Thoughts and Adventures From Greenlite Heavy Industries

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Do Something About It

The cool thing about bicycle racing is the Category system.  Basically it makes racing more fun and competitive by pitting folks of roughly (and I do mean roughly) equivalent abilities against one another.  The system is far from perfect and it's not uncommon for a guy/gal to race in a too low category, in the parlance of bike racing the guy/gal should "cat up."

Lately I've been getting my butt kicked by a guy who should definitely cat up.  Now I could complain to the race organizers and request that they send the guy a gentle nudge, but instead I chose this option:

You want to win - work harder than the other guy.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Why So Serious

What I enjoy most about Cyclocross racing is its accessibility.  Here in Seattle the races have a Beginner class, which oftentimes has one of the largest fields of the day.  On the other hand, road, criterium and track events are daunting, no question about it, and few folks have the nerve to just “show up and try.”  Mountain bike racing is a bit more of a come one come all attitude, but even there it’s easy to feel intimidated: “am I a good enough rider to handle the technical portions, what if I get hurt or have a mechanical out in the woods, what if I get lost” these types of anxieties tend to keep newbys out of the race.  In cross the prevailing attitude is (or at least should be): “well what’s the worst that could happen.”
On the flipside the Beginners are often the bane of my existence.

In every race there are probably twelve to twenty guys who are in it to win it.  They train hard, they do a proper warm-up they learn the course, their bikes are prepped and ready to go, in other words they take this stuff seriously.  In a race I’ve noticed that nearly everyone throws down hard, I’ve rarely seen or encountered a person who is just out there on a sightseeing tour, but for those twelve to twenty guys the digging is just a little deeper, the pain just a tiny bit crisper.
On Sunday I was holding off a juggernaut of five strong guys, if I held them off I’d be on the podium, if they absorbed me I’d be in ninth – at best.  I was sitting one point out of second place in the series standings with the possibility – if I managed to hold third – of actually moving into first place, depending on how my two rivals fared behind me.  In other words the race was getting serious.

By lap four I was catching up with the tail end of the Beginner guys who had started a few minutes behind.  I’d yell “on your left” and nine times out of ten the guy would move right and shout words of encouragement.  Once or twice I think the guy thought I was telling him to move left, and thus did so causing me to ride into the tape or into blackberry bushes.
With two to go, I was approaching a short punchy hill with three guys in front.  The good line up the hill was to the left, in the center were slick tree roots and the right-hand turn at the top was too tight if you took the hill on the right.  For me riding the hill was critical if I was going to hold my position.

The three guys each duffed the hill and as I started up I yelled “get out of my way!”  Not nice I’ll admit.  I ended up having to do an awkward dismount.
As I ran past, one of the guys said “hey man you know we’re beginners right.”

I replied “I’m fighting for third here man.”  That’s about all I had breath for.
I’m sure the guy thought of me as a jerk.  Third place big deal. 

For me, at the time, it was a big deal.  I was full on pushing the red line; third place had become all or nothing.
It’s a fine line trying to balance “hey it’s just a race” on the one hand with “this is what I’ve spent six months training for” on the other.  Yeah I know I’m just a Cat 4 Masters guy competing in some local race, but I take this stuff seriously, I put in the time, I put in the effort and it matters.  Next time I’ll try not to be such a dick, but I can’t make any promises.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Riding Into Randy's Crack

This past weekend we Pacific Northwesterners raced Cyclocross at the Warren G. Magnuson City Park on the shores of Lake Washington in sunny and warm Seattle.  I know we all want that cross weather, but sunny skies and seventy degrees is hard not to love.
Magnuson is a mostly flat and fast course with a long paved section, a tricky descent into 
Darryl rocking the rocks - Peter Clancy Photo
“Randy’s Crack,” some twisty grass, a punchy hill, a run-up and a steady climb/bombing descent.  Folks call it a roadie course – as opposed to a technical course – and I suppose that’s fairly accurate.

I lined up with the usual suspects for the Cat 4 Masters race.  After the call-up Terry has us move twenty five yards up the road to a spot that was much narrower than where the initial lineup had occured.  The front row is supposed to be eight wide, we now had ten in the space for a legit six (looks like we had a couple of poachers).  We were bar-to-bar.  I looked left, then right and saw two guys who always beat me off the line.  I figured if I go all hole shot mode I might end up getting run over by at least some of the sixty guys behind me, so my strategy was to hang a little back at the start, let things separate on the long road section and then move up as well as I could.

Native Bob in front, me in distant second - Peter Clancy Photo
My plan was a terrific success and I hit the grass in a solid fourth.  My Bellingham rival was leading strong, followed by Native Bob who was trailed by a guy in a Platypus kit.  Native Bob is a little too strong to be a Cat 4, and I knew if I wanted to finish well I would have to mark his wheel.  When he went around Bellingham I went with him, sadly so did a big Epic guy.  Big Epic didn’t hold on for long and soon it was me and Native Bob.  At first Native Bob was riding a sane pace, strong but not crazy, but then he put on the afterburners and got a good gap.  I went around Big Epic and found myself dangling in the wind ten seconds behind Native Bob and maybe eight to ten seconds in front of the steam roller that was Leavenworth Luke, Dodi, Bellingham, another Fisher guy, Flatbar and Tux (named for his Tuxedo print kit).
Feeling the Steam Roller coming - Peter Clancy Photo
I was thinking about dropping back in order to do some pack riding when a second Epic guy - Little Epic - screamed past.  He’d really put on the gas and got an immediate gap.  Forget dropping back, now it’s chase mode.  Little Epic went down hard at the barriers hard, it looked bad, but he got up immediately and didn’t miss a beat.  I stayed within spitting distance for a couple of laps but by lap four he was too far gone – unless he really exploded there was no way I was going to catch him.  I knew that Native Bob had the gas to stay in front to the line, so at that point I was in it for third.

The final stretch into the finish line was into the wind and I was really scared that the steam roller could all work together to pull me in on the last hundred yards, so I pushed hard up the final ascent, took some risk on the descent and luckily managed to grab the wheel of a fairly strong guy from another category coming down the finish straight.
I had ridden alone for nearly the entire race and was super excited about the podium finish.  That result now pulls me up into second place for the series.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Cheap Energy

Took a long ride yesterday trying to scope out a route for Saturday's team ride.  Stopped in a grocery store looking for calories.  This monster is 430 calories and set me back one thin dollar.  That's 0.23cents/calorie.  Gotta be one of the cheapest forms of energy on the planet.  On the flip side downed that thing and felt like crap for the next 20 miles.  Cause and effect?  I don't know.
Four of these and you could do an Ironman

Friday, October 3, 2014

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Queen of Cycling is Indeed Cruel

It was bound to happen sooner or later: the old three guys pass you at the finish line after you hauled them around the course trick.

Bicycle racing is not like life. In life hard, aggressive hard work and leadership typically pays off in the end; in bike racing hard work at the front typically results in watching other guys pump their fists in the air.  Who can forget TdF 2014 Stage 15:

In bike racing the mantra is: he who does the best is he who does the least.

Oh I’m sounding bitter.

Truth be told, the MFG South Sound Super Prestige (AKA Stillicoom, AKA MFG #2) was an awesome race on an awesome course. Zac and Terry deserve major credit for putting together what I consider to be stellar course work.

My race started at a fairly reasonable pace and I hit the hill feeling strong.  I was with two guys from Leavenworth, a guy from Bellingham, fellow Islander Dodi, and an unknown fella who was riding strong.  I followed Bellingham and Leavenworth #1 up the hill expecting to be dropped at any minute, but as we approached the final kicker at the top I passed Leavenworth #1 and hit the downhill in second position.  I felt confident on the descent and moved into first. 

I hit the downhill single track at full speed and nearly took out a lady jogger and her two golden retrievers.  It must have been mayhem behind me.  Shortly thereafter another jogger/walker appeared from the woods, I let loose with a huge yell which must have penetrated her headphones as she quickly ducked back into the bushes.

Down on the flats I was passed by the Leavenworth boys.  These guys are definitely road racers and this was a road racers course.  They rotated leads through the tape working hard to drop me.  I figured I’d let them do some work and just hung third wheel.

Chasing Leavenworth #1 at Starcrossed
By the second lap we had it down to a four man race:  Leavenworth #1 and #2, myself, and the mystery man.  Bellingham and Dodi were gapped but not out of the race.  The racing got really good: each guy doing work, pushing the pace, preserving the gap.

A man’s gotta know his limitations and my limitation is the sprint.  Basically I don’t have one.  The course had a quarter mile paved finish and I knew that if it came down to a drag race I’d be eating dust, so I figured that I had to create some space.  My three companions were strong going up the hill, but didn’t seem willing to bomb the descent so I planned make a move at the summit, get a gap and then try to hold the empty space till the line.

In hindsight this was a bad idea as the top of the hill was only about one third of the way through the lap, and frankly if I’m strong enough to ride second, third and fourth off my wheel I shouldn’t be in the Cat 4 race.

At first, however, the plan worked perfectly.  I took a few chances on the tight descent turns and came into the flat hairpins with a bit of a gap (I think that I had a gap, it’s hard for me to look back during a cross race).  At the barriers I was nearly passed by one of the Leavenworth guys.  Now there was my mistake, I should have relinquished the lead and followed his wheel, but I was feeling cocky.

I hit the final two turns hot figuring that this might give me a bit of a lead, and then it was onto the pavement.  Dang that finish line was a long ways away.  I tried to temper my efforts, knowing that I had to leave something in the tank for the line.  Perhaps this was another mistake.  Perhaps I should have thrown down hard early, gotten a gap thus forcing the other three to play catch-up.  One of the Leavenworth guys came by maybe fifty feet from the line, I thought, okay cool hold his wheel and come around at the end.  I made my move to come around on the left and ran into the mystery man passing fast on the outside.  Oh no, the tears were already in my eyes as Leavenworth #3 passed me on the right.  I fought and thought maybe there was a chance for third, but no dice.

In the entire race the only time that I was more the two places off the front was in the final two seconds.  That stings.  Good thing that there is a race this weekend.