Monday, August 16, 2010

Millersburg Stage Three- ouch

I was looking forward to this road race, needing some redemption for yesterday's abysmal criterium. The forecast was for a 30% chance of t-storms. mkay.

That loosely translated to "100% chance of nonstop heavy rain all morning long"

so... 97 riders in a hard driving rain on a less-than-selective road race course with freshly chip-sealed surfaces filled with loose stone and little rivers. Cat 3/4 field stacked with super-strong guys who should be in the 123.... yeah baby.. not.

I hated this race from the beginning. Again they all lined up stupidly early and started crit-style (clip in and sprint). Who the heck are these guys anyway? I guess they didn't realize that we had both lanes because the field wasn't using the left lane. I moved over and moved on up.

Pace was fast. The first two laps (of three) were near 26 average and the only real weird part was the section of "battenkillesque" loose stone where (of course) the surge came and we all went single file over the bumpy loose crud. Climbing the little kickers was interesting as well since your rear wheel would spin out if you pushed hard.

Again I could move up when I needed to after those sections and found a good spot in the pack, but I was getting increasingly unhappy in this race due to the way that people were riding in the pack. As the rain came down harder and harder and visibility got worse some of the riders were getting more and more aggressive and really doing dangerous stuff in the middle of the peloton (and accomplishing nothing). For the first time in a while I thought of quitting a race where I was strong and in contention. After the end of lap two (they always attacked the feed zone at the S/F line so it was impossible to even grab a bottle) I was really close to just saying "Screw you guys. I'm going home" in my best Cartman voice and riding off on some side street.

I chose to stay in the race and go for it.

Should have went with my gut though.

When it really rains hard, you have no brakes. That means for the first second or two you can grab them as hard as you can and nothing happens. It takes a while to dry the rims enough for the brakes to grab. Everybody should know this and act accordingly.

this is why I did not want to race in the large 3/4 field.

A few miles into lap three it happened. It's raining cats and dogs. You cannot see well. People are riding too aggressively and it's getting stupid. I hear yelling in front and see riders clumping and crashing. At this point I was just trying to stay on the wheels and doing 25-26 mph when the delta-V of the rider in front of me appears to drastically change and I am going in to him like a wall. I've got riders on both sides and behind me and the only option I have left is grab a whole handful of brake and hope for the best.

No way. not even close. It was as if there were no brake cables. I smash headlong into the pack in front of me and the riders behind me crush in to me and everything goes black.

I have always had the gift of relaxing and going with the flow in accidents. I think this has saved me from big injuries in the past and it happened this time as well.

the next thing I remember is being on the ground with someone's body directly on top of mine. I'm not sure if I was on top of another rider but that is possible too.

"are you ok?"

"yes, are you?"

"yes. I think so"

we slowly rise and untangle ourselves from eachother and the bikes. Mine is not attached to me, nor close by. I notice that the pile of riders takes up the entire road, shoulder-to-shoulder. the cars are stopped behind us. A human dam.

People are slowly getting up and picking their bikes up. Some are angry (I think it's stupid to get mad in this situation). Most are just wanting to see if they are ok.

I check myself. Hmm.


I have like NO injuries. Just a little rash on one knee. weird.

I check again. Yep. No injuries.

I find the bike. It's pretty far from where I was. It seems ok. Well, no. The wheels are all messed up. Apparently the front one got run over and is history. The back one is way out of true. A visit to the wheel truck directly behind and I am back on the road, sorta.

I had to stop a few times to try and move the handlebars to some angle approximating straight, and the rear wheel was rubbing the brake a bit, but I got back on and finished the race. TT for a while, then a three-man TTT to the finish. 59th or something.

So, all in all, not such a good weekend, but I'm really happy to have survived that crash with little more than a few bruises (some of which I am still discovering today!)

time for a luck change.

Millersburg Stage Two

Stage two is a criterium that happens several hours following the morning time trial on day one. The course is one which ordinarily would have suited me quite well. It's all hill. You are either going uphill or downhill. Essentially it's Singer minus the half-mile of flat.


A field of 97 on this course means if you are in the back, the front of the race is probably more than 30 seconds ahead of you.

Apparently everyone was worried about this and as I did my final warm-up lap I realized that arriving at the start line ten minutes early was not early enough. The friggin' WHOLE field was already there! Dammit..

So I started last. Again.

Not to worry. I can make up time on the hill, and I did. I immediately started working my way past riders on the climb and would continue to do this. Hopefully I could keep doing this for a few laps and get to the good part of the pack.

Hmm. These younger guys are taking some big risks and are riding VERY aggressively on the rest of the course. Not used to this in the Masters, I tended to let people chop in front of me in the corners so I wasn't gaining enough ground on the front. Not a good sign.

A few laps into it and a gap opens up a few riders in front of me. Crap. I go around and give it a big push to close the gap but I realize there is an invisible hill on the hill as well. Big headwind for the last third of the climb and this is the first time I am feeling it. Must. close. Gap. must... close.... gap. cannot. close gap.


So I guess I'm not going to catch back on. I silently curse the guy that opened the big gap but realize "that's bike racing" and resolved to go as hard as possible and try to stay in the race as long as I could.

We ended up in a pretty good sized group chasing for a while and maintained a good pace throughout, going past riders left and right (who had blown up on the hill). Some of them managed to latch on to us. Some just quit. I figured we could maintain our distance and maybe finish the race without getting lapped when, with about 8 to go, we were coming around the S/F line and catching some lapped riders in front of us the guy blew the whistle at everyone.

we all looked at eachother and said "Us???". We were all uniformly surprised that we would have gotten pulled when the pace car was still half a lap back and we were still racing well together. I figure the officials just decided it would be safer on this course to pull everyone who was out of contention. So be it.

The final casualty report? 97 started. 35 finished. wow.

They gave me 94th place. I complained that we were not even close to getting lapped and the official explained to me that they did not place anyone who got pulled, instead giving them a place in alphabetical order. So W was near the back. Yay.

Maybe tomorrow will be better.

Millersburg Stage One

I've been looking forward to this race for a while. It's a well-run omnium down in Amish country in central Pennsylvania. One of the only races where they do a complete rolling enclosure and you get to use the entire road. The whole town comes out to support the race and you feel appreciated. It's great!

I really wanted to race Masters but the only age group was 45+ and I have a few years yet to go for that. Hence, Pete and Dave would be in that race together and I was on my own in the M3/4. no problem, right?

Well, maybe.

As it turned out (this is great for the promoter but not so great for me) we had 97 guys in our field. I thought that was a bit large. I was right about that.

The first stage is a time trial of 9.6 miles. I felt strong going in to it and had to really keep from going too hard at the start. After the initial descent it flattens out nicely and I was able to get into a good rhythm. Glancing at the computer yielded some strange info though. I was doing something like 27.5 mph on the flat (at a fairly mediumish power level). It must be a tailwind....

So I tell myself to "friggin' SAVE it for the way back". Good idea. It was tough just to make 25 on the way back and I gave it all I had, passing my minute man but also getting caught and passed by some guy who was really cranking.

Crossing the line in full uphill sprint mode I felt like I had done a good TT and did a few cooldown laps around the town square waiting for the hyperventilation to stop.

As we all returned to our van I realized that I had forgotten to hit the interval button and hence had no info to work with, so the waiting game began as we got set up for the crit.

A few hours later they posted the results. 46th. meh. It's going to be a long weekend. The winner in our field was around three minutes faster at over 29mph. I think this is a majorly stacked 3/4 field....

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A glimmer of form....

Again with the baby steps.

One nice thing about the long-slow-distance training schedule is that when others seem to have peaked and are going backwards, I am still on the plateau. This is a good thing.

An even better thing is a glimmer of hope. A seed (hopefully) of what might lie ahead in my fitness.

Sure, there are plenty of data to look at, and plenty of ways to analyze a race result. Of course, when you have to race against superior competition, then it might not be helpful to say "gee, I was fourth against these guys and a few months ago, on the same course I was sixth". Or perhaps if you are racing against inferior competition the same sort of thing might happen (I have yet to experience this).

But one thing doesn't lie: power. Speed lies. It doesn't take into account how much you drafted, or which direction the wind was coming from, or how the race tactics played out. Your heart rate lies. It's a lying sonofabitch. You might have drank one less bottle of water than you should, or maybe you were agitated, or maybe everyone is really going harder than they were last time and your form is better, so you might feel like it's not an improvement. And so on.

So. the numbers. Last night was pretty good in that regard. Not because of the typical killer pace on the first and longest climb. That one is always hard and always ends up thinning the field.

The number that I liked the most wasn't even one of the numbers I got on the second, third and fourth climbs (higher than the last time we raced this course, by 30 watts)


The number that I really liked was my sprint number. I am not a natural sprinter. Some people are just born with it. There are folks who, in their first year of racing, put down huge watts in the sprint. I was not one of them. I don't expect to ever put down huge watts (although I am certain that the numbers will improve over the long haul).

A telling number is how well your "end of the race" max number compares with your "fresh and rested at the beginning of a practice sprint" number. It compared quite favorably this time. I'm liking that!

So the form is coming around, I hope.