Monday, April 26, 2004

Team Akron Covered Bridge Race 3 - 2004

April 24, 2004

Last race in this series... which has been fun and educational. The first race had a huge turn out, and the lots of teams, but none strong enough to control the race. My second race had a smaller turn out, and Snake Bite had enough savvy to effect the race, and bury me... well, I dug the hole, they just let me jump in and threw some dirt on top.

So, what will today hold? The weather was the big question mark. Forecast calls for scatter thunderstorms. I now understand the race will only be called for ice on the roads, and thunderstorms. I'm hoping the storms will be widely scattered.


Geoff and I are car pooling. When I get up, it's raining... lightly, but wet none the less. Peter had told me that it rained on Tuesday night for the Westlake series, and it was a crash fest. I REALLY don't want to crash, so I'm hoping the rain lets up.

I picked up Geoff and we arrive around 8:05. The race starts at 9:30 (or so), so we have time to do a couple of warmup laps. I met another Cleveland Chaos rider in the lot, Larry is a cat 3 who has not been riding a lot for the past year or so. He'll be racing in the masters field... which means he'll be in the B race. They don't do any other splitting of the fields for this except A and B. So the B race is Masters Cat2/3, Cat 4/5/cit. The A race is Cat 1/2/3/4. Turns out the A race sheds guys like crazy.... a bunch of single riders laboring away. I'll stick with the B's until I can consistently hang with and effect the race.

They've filled in a lot of the pot holes with a sand/gravel mix. No more bunny hopping holes, but the roads may now be more treacherous. The organizer was out sweeping the corner at the bottom of the decent as we were doing our warm ups.

Right before we line up, the rain starts... nothing torrential, just annoying. Then it stops... just enough to wet down the roads some more. Shower in the pack today. Once the rain starts, I quickly decide to add another layer. I was going to go without warmers again today... until I got a little damp. Knee warmers and a long sleeve base... hopefully, that'll be the right choice. I also baby oiled my legs.. what a bike geek. Temp is right around 60 again.

The Race - Snake Bitten... again!

The field is pretty small today compared to the other 2 races, maybe 30-40. First thing I notice is Snake Bite has 6. Pyro has 2, Honey-Stinger has 2, Orrville has 3 (maybe 4), StarkVelo again has 1, PDQ has a couple... and there are about a half dozen unattached riders.

Brett Davis (Snake Bite) is here again, even though he's sick with a cold from racing in the rain on Tuesday.... and I call the day saying, "you've got numbers today". I should really listen to myself. Geoff was even more on, he looks at Todd Bolgrin, and says "That guy is really strong. he should be catting up this year."

Off we go, lots of chatter as we get moving. I'm sitting around mid pack, with a bit of nerves. Lots of riders, and I don't trust a lot of them to know how to handle wet roads. So, I'm going to see about hanging at the front today... not to far up, but out of trouble up.

Tiffany Kenny is in the group also. I pointed her out to Geoff... always nice to race with a pro. Even if it's not her ride of choice..

Snake Bite certainly had a plan today. They sent Todd up the road immediately after we cross the finish line at the start of the first lap.. First lap action! That was the end of the chatter, we're here to race!

As we come around for the first lap, I started working my way up. It becomes pretty obvious who I should watch out for. There is one big PDQ who is all over the place. Another Orrville rider that is a little wiggly, and another older PDQ that was working the chase with us last week that I do not like to be behind. The rest of the scary people stay behind me, but these guys keep getting in front somehow. I keep tapping people as I move through... letting them now not to come over any more. I'm such the Patron of the pelaton.

Through the first lap, and the pace vehicle driver has to jump out and flip the lap card. He gets back in with plenty of time, but now I'm concerned about the finish... we're supposed to have two primes. Last week the first prime was on the second lap. No bell, so now what?

Through the hills, and I notice Larry is in the front through the covered bridge turn. Probably the smartest place to be, as people brake hard through there. I passed through the group and start working up to the front. Snake bite is up there, but they really haven't shut anything down. And Todd is just dangling out there a short gap off the front, which seemed weird.

As we make the turn onto Riverview, an Orrville goes and joins Todd up front. Then they both dangle there. Then a Honey-Stinger goes up... this is were things got weird. I was next to the other Honey-Stinger that I worked with last week, and made a comment about how his mate looked to be in a good move. (duh!) The problem was the Honey-Stinger guy wanted to get to work... so they let him do it all... and he blew up.

I moved up to second or third line while he was working, and had a little chat with Cat 3 Larry. me: "Think this is early for a move to go before we start the 3rd lap?" Larry: "I'm trying to figure out the tactics... Snake Bite is still really chasing even though they've got a guy up the road. And they really aren't making any distance. If they can't open this gap with their own guys on the front..."

Last week I got hammered by chasing on the first lap so this week I figured I'd be smart and conserve. Somehow I decided it was OK to nap here.

The Honey-Stinger popped and came back to the group. And I was sitting in the same place. Following Larry's wheel. I saw 3 or 4 Snake Bites come up to the front and camp out. Somehow I missed the move of another Snake Bite and another Orrville joining the original 2.

Start of the third lap, and the bell rings for the prime. The line is now got someone on it, so at least I know what's happening there. Larry is on the front again through the hills and the corner again. I'm sitting about 3rd or 4th wheel. And I feel really good.

After the corner, Larry and I are behind the Snake Bite train. Somehow the break has opened up more of a gap. I'm not overly concerned until the wiggly Orrville gets on the front with Pat from Snake Bite.... and they have a little chat. Damn... that means they've both got riders in the break!

Through the 3rd lap. Larry does some pulls, and I sit behind the Snake Bite patrol. The prime is gobbled up by the break, so we roll through... another prime on the fourth lap.

Larry is really driving the group through the hills. I'm not right on his wheel, but any time a gap opens, Pat closes it. If Larry opens, and I fall back a little bit, and Pat closes it up for me... This time it's Larry then me through the the bridge turn.

Pat is working really hard at the front. Brett is there trying to tell him to go slow... Larry and I are working the front to get the group moving but Snake Bite is really being effective.... and no one is willing or able to come up and help bring back the break.

Along Riverview I asked Larry if he wanted to try to bridge on the last lap... I don't know if he heard, or if he didn't think we could, but I was willing to try it. Through the line and into the last lap.

Again Larry and I through the turns with Pat in the mix. At one point the three of us got a gap when I was on the back. I called the gap, but it got closed down before we got anywhere.

At one point the wiggly Orrville rider comes up next to me near the front, and I ask him if he's got a guy in the break. He must have seen me working, cause his answer is "I'm not working, I've got 2 guys in the break". After clarification, I found out there were 2 Orrville and 2 Snake Bite up the road.

So I was sitting on the front Peter pulls through. I would have liked to get Peter, Larry and I all together with maybe another guy, and had a run... but it never worked out. Every time I had one of them the other was in the group somewhere.

We were picking up lots of A riders, I kept Larry informed on this. He thought the break was coming back. We lapped one B racer, who told us the break was WAY up the road, and we were racing for 5th. So I'm driving another chase group. This time the chase is the main field though.. so I guess that's progress.

On Riverview, I had a nice pace on the front when the popped Honey-Stinger guy came up. I waved him through and let him pull a little, then I did a turn, but the group shut that down pretty quick also..

Finally before the Riverview rise, I did a pull with Larry on my wheel. He pulled through, but 2 Snake Bites were stuck on his wheel. I should have moved in and taken Larry's wheel... I told him we had baggage, but I didn't play the move right. After a pull, Larry drifted back behind me as I was trying to close a small gap on the two Snake Bite riders. Larry said "We're racing for 5th place!" I think he was frustrated that they wouldn't let anything go. He was right next to the big squirrelly PDQ guy that started laughing at Larry's comment... and drifted left.... right into another guys front wheel. Dropped him instantly... I looked over my shoulder, and saw the guy on the road left of center. According to Geoff, he went down hard. The Snake Bite riders heard it to and sat up. I half expected them to drill it then.

After that, I pretty much just waited for the sprint for the scraps. Snake Bite had shut down the work as well. We passed the school yard going pretty slow, and hit the final stretch. I was about 5th wheel, and the front riders started coasting down the hill to the finish... I just said "forget this", and went, probably a way to early, but I'd had enough of this slow stuff. Geoff thinks my sprint cadence was to low, that maybe I could have stayed away if I was up over 100. Anyway Pat (Snake Bite) came around me and picked up 5th. I ended up 14th, (so lots of guys came around...) I wasn't overly concerned... though I would have liked a top 10.


Overall I was happy with my race. Snake Bite got 2nd and 4th. So even though they did all the work behind, Orrville capitalized with a better sprint.

Only the one crash... which I really think is thanks to Snake Bites control. They played a good tactical game and kept the pack from really racing. We got sprinkled on a little, but I think most of the wet was coming up from the road... more rain, may have cause more wrecks.

I learned a lot on this race... hopefully I'll figure out how to use it soon. Talking with Larry during the cool down laps was really cool... he gave me more tactical advice, and some ideas about racing with the A's at Westlake. I've got to ride with more Cat 2/3's somehow. I know I'll get shelled but the learning curve has got to be huge. It was yesterday.

Average HR was 161 which was pretty low considering the work I was doing. My average for the race was 23.5. Which was pretty quick considering everyone was tentative on the corners, and there was a fair amount of blocking. My guess is the break was really strong, probably guys ready for Cat3. So the blocking didn't have to be super effective to work for them.

It's all tactics. Last week, the group was too big to stay away, and I went. This week, I should have paid attention to who was in the group, and tried a bridge. I felt good, and I may have been able to hang with the break.

We don't learn nearly as much from our successes as we do from our failures. Not because we can't... but because we don't analysis the success as thoroughly as we do the failure....

Friday, April 23, 2004

Race At the Lake 2 - 2004

April 23, 2004

So after last weekend, I decided to play the week a little smarter. I planned on taking Friday off, and racing the short RATL race on Saturday instead of doing the long training ride on Saturday with guys that were not racing on Sunday.

RATL is put on by the Summit FreeWheelers club. They've got a pretty big presence at about every event I've been at. The cool thing about this race is they split the fields nicely. Cat 5/Citizen/Juniors, Women, Cat 4, cat 2/3, masters. So theoretically you really are racing with your peers.

The course is really short 1.2 miles. The Cat 5 race does 12 miles (10 laps), Cat 4 does 18 in 15 laps. There is a slight rise at the 7:00 position, it flattens out again near the lot at 6:00, the rises again near 5:00. You descend from 4:00 into the left turn heading into the start finish mark. Overall the course is really flat, but you could still feel people moving backwards over the 2 rises.

15 counter clockwise laps... on a really short course. Westlake is about 2 miles, which I guess is just long enough, but this course I almost felt dizzy from spinning around this so much.


The weather was nice, sunny and around 55-60 degrees. I arrived at 8:00 for a 9:40 start. The Cat 5 races starts at 8:30, so I wanted a little time to take some laps and see whe the course looked like. Phil Manning was there for the 5 race, so he took me around and indicated the "be careful" points.

The organization of the race is pretty good. I watched the 5's roll of, then about 3 minutes later, the women rolled off for their race. I watched a lap or two, then started heading out for some warm ups.

On the way out I ran into Dan Guggenheim from Chaos. I figured it would be cool to roll around with him. He also had Steve Previs there. Still only 2 guys on his team, so they were a little short handed. Dan asked if I would work with them... this being my first exclusive 4 race, I said I'd see what I could do. Wow, I'm an honorary team member! or at least recruited to see if I can bury myself.

We warmed up on the roads a bit, and got back in time to catch the Cat 5 chase group come in. I think 2 guys got off the front and a big group came in for third. I'm not sure, but I think the women had passed the 5's somewhere... Cat 3/4 women, so no real lose of pride.

While waiting to get on the course, we stopped and chatted with one of the 5's that went down. A little craziness with holding lines, and a few guys hit the pavement.

By the time we lined up, I was pretty warm, so I dropped all my warmers. Base layer, jersey and shorts. I think the temp was about 60 at the start of the 4 race. A little cool, but I'm sure I'll be plenty warm after the first lap.

The Race - Round and Round the mulberry bush...

A few words from the official at the start. Some complaints from last week on squirrelly riding... I thought I would be away from a lot that in the 4's... I guess not, something else to watch out for.

I did recognize some of the guys from the Covered Bridge races, and last years Westlake race. Some of them have been racing in the A group, but getting dropped. I'm not sure that's a good idea, since then they are not really working once they are away from the pack (personal opinion). Something to think about before trying to jump up.

... And away we go.

Not a super exciting race. My plan was to sit in and see if I could do anything on the primes and at the finish. I felt pretty good, but the pace was pretty high. Round and round. There was some squirrellyness, guys were twitchy in the pack, and it would ripple around.

The primes were pretty frequent, but I couldn't get into a decent position. As I'd move up on the hill, hold ok on the decent, and then get swarmed through the turns before the line. So I was pretty much sitting around 10th wheel through the primes, and in the front 20 or so for most of the race.

Phil hung around and watched the 4's race. It was pretty funny. Every time I went around, he'd be hollering "Come on John, let's go!" After about the fifth or sixth time, one of the guys says to me "Yeah, come on John!"

Dan was doing lots of work at the front, which kind of surprised me. He didn't seem to jump into any of the prime laps, so I wasn't sure of his motives. Steve did hop into one prime that I was close to the front on, but pulled out of his pedal....

One guy (unattached, unless he just wasn't wearing team kit) went off the front with about 5 to go... and opened a pretty big gap. Being the responsibility of the teams to bring him back, I just sat in and watched. We picked him up with 1 to go...

Going up the rises the last time the pace was really ramping up. I lost a few places, probably sitting around 30th. When a bit in front of me a couple guys banged bikes. No one went down, but there was the requisite screaming and a little slow down.

As we hit the second rise, I was behind Brett Davis from Snake Bite. I thought he'd be a fine wheel to move me into a bit of position... my mistake as he stalled in the hill. I waited a bit to long to come around, and ended up a little off the back of the field. I used my awesome descending skills to chase back on... and looked back to see no one, literally.

I made it back before the right turn and picked up a few places before the final, but I ended up 25th out of 33.... shoot.


I did a cool down and caught up with Dan, who got second. I also found out from another guy that the guy who went in the break was a state time trial champ. 1 lap short. He was so far out, they didn't realize he took the last prime.

I felt pretty good... not front of the race good, but I hung in for the whole race. I think I could have done better if I would have chosen a better wheel on the last rise. Dan came in 2nd, and had a max speed of 32mph. I was back of the pack, but had a max of 37.5, which I must have hit chasing back on the decent before the final. Average was 24.5 (or so) and my AHRM was 168! Evidently my LT is pretty high compared to my MAX (182).

The finish and primes were handled pretty well. They had a video camera on a scaffold. They'd switch it on to catch the line. They had spotters to catch the money numbers, but they'll review the tape and post results really far down the field. I should be listed in week 2 sometime soon.

http://www.scottthor.comThis guy posts some really good race diaries. He's a cat 3 and here is his view of the big boys racing.. Poke around his blog.. it's got some really interesting stuff.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Team Akron Covered Bridge Race 2 - 2004

April 18, 2004

This was the third race of the four race Team Akron Covered Bridge series. I had done the first race and the second race was canceled despite the organizers claim that it would go come "Rain, Shine or snow". I guess icy roads weren't in the disclaimer. By noon the race would have been fine, but at 9:30 there would have been carnage.

This week the weather finally broke. So I was looking forward to racing without warmers... hurray! Friday it was 75 and sunny with a bit of wind, Saturday morning it was 60 when I left the house... so I was really looking forward to Sunday.

Let's call this mistake number 0. On Saturday, I called for an earlier start time... 7:30. The weather is nice, so lets get going earlier I thought. I ended up with 56 miles. I wasn't overly concerned, as I am trying to train for 2 day events. So I need to get out on both Saturday and Sunday. I tried to play conservatively, and regularly sat in the group as apposed to driving... as I usually do. I also let one of the guys go on the hills... and just climbed at my own pace without pushing into the red.


I decided to get to the start early, so I could get a good warmup in. Not like the first race... I was hoping to avoid the panic when the race was quick from the gun. So I arrived about 8:10, and did a warmup lap. I then toddled around until sign-in... eating, spinning around the lot, chatting... then hopped in line as soon as they opened. I was the second B racer to I had enough time to warmup some more.

There must have been a frog or toad migration sometime recently. After passing the finish there were about 100 squashed frogs on the road. There just isn't that much traffic on that road... pretty wild.

Turns out there was an MS walk-a-thon through the CRVNRA this morning. So the organizers decided to delay the start by 20 minutes to allow the bulk of the walkers to get through. They also gave the A race a good 5+ minute lead to give the police at the towpath crossing a break between the fields.

Just as I had hoped, it was almost hot. No warmers, and no base layer, as it was about 75 at the start.

Looking around, the field was smaller than the first race. About 50 riders, with Orville, MVR, SnakeBite, Summit Freewheelers and PDQ well represented.Cleveland Chaos had 1, Dan Guggenheim, who I followed around in the first race. He was talking to Mahul about some plan of his at the start.... a little collaboration, maybe? Pyro had 3-4, and Stark Velo had 2. Then there were a bunch of unattached riders. With all the team strength (strong teams), I'm really concerned about team tactics....

The Race

Off we go... the pace seemed much more reasonable then last time. I was able to stay reasonably close to the front. So I didn't have the same panic as last time. I felt good going through the hills and descents, so I was looking forward to a decent day. Goal of a top 5.... or better. I've got the miles, probably more than most of these guys, I should be fine. (Insert arrogance factor #2 here)

As we come around past the parking lot for the first time (approaching the end of lap 1), a rather large group rolls off the front. I'm looking at the group from the second or third row. This isn't a prime lap, but it looks like a big group. I see Chaos, 3-4 MVR's, 1 SnakeBite and a few others... SnakeBite has 4 guys on the front soft pedaling... and I get nervous. One of the guys says "___ is up there, so it looks good". They've got one guy in a group of 10+ going into the START of a prime lap, and they say it looks good?

I think the group is too big, and stands a chance of going away... I jumped around the left side of the block right after a Summit rider jumped around the right... mistake number 2. Mistake 3 was I dangled shortly behind this guy through the whole bridge move. I should have gotten together with him and saved us both some energy. It was a fun bridge, and we caught the lead in no time. We connected right as we went up the hill right past the line. There was a huge gap, and I thought for sure this was the group to be in. The bad news was my HRM said 179 in the effort. My max is 182... how much is that going to hurt later?

Second lap was a prime. I was in the front group and was able to sit in and recover from the bridge. The gap was good... until we hit Riverview then the wind came into play. As we rolled around for the second lap the main group re-attached... one major effort totally wasted.

For the prime a group of 5 or so went off the front... I was feeling it, so I was about mid-pack+. I watched them go. As we came by the line, they rang the bell for another prime.... average sped was 24.5 or so. Then the pack got hungry, and the pace picked up.

I'm sure they were trying to pick up the 4 leaders. But they just stayed about a quarter to half mile ahead. I was starting to feel it. As we came around past Oak Hill, a gap started to open in front of me, and I was having trouble closing it. The StarkVelo guy came around me... and then it got worse. Note that I'm not the only one with significant space...

As we head toward Riverview the gap starts to increase... 10ft... 20ft. I'm working like crazy to close, bit it's not budging. At one point, I've somehow ended up in a pace line... there is a guy pulling, another guy in green, and me with more behind. The first guy pulls off, and the guy in green sits up! Ahhh... as I come around, I tell him to push as he gets to the front and pull off if he has nothing. I hope I didn't come off as a total jerk, but that move sucked for me.

As I pushed, I gap that group and I've got another Summit guy on my wheel... but I'm doing all the work. Finally I flick him to the front and ask for some help... he says he doesn't have much left... to which I reply "Neither do I, which is why I need some help. We start to work together... and he does a huge pull to the railroad tracks, were we just re-attach at the corner. Then we're both working to stay on as they accelerate off the corner and they gap us again. So we're back to chasing... we work together more... but now it's pretty obvious they are leaving us behind, and we're stuck in the middle of nowhere. Up the road (into the wind) I see the group of 4 then main group of 20 or so. Then there's us, and behind us, another big chase group. I asked the guy if we should wait, but I don't think we will ever catch back onto the main group, wait or not.

As the rear group catches us, I hear Phil calling the group to work together... again... just like last year at the fall challenge. I fall into the line around 6th or 7th wheel... behind the guy in the green again. We start to work, and he does it again... this time I think we hit a hill when he stalled, so I didn't say much. Yeah, I'm a jerk. I think Phil was mostly trying to breath, as I'm chatting the group on... hey, I paid for this entertainment.

Past the line, start lap 4... my average has dropped to 23+. We regrouped, and got the line going again. After my pull, I dropped back, and found we had a group of 5... with another big gap behind. Phil, an Orville, a Honey Stinger, a PDQ and me. Then we get into a nice rhythm. The PDQ guy is dying... so I tell him to take short ones, or even pass if he has to. Everyone else seems to be doing their share nicely. The main group is out of site, but I figure it's a training ride now.

We do pretty well around the fourth lap. On Riverview we picked up a PYRO guy to make it 6. We started to see gaps opening in the line though. As we'd drop back if there was a gap, we'd just fill it, giving the guy behind a break. Then it seemed like Phil, Orville and I were the only ones on the front... as we made the turn onto IRA, we saw another small group up ahead. Orville had just pulled, and I was starting. Phil said something about catching the next group... it didn't look to me like our group was going to last, as we were all over the place. But I said OK, and started pulling. Through the line... and then it was just me and Orville.

As we caught the guys ahead, I realized they were A racers.... dropped, caught and paced by the B's... Orville, me and 3 A's, worked a little together, not much, as they didn't think they should help us, though they did sit on as we pulled through. I lost contact once, and rejoined on Riverview. Then Orville and I left them behind. As we turned onto IRA, Orville rode away from me... and I could do nothing. No bragging rights today.


From the Snake Bite website, it looks like their tatics paid off taking first and third.

Average speed around 23.5MPH. Mike and Todd made it into a break which Ed and I blocked for, forcing what was left of the main pack to work very hard to reel them back in.

We were all back together for the last lap when Mike jumped hard right before the school. Mike jumped so hard and fast that the sprinters who were left in the main group had to spend themselves to stay on his wheel. It proved to be too much for everyone except John Lorson of Orrville who finished second behind Mike. Patrick managed to hang on 'till the end for third.

My final average was 22.7, so I was about 2 minutes behind the finish. Completely anti-climactic, with lots of "should have"s. I shouldn't have bridged. I should have let SnakeBite do their thing, knowing that the field would not let a group that big go for the prime let alone the entire race. I should have taken Friday off for recovery... I don't think Saturday made a difference if I would have rested on Friday. I do have this graph that does indicate a little miscalculation on my part. Probably not a good idea to do a big training week right before a race... especially that big. But the weather was nice, and I was having fun... so... it's all education.

The graph does include the 50+ miles I did in total on Sunday. 14.5 easy warmup with a few efforts, 26.5 racing and a couple of cool down laps. Still I had already had one of the biggest weeks of the year before I started the race.

The other interesting thing is the HRM graph. I spent the entire race in zone 4, with the exception of my forays into zone 5, which where numerous enough.

The graph is just a huge plateau. Up to 160ish, flat line fluctuations with a few big jumps, then it drops as I crossed the line at the end (1:10). The 179 peak is right at the end of the first lap. The 175 is probably the big hill right after the second lap finish. I only remembered to hit the lap button at the beginning of the race, the end of lap 2, and the end of the race...

The remainder of the graph is my cool down. They look much more typical of my HRM charts during the week, though I didn't put any hard efforts into the cool down. My race average HR was 163, MAX 179. The min, once we really got started was 150. My guess is I've only done these types of efforts while racing. I sure haven't done them in training since the beginning of the year when I started using the HRM.

My buddy who took the photo's (thanks Rick) was at the lot when people were coming back in. He talked to a few guys that were surprised at the pace this early in the season. I don't know, but I think the first race was faster at the start. I don't know about the whole race as I was off the back for the second half. I guess I'll have to take another data point next weekend.