Archive for October, 2011

After my race last week, my legs were feeling rather leaden. Following Saturday races I’ve been taking Sunday off the bike then riding through the week. Some weeks that means a little intensity on Monday, Bridge Club on Wednesday, and a moderate ride on Friday. And easy going on Tuesday and Thursday. Last week, I went easy on Monday and Tuesday, Bridge Club on Wednesday, off the bike on Thursday and an easy ride on Friday. Even with that my legs had no punch racing on Saturday.

The course was pretty flat except for a canyon the course dropped into and out of twice per lap. There were a number of features in the flat sections to keep things interesting and the rain overnight spiced up all the corners. My legs felt like crap in pre-rides and I wasn’t sure whether it was just regular feeling like crap before all my races or actual crap feelings. So hard to tell. Compounding all this was the fact that the Cross Crusade had decamped to Bend for the weekend and a lot of the big names would be racing there. Consequently I had a better chance for a good result based on who actually showed to race.

I second guessed myself and changed out the 18t cog for a 20t. But while I was warming up right before my race I changed my mind again and put the 18t back on the bike. There were a few more than a dozen of us at the line and I felt pretty confident that there were at least three guys faster than me — Sam Nicoletti, (who did the A race too), John Lin, and a Portobello dude. I figured I could take the rest except for Scott Barker. Scott might make a race of it.

The whistle blew and right away Sam, John, and Portobello guy were in front with Scott and I right behind them. Within the first quarter of the course, the five of us had separation on the rest of the field. Scott and I were hanging close to the front three going into the off camber section. I was fifth wheel and everyone but me made it through clean. I had a line from pre-ride but I stubbornly refused to use it all race long. So going into the canyon I was gapped.
I rode the first half of the hill out of the canyon and then ran the rest. I made it through the pocket park in good order and dropped back into the canyon using due caution. I wished I felt more comfortable on the swoopy trails and then made the turn to climb back out. The climb back out was all run and I saw Scott almost walking up ahead. I’m no speedster on my feet but I was faster than Scott. I was on him again at the top and passed him just past the finish line.

By that time, the three leaders were gone and Scott and I battled the rest of the race for fourth place. I was faster in some places and Scott was faster in others. I tried to push harder in the places I was faster and kept hoping that the string would break and he would drop off the pace. But he was having none of it. The good news for me was that he was *slow* on the run up and I was consistently passing the finish line (less than a minute from the top of the run) with a gap.

When I took the bell I had a good gap. I wanted to keep it and head into the canyon first since Scott was faster on the singletrack. Though I flubbed the off camber in spectacular fashion, I made it into the canyon first with Scott right behind. I put a small gap on him when we got off to run. Then I pushed it harder as we continued up to the top of the pocket park. In front of me was a B rider and I immediately formulated a plan to get that guy between me and Scott before the final long section of singletrack. After exiting the playground wood chips, I hit the pedals hard and made a sweet pass as we rode up a little side hill.

Mission accomplished. Entering the canyon, and I had a slower racer between Scott and me. I rode along the canyon bottom as well as I had any lap and smoothly turned to start the run. I worked the run as best I could and remounted at the top with legs nearly dead. As I approached the final barrier, and I glanced back and saw I had a huge gap on Scott and soft pedaled it to the line. Fourth place out of 15 riders.

I plan to take three days off the bike this week and I’m also considering skipping Bridge Club. I want to feel rested for the next race.

Team leader Bill puts on a Wednesday workout. Lately it’s been happening during lunch time at a park conveniently close to work so I have been attending each week. He has each workout scripted on his Garmin unit so we move from one activity to the next in a crisp, regimented fashion. The script keeps things moving well. The basic format is pretty much the same from week to week with occasional tweaks:

  1. Take a couple of laps around the “course” to learn it. There is nothing terribly technical since it’s supposed to be a workout, not skills training.
  2. A dozen minutes of tempo around the course. Cutting the course is encouraged if you fall behind.
  3. Starts x 5. Roughly 60 seconds on and 2 minutes off.
  4. Barrier drills. The point is to get clipped and up to speed. Two barriers spaced enough to remount, hit the pedals a few times and dismount again. I usually do tempo (or just recover from starts) during this rather than the barrier drills.
  5. Intervals. We mix this up. This week we did (2 minutes + 4 minutes) x 3 with rest commensurate with work. We’ve done pyramids. Or all 3 minutes x 5. Again, cutting the course is encouraged. I’ll often start at the back (or near the back) to work on passing.
  6. Cone patrol.
  7. Barrel races. Put two big cones about 20 yards apart. Three people at a time race between the cones. The point is to try to make a pass. One minute on, one minute off. The distance is enough to get some speed but not so much as to be “dangerous.” I love this drill.
Afterwards, I feel about as spent as if I had done a race. We usually have 4-7 people each week and it definitely makes the mid-week workout a lot more fun.

The course on the banks of scenic Vancouver (WA) Lake was flat. There were a few mounds which were used to their fullest potential. And there was the beach. Getting on was a grass to soft sand transition which a volunteer raked periodically throughout the races to prevent a worn groove from forming. Then it was a balls out packed section at the water’s edge for a hundred yards or so. Then soft sand to get off — so soft that no one came close to riding it back to the hard pack. And to top it off, there was a long (like quarter mile or more) section of crushed gravel that was *fast*. So I decided on the 18t.

I felt crappy before the race but that’s nothing new. It’s all psychological and it generally disappears when the whistle blows. I got a call up and slotted in the second row behind one of the big engines. I was hoping to hang on for the drag race by getting all the help I could in the draft. Single speeds went before B’s this week which meant no slower traffic for a while, maybe the whole race. The whistle blew and we were off. The first couple hundred yards went okay but after that, I started losing ground, unable to keep pace with the big guns. The good news was that a small group coalesced around me and we were able to hang together through the first bit.

By the turn onto the grass, our little group was 10-20 yards behind the lead bunch. And that was that. Scott Barker, John Lin, some guy I don’t know because he was always in the back, and I formed a compact group that stayed together for a little over two laps. John and Scott drove the pace early on. Every time I would stick my nose in the wind, it seemed like one of them would come around me to push things a little harder. i think it was less about me dropping pace at the front and more about the way they race — they feed off of the wheel in front and always want to get around it.

A few laps in, maybe three, Scott was starting to fade a little bit and the fourth dude was having trouble staying too. John and I got a small gap coming off the beach and I drilled it on the road to keep the gap up. Pretty soon John came around me and we flew down the straight. Scott was permanently adrift. John and I were by ourselves.

Just before three to go, the B leader passed us on the straight and John and I jumped on his wheel. We took the ride all the way through the speedway sections and past the finish. Just hanging on to the wheel was putting the hurt on me and once we started the twisties, I got gapped. It was just a little but I could not quite get back on.I stayed 10-20 yards behind John and the B leader for the rest of the lap. Back on the straight, John and I both passed the B leader. I was rather surprised about that since he had gears and we didn’t. He should have been hauling ass relative to us. He didn’t pass us again and no other B racers made up the 30 second stagger to pass us.

I spent the penultimate lap maintaining. The gap to John didn’t grow and the two of us picked off a couple of single speeders who blew from the initial pace. Coming around the speedway before the bell, it looked like I made up a few seconds on John so I made it my mission to pass him before the finish. When we took the bell, he was still 5-6 seconds ahead. I hit the beach perfectly and made up some time there and I drilled it along the shore. When we remounted after the sand, we were close. I rode the final mound better than him all race and the last time through was no different. I hit the speedway 2-3 seconds behind him and went as hard as I could to make the catch.

When I tucked in behind, I hoped to catch a breather in his draft and make another push on the super bumpy grass to get around him. Unfortunately John had other ideas. He saw me on his wheel and upped the pace. I’d spent all my matches making the catch and had nothing left to hang on. I drifted back. And then a little more. By the line, he had pushed his advantage back to 5-6 seconds. I still got 9th in a field with more than a couple fast guys at the front.

 

This was my fourth single speed race and the first time I used a gear combination other than 42×18. I pitched in to set up the course on Friday and took a couple or three practice laps. It was pretty obvious the 42×20 I thought was going to be the bees knees would be too steep a gear. The second (non-consecutive) time up the big hill I was bogging down. That night I installed the 22t cog I hadn’t previously used and only bought because I thought I might do some light trail riding with my cross bike.

There was light rain overnight and some morning fog. The clouds burned off by noon and a light wind progressively dried the course from race to race. By my start time at 3pm, it was tacky wih only a few trouble spots. Once again employing my just in time warm up, I hit staging as the Bs were getting their call ups. I got about fifth or sixth call up in the single speeds and slotted in on the second row — I wasn’t planning on killing myself on the paved climb at the start. Official Terri Camp started the Bs and then two minutes later she started us.

Short flat section, little dip, then fairly long climb before we turned off the road. As soon as the road turned up, I started losing positions. By the time we turned off to head back down the swoopy turns, I was probably 18th, 19th wheel out of 25 guys. I held position down the turns and up and down through the “N” feature. Coming out of the top of the “N,” I started racing. I passed a couple guys on the long climb and was closing in on my friend Terry K at the top. I didn’t respect the wide, slightly downhill off camber sweeper enough and slid out. Raleigh Dave shot around me and I was up fast and back in the chase.

Coming up the long hill the second time, I settled in to a battle with Raleigh Dave, TK, and Scott Barker. TK was having a hard time of it because he was over geared. He managed to keep it going for three laps before his gear got the better of him. At various points in the course (usually the long climb), I’d pass Barker or Raleigh Dave, and then they would zoom by me somewhere else. Barker eventually fell off the pace — he might have had a mechanical since he took a bike change — and Raleigh Dave and I pulled in more SS riders.

Eventually, with three to go, I got a gap on Raleigh Dave and the couple of others that were trying to stay with us. I was railing the curves and riding the hills strong. I was surprised how strong I was on the hills since I’m a bit oversized and do not currently fancy myself a climber. It may have had more to do with gear selection than total fitness. I kept overtaking riders through laps 5 and 6 but was generally disappointed that they were B racers. Coming up the climb for the bell, I closed in on another SS racer and was about to go by him at the tree before the barriers when I rolled my rear tire.

Only a small section, perhaps five inches, came loose and I flipped it back on the rim. While I was remouting the tire, I considered my options; I could either quit since I didn’t have wheels or a bike in the pit (conveniently located only a few steps away), or continue with a compromised rear tire. With only one to go, I couldn’t quit. I ran through the barriers and took the bell. I babied all the corners and questioned the sanity of bombing the gravel road climb. On the paved climb, I passed the dude I was trying to get by when I rolled my tire. By the time I exited the “N,” Raleigh Dave and one of the hangers on were within a few seconds of me again.

I drilled it on the final climb since most of it didn’t require risky cornering. Coming around the blackberry bush near the end of the lap I looked back and my gap was back to a comfortable distance and I rolled it in for a solid eighth place finish.

The venue was great, the course was a lot of fun, the racing was challenging and the weather was beautiful. Perfect day of racing, I’d say.

I wanted to do this race. I really wanted to do this race. But it wasn’t on the schedule and I spent the better part of the day convincing myself that I wasn’t going to race. Though we have had a pretty full schedule of races since Labor Day, Alpenrose always represents the real kickoff of the Portland cross season. It attracts stupid big fields and is a circus. About 1:30 in the afternoon, I gave in to my base desires and got my crap ready and hopped in the car. Nothing like arriving at 2:30 for a 3:15 race, eh?

Benefits: Primo parking. No lines for registration. No obsessing over which lines to take since I didn’t get a pre-ride.

I spent virtually all my time before the race getting my son set up at the team tent, registering, and chatting. I think I rode around for 5-10 minutes to limber up. There were a few call ups for last season’s results and based on some early season races. Then it’s determined randomly by last digit of your race number. Mine was ’8′ which put me last — but hey, I won a six pack of beer before starting the race! I lined up about 15 feet behind 121 other racers. The start is wide pavement with two 90 degree right handers and then two 90 degree left handers. I planned on getting a flying start and going wide through the first two corners to get by as many people as possible.

The 94 B men went off first and about two minutes later they blew the whistle for the single speeders. As the field began to move, I clipped in and started rolling. As soon as the back of the field got in the pedals, I was flying up around the outside. Wham. Everyone was stopped. There was a single car parked with tape running around it on the left side that was pinching the field. So much for the flying start.

I did manage to pass a chunk of people on the first curves so I wasn’t last going into the south pasture. The congestion was wild as I picked my way through people. I powered the south side climb and put more people behind me. During the previous race, light rain started and turned the course slippery as snot and conditions turned challenging. As I negotiated the course, there was carnage everywhere and I stayed upright — getting off the bike every time I saw people slipping out.

By the end of the first lap, things started to string out but it always seemed like there was a group of three or five guys in front of me. And I always set out to get through them as fast as possible. I think my first three laps represented some of the strongest racing I’ve done in a long time. I raced hard and smart, keeping up the intensity. Somewhere on that third lap, my left brake lever started coming loose. While it never affected my braking, it was a nuisance (aside: I have new levers I installed last night. I was going to install them before the race but decided to stand by the advice never to mess with your setup the day before a race. Guess that kind of backfired).

I’ve been trying to make the second to last lap a priority to kick up the intensity but I just didn’t manage it this time. I worked hard after the bell but two guys managed to come by (both of whom I had passed that lap) just before the end. They negotiated a technical section better than I did and I wasn’t about to try to sprint them on the wet velodrome apron.

The only sphincter puckering moment came when I was going down the steep descent on the north side. It curved left at the top then went 90 degrees at the bottom to go back up the hill. The best line was to set up outside on top and then bend it inside. Well, some dude I had just passed went totally inside on me and we momentarily locked bars. I let off the brakes and gently disengaged his bars and we both stayed up. I was screwed at the bottom and about stalled out, but I passed him going up the hill.

So I finished 46th out of 122 starters. Since I was riding through the back end of the B field for the last few laps, I figure I must have passed about 100 guys.

I can live with that.

Alpenrose last lap