle / back. Turns out it was nice, as the pack was s…l…o…w… like 20 MPH slow, vs the ~24 – ~27 we were first few laps.

However, try as I might, I couldn’t worm my way forward. Argh…. for two and a half laps, I recovered nicely. Last lap, things sped up, but it didn’t really stretch out all that much past the corners, where everyone was already sprinting. Gah.

Pack finish. Fun race, had a good time. Think I’ll need to pay more attention in Carnation.

Seward Park, Clockwise, 5:30

After my first outing at Seward Park, I figured I’d try it again. Same course, a few weeks later. This time I started towards the front and stayed there for the first couple of laps, which worked OK. I then started to drift back, and found myself dangling.

Horrors!

However, I was getting more comfortable with the sweeper – and as it turns out for the 5:30 race, the hill is where everyone just collects again. So, I’d be off the back, go through the sweeper without breaking, carry my ~210 pounds of momentum through the back stretch, and slot in with the pack as they were moving up the hill. Worked great.

Pack finish, and I was pretty happy with that. Max O’Neal, the junior on our team, managed 8th – good for him!

Joe Matava Crit

My neighbor Brian Cole convinced me to do Masters C/D in the annual Joe Matava crit in Burien. His wife was kind enough to watch my daughter along with his while we raced. We got down there to see the finish of the 4/5s, and Craig, one of my teammates, was already off – commenting how fast it was. Bad news. 😉 The course is along a minor hill, but it wears on you quickly. The start is a downhill, then a sweeping turn and then back up a hill, and then back around to the downhill. No real technical corners, just fast and a hill.

I lasted about 20 minutes or so into it… I followed Brian on the start, but he had problems clipping in, thus I was already on the back. I took the first corner (which is done at speed) a little cautiously at first, which of course meant I was off the back yo-yo-ing. Ugh… power sprint up the hill to catch up, and repeat a few times. The C/Ds also kept up the pace. After a few laps, I and a number of others were getting gapped. I managed to keep finding someone to give me a bit of recovery, but then I was staring at the back of the main pack moving downhill… ugh. Went as fast as I could, and started taking corner 1 pretty quickly, but I couldn’t catch up. Two laps later, pulled.

Good news for Brian though… he stuck with the main bunch, and managed to sprint for second! Good work.

I remembered reading Dessa’s blog from last year… stay in the front, conserve momentum. Yup, pretty much… burned far too much on the corner. Next time!

Seward Park, Clockwise

Northwest Velo (aka First Rate Mortgage) hosts the main Seattle Thursday night twilight crit series at Seward Park. Finally in my third season of racing I had a free Thursday night and went over for the 5:30 (4/5) race – 15 laps of fun along a 0.8 mile loop at Seward. I biked over from Amazon, paid my $10, and set off.

The course starts from the hairpin turn. Clockwise, there’s a false flat, then a nice descent, into a big sweeping left turn. This then rises and falls a bit, so there’s plenty of momentum, until a short, fast uphill. This brings you back to the hairpin turn, where things yo-yo.

My first time through, I was naturally cautious on the sweeper and turn… and managed to last maybe 15 minutes before getting dropped. I tried to at least stay away without getting lapped, but on Lap 14 (of 15), I was lapped going up the hill. Drat! Ah well, still a good workout, and good experience.

Boston Harbor Circuit Race

After my craptastic performance on Saturday in the Capitol Crit, I was thinking of doing the 9 AM 4/5 Boston Harbor Circuit Race on Father’s Day. However, my daughter really wanted to come see me race, which meant the Masters C (no D this time!) at 1:10 PM. Oof… OK, time to get the legs ripped off again. We packed up the wagon, and I headed down with the fam.

It was a distinctly different crowd at Boston Harbor than at the Crit. Only Craig returned, and he raced Ds along with 3 other Wines. In the Cs, we had 4 initially, and all of us are Cat 4 Cs, in comparison to yesterday – Harry, Eric, and Michael are 3s. From eyeballing the WSBA numbers, most were in the 600 – 800 range, which meant most of the people there were also 4s. Let’s see how this goes. After some good luck from the family, I was off with the field.

One of the more senior guys on our team, Byron, told me the night before that Boston Harbor was like a short, fast Mason. I was hoping this meant it was rolly hills. Kinda. Turns out it’s also very narrow with only one small section where the shoulder can be used to ride – which would be this fast down-and-up on the south end of the course right after the hairpin turn. The up is kinda steep, but then leads into the last 1000m of the course, the first ~700m of it being a false flat. The result is that it was pretty impossible to move around in the race, as the 43 of us rode 4 abreast in the main pack. There was some moving around at the corners and on the occasional attack, but for the most part things stayed fairly static.

On the final lap, as predicted everyone was jockeying for position on that final corner, thinking that whomever could get their first would have prime position on the descent and quick ascent, and then whomever the first 10 people who made it to the false flat would be in contention. The rest of us would be boxed out. This is pretty much what happened, and while there was some jockeying, it wasn’t terribly effective from what I can see as everyone was trying to hone in on the position that the guys in the top 10 were in – unsuccessfully. A few people blew up on the uphill (which was full sprint) and the false flat. I was towards the rear, so I conceded the sprint (although did sprint it out with a Fresca guy who was near me when I came over the line… not sure who got that one!).

All in all, a good race, fairly mellow actually. Few sections of ~15MPH, when some folks at the front clearly didn’t want to work anymore but nobody right behind them did either. Few minor attacks, but nothing stuck. Good headwind on the southbound east side, so that helped reign things in nicely.

Capitol Crit

Today I headed down to Olympia for the Capitol Crit – a fairly technical criterium at the base of the Washington State Capitol Building. I was feeling sluggish, so I slept in and went to the Masters C/D race instead of the early morning 4/5 race. Same time, but my experience at Volunteer Park told me that it’d be more manageable – 100 people filled the 4/5s, but Masters C/D was 69.

Well, number of people was about the same – 44 in 4/5, 42 in C/D. OK. However, as it turns out, C/Ds went with the “thin the pack” strategy. The course runs clockwise. The right side straightaway is uphill. The left side is technical and narrow, so even though it’s downhill, the pack yo-yos nastily. About 10 or so people in front were keeping the pace fast (Harry, who finished, saw that he averaged over 24 MPH the entire 40 minutes!), which meant that each lap through the narrow technical section, whomever was in the back was just getting pushed back and then having to go anaerobic to catch up on the uphill. Nasty.

I got yanked I think after 15 minutes; I need to look at my stats. Turns out only 15 people finished… brutal race. For the 4/5s, 26 finished. Still rough, but not nearly as bad. I was talking with Scott Jensen, from L’Ecole, who raced both 4/5s and C/Ds. He finished 12th in 4/5s, and early in C/Ds. That should help explain the difference in speed. 😉

Capitol Crit CDs

Sequim #1: The better part of valor

MB Tour de Dung
Opening weekend 2009. Mason Lake #1 Saturday followed by Sequim #1 Sunday. Huge Masons are no fun, and the first Mason is always huge. So, I’ll do Sequim – nice and fast, and handles big packs well.

The weekend called for rain and snow. But, apparently Mason was nice and sunny… yeah, around here the weatherman may as well be throwing darts and just stick with “chance of rain.” Sequim’s forecast is also snow. Mail goes out from the promoters to the WSBA list that they’ll check the roads at 5 AM, and if there’s snow, they’ll cancel. 5:10, we get mail – Sequim is dry! Come race!

Well, I haul myself out of bed having had 4 hours of sleep (frickin’ early daylight savings time… ), pour the pot of coffee into the spare thermal carafe, and head out to Sequim. Seattle weather is sketchy, but not a big. We hit the peninsula, head up via Hood Canal. On Hood Canal there’s a wreck… looks like one of the racer’s wagons somehow slipped on the metal grating at the beginning of the bridge, and a car behind sideswiped it. The side airbags are deflated along it, the car looks wrecked, and there’s an SUV parked in front. Oof. Bad luck. I found out a bit later that someone behind me got rear-ended at the rise at the end of Hood Canal, so two wrecks at the same time. Not good!

We drive up 101, and there’s snow and flurries. Not a big deal; the same thing happened last year. It should clear up around Port Angeles. Not so much. When we all arrive at the registration booth for the race, the parking lot, which really is just a field, is covered with a light coating of snow. The port-o-potties there have a nice layer of snow along the western side and cast a shadow on the ground, clearly showing that in the night there was both snow and wind.

We find out quickly that the race is postponed for at least 2 hours, so a 12 noon start. And it’s still sketchy. We head to the 101 Diner in Sequim for breakfast. Greg, one of our crew, decides to drive the course to judge for himself. As expected, corners are sketchy. The big downhill at Sequim is sanded, for extra racing fun, and one of the two bridges has snow sticking above some ice.

At this point, the discussion begins… do we stick around to see if the race is on? We’re already out $23 for ferry tolls, we’re up, and we’re ready to go in the new kit. So if the officials judge it safe, why not?

Well, I look at the time… 2 hour start delay means the race finishes about 2 PM, means if I rush home I can make the 3:45 ferry, home at 5. If I’m lucky and hit the ferry; otherwise, close to 6. And really, it’s still 49-51 whether there’s a crash due to conditions. First race of the season, first race for a lot of people ever (it’s a combined Cat4/5 field)… yeah I’ll pass. So we finish our pancakes, some head back to the race, I and a few others head home. Sequim #2 is in two weeks, it’s not going anywhere. I’m a bit depressed in missing the race, but really, it’s a long season, and I’ll have plenty of opportunities to kill myself.

We found out on the ferry it had started hailing again while people were at the registration line, and a bunch of others bailed at that point. Don’t know if they ever had the 3 men, 4/5 men, or 4 women’s races. Ah well, next time!