Sunday, May 27, 2007

Dana Point Crit - 8th Place

Hey I'm back!

The last couple weeks have been pretty crazy at work. My team has been working on deploying a project that allows contract manufacturers to program units that we'd normally build here on-site. Getting all the network and remote logistics worked out has been pretty time consuming.

As for racing, I wanted to get out to Ontario last Sunday (5/20), but that never happened due to me needing to be at work to migrate some code to production.

This weekend (Memorial Day long weekend here in the States), there are actually races going Saturday, Sunday and Monday, so there's going to be no shortage of action.

On Saturday I headed up to Dana Point (about 50 miles north of San Diego) for the inaugural Dana Point Crit. Wow, this was a very challenging race! The biggest challenges being the course (check it out here) and the field. The course was a figure eight, just like Bario Logan; however, it was a lot tougher for a number of reasons:

1. One of the streets used was actually an alley, so it was pretty narrow (
2. At the end of the alley you had to make a 90 degree right. No big deal there; however, when there's a storm curb at the entrance back onto the roadway, it makes things pretty tough. Basically as you shot out of the alley, you needed to immediately turn right while going through the dip of the curb.
3. The start/finish was basically immediately after turn 8. You came blasting down Santa Clara street, made an incredibly fast right turn onto Old Golden Lantern (yes there is a Green Lantern street in Dana Point) and the finish was right there.

It's been a few weeks since I've raced so I was a little uncertain as to how things were going to go. The field was pretty large, about 75 guys and there were some pretty strong riders in the field. In general I felt pretty good for most of the race. Having not raced for a little while, my pack riding skills weren't the best. I often found myself with large spaces in front of me, which was due to not being able to keep up with the surges and stay on people's wheels.

Because I was having a hard time staying with all the surges going on near the front/middle of the pack, I settled in near the rear where things were a lot smoother. In allowing this to happen I made a deal with myself that come the end of the race I was going to be willing to fight my way back to the front.

The race was 45 minutes in duration, so I tried to settle in, take things smooth and not burn too much energy. When the 5 laps to go card came out I was still near the back. With 3 laps to go I really started to crank things up and was able to push my way all the way to the front. With 1.5 laps to go I was in second, feeling pretty reasonable for having just done a couple minutes of hard work to get to the front. My legs were a little tired, but nothing too bad. Going into the last lap the guy I was behind started to tire. Unfortunately I did a poor job of being alert to this and getting around him. Before I could react, a few guys had shot up the inside of the course and jumped away from me. I fought hard to catch up, but from there it was simply a matter of trying to hold on as best I could. In the end I finished 8th.

I was pretty happy with the result on the day. I managed to ride a race based upon what I was capable of doing on the day. In the end I'd like to have finished top 5, but I'll take 8th.

On Monday I'll be headed up to Long Beach for a crit. Hopefully the hard work from Saturday will pay off with some better pack riding and a top 5.

Monday, May 7, 2007

And now for something completely different...

I thought I'd pass along a recent life experience that is somewhat related to cycling. Hopefully this will be as life changing for you all as it was for me.

Last night (Sunday night) I was sitting in bed thinking that I really needed to get out to Target and pick up a large plastic storage container, such that I would have something that I could fill with all the things I need to take with me to bike races. For example, bandages, first aid sprays, spare tires, tools, clothing, etc. The hope being that if I could keep the container permanently stocked with all the things I need, I wouldn't have to go through all the paranoia of forgetting something like I normally do when preparing for a race. As an example, one of the guys on my team forgot to bring his bike shoes with him to a race, so he did the whole thing in regular street shoes. I live in fear that something like this is going to happen to me.

Being the recycling do-gooder that I am, this morning on my way out to work I took the recycling with me. While in the "garbage center", there on the ground was a 31 gallon Rubbermaid Roughneck storage container. As I did a double take, believing that this possibly might all be a trick being played on me by my tired eyes, I realized that the thing was real, and it actually looked like it was in great condition (see below). Too good to be true I told myself; surely when I take the lid off it's going to have a body or something inside. Nope, pristine! All well and good you might be telling yourself, surely no fool would be dumb enough to haul 31 gallons of cycling equipment off to a race, but it gets even better. Now that I've got this coffin I'll be able to move all my gardening supplies out of my 14 gallon container, into this baby, and use the 14 gallon for cycling!

So here we are at the life lesson. What have we learned from this episode? Clearly:

1. There is a God
2. God is in fact listening
3. God is partial to cyclists
4. God's got a surplus of 31 gallon Roughnecks on his hands right now and may in fact have one with your name on it

i.e. say your prayers, stick to your training plan, and you may find that you're on the road to being as organized as I am right now!

San Luis Rey Road Race - 32nd

After all the hard work of Saturday's Barrio Logan, it was off to the San Luis Rey road race for Sunday morning. This race is held up in the hills in Bonsall, northeast of San Diego.

The course is fairly hilly, but certainly not as tough as the Omnium road course was. It was 4 laps around an 11 mile loop. The course started out with a climb right off the start, followed by a steep descent, a few miles of rolling hills and then back to the climbing as you made your way back to the start finish. I was able to keep to the large chainring on my front gears for most of the hills, so it wasn't too bad.

It turns out that this is a pretty popular race, a full field of 100 riders showed up, so things were pretty hairy the first couple laps. It was also pretty toasty out there on Sunday. The temperatures were somewhere in the mid-80s (Bonsall is inland, so doesn't get the nice 70 degree weather we see in San Diego nearly every day). With 100 riders packed into one lane of traffic on country roads, you can imagine how tightly things were grouped for the first half of the race.

Not being a real strong climber, my plan for the day was to stick with the pack, avoid the accidents and hopefully be near the front such that I could use my power to scoot by the scrawny climbers at the finish. Regardless of how it turned out, a day after Barrio I was going to be happy to keep up with the pack the whole way, get a good workout and stay safe.

With 2 laps to go things finally started to speed up a bit. We dropped the pack down to something like 50 riders. For me it was fast, but not too uncomfortable. With 1 lap to go things really started to pick up. I was able to stick with the pack up the steep climb out of the start/finish, but when it really got cranked up I had a hard time sticking on the ascent to the finish.

One of the things that makes it really tough in these situations is that if you're 40th or something when the hard climbing starts you feel like like you're trying to run up a hill while portions of the hillside are falling down around you. Basically as the pace picks up, the weaker riders have a hard time keeping up. While you're working your ass off trying to catch the guys at the front you have guys more immediately in front of you that you're working to try to catch and follow forward. Unfortunately though, as you're catching them and starting to feel like "hey I'm back onto the end of this thing, I'm going to be able to relax a bit", you realize that in fact the guy you just caught is losing ground on the leaders and you have to storm by the guy and set your sights on the next guy up the road. Repeat this 12 or so times and you realize that it's basically just you and your pain trying to get up the road faster than the saps you're surrounded by. Maybe if the climb was 3 or 4 miles rather than 1 or 2 some consistent riding could have gotten me back to the leaders; however, that wasn't to happen this day.

I caught a few people heading up the final climb and willed myself to catch another 5 or 6 guys in the flat before the finish. I had to sprint pretty hard to the line in order to keep one of these guys behind me at the finish.

At the end of the race I felt pretty content. I never really expected to do too well in this race, I felt like I worked really, really hard, and I managed to beat a number of guys that got the better of me in the Omnium road race. So I'll take it.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Barrio Logan Grand Prix - 14th

My club (the SDBC) puts on the Barrio Logan Grand Prix each year. The race is held just south of downtown San Diego. It's a pretty challenging course for a couple of reasons:

1. The course is set up in a figure 8 configuration. One lap is only about 0.8 miles, so there are lots of turns compacted very close together (6 rights and 2 lefts).
2. There is a reasonably large change in altitude as you make your way around the course. The last 1/3rd of each lap has you mashing your way up a 2% grade or so. Obviously not real steep, but in a fast race like a criterium these hills can really start to catch up with you.

This race was the state championship criterium so there was a pretty large field (something like 75 or 80). Not only was it large, but it was talented.

As for the race, things were pretty fast. With the tight cornering, large field size, and unevenness of the "barrio" pavement a couple things were pretty clear:

1. There were going to be crashes
2. You needed to stay pretty close to the front. With the speed of the race so high, things strung out pretty quickly and it was tough to move up through the field. It was better to just get to the front and try to stay there.

During the race I was able to avoid some fairly nasty crashes. In one, a guys tubular rear tire (supposed to be well glued onto the rim) came off the rim. It's not fun to watch that unfold right in front of you. There were a couple crashes caused by people coming together in and out of corners. Bottom line is that I was able to navigate around them all.

With 3 laps to go I really thought I had things in pretty good shape. I was up near the front and feeling as good as could be expected after 50 minutes of racing with my HR up around 180. The bottom line on this race is that I was strong enough to finish top 5, I just didn't do a good enough job of continuing to push toward the front in the final few laps. I was completely spent at the end, but knew that a bit better positioning in the final lap would have given me a chance to do better.

When we crossed the line I saw 7 or 8 guys in front of me, so I thought I at least finished in the top 10, but even after an appeal to the officials they scored me in 14th. Regardless of what place I was given, I felt good about how hard I was able to race on the day and the fact that I was able to help two of my team-mates finish in the top 10. I however, really need to start doing a better job of getting right to the front for the finish of these races.