Sunday, October 31, 2004

BA Cyclocross 2 - 2004

The 2004 Bike Authority Cyclocross Series

October 30th, 2004

Cahoon Park in Bay Village. Last year, the first two races of the season were here, so I had some ideas of the course settings. A nice sledding hill run up, a creek crossing before another run up, and a few other interesting terrain features. The listing for the race threw me a little though... (North)? What did that mean?

October 30 is my youngest daughters birthday! Luci turned 10 years old. All year long we've been talking about her trying a cross course. We'd take her bike and she could ride around a pre lap with me. If she felt comfortable with the course, I'd green light her jumping into a C race. We built a set of barriers for our back yard so we could practice getting over them, and I expected the only course to suit her would be the last one at Boughton Farm. For her birthday, I invited her out to play... I was skeptical that she'd be able to race because of the terrain, but Cahoon Park has a playground.

Saturday morning we loaded up the van. My son was coming along to keep Luci company. The chances of him racing were pretty slim. He's pretty tentative on descents. If it came to playground time though, Luci would have company. My plan was to do the B race, Luci would do the C's. If the kids weren't bored to tears, I'd jump in the A's while they hit the playground. Since I couldn't ride Sunday, I'd have time to recover.

Step 1, Cahoon Park (North). As we pulled up to the "normal" lot from last year... nothing. No cars, no tent. OK, on to the second lot... almost there and I see flags in the field on the right side of the road! Oh... North! I now have no idea what the course will be like. We park, unload and get suited up. The three of us will do a recon lap.

The Course

It's mostly flat with one set of three barriers shortly after the start. We hit a short pavement section, then wind up to the "woods". There is a 10 foot section of single track leading to a small clearing behind the trees. A sweeping curve leads to the fence along the lake edge of the park. Follow the fence to the edge of the field, and loop along the woods on an off camber sweeping turn around to the pavement.

Once on the pavement we cross a bridge, and loop around some trees. Past the tree next to the bridge and climb to the only main descent. Off camber grassy descent down to a gravel driveway. We ride the sidewalk up the other side of the hill ending in a steep 10 foot rise to the next section. Around this parking area along the fence, twisting among trees and picnic tables. Back into the field, through some more tables and head back to the sidewalk. We'll take the street back to the first section, instead of having two way on the sidewalk. They've laid out cones to keep traffic the semi safe. It's really a single track on the street though.

When we're at the gravel drive, we hop back on the sidewalk, up a short rise, and then another 10 footer to get back to the fields. Loop through some more trees, and head back to the start finish, which is located right after a 180 degree turn around a monument. Woah! I don't want to be sprinting for place at that..

The Pre-Race

We arrived and they were still setting up the course. They had originally planned on having a drop to the creek, and across, with another run up. They also had intended on having another set of barriers. The water in the creek was running to high, so instead the course was totally ridable with only one set of barriers. No run ups.... basically a grass crit.

The kids and I rode the course, with only two sketchy places. The off camber descent, and the road section. Luci will be a downhiller of some sort. She loves bombing drops... at her speed. So she was fine on that. My son decided that once was enough for him, and opted not to race. Luci was in, so she got a race number for her birthday... at no charge since U18, and women are free.

After our recon, I did a couple more laps. I was pretty disappointed in the lack of technical sections. There were plenty of sharp turns, but it wasn't going to make or break a race. This was going to be fast and furious from the gun. The course was a bit confusing also, since they didn't have enough tape or cones to go all the way around. So they had flags on the second field. We had some course cutting just because you couldn't always see the correct way.

The Race

With the course confusion, we all took a parade lap, just to clarify any strange sections. B's and C's together. Luci opted against the recon... to keep her lap count down. Plus it kept her out of traffic.

Contenders here, we lined up with 33 in the B's! One of the largest fields I've seen in the cross race. Ryan was out sick... I guess he had trouble getting out of bed. Brian from Summit (2nd place last week) was here, as were Brad from Spin and Brett Davis and Pat and Linda Miranda from Snakebite. Phil Hines showed up also... so he was the guy I was watching.

The C's start a few minutes after the B's, so I lined up and gave Luci a final thumbs up. I was next to Phil on the front line, computers were reset and I was ready to go. Phil was telling me that we needed to go for the hole shot... be the first to the barriers, and that was my plan. With 33, the first time through was going to be carnage. Someone was bound to fall, or stall on the dismount and hold up a bunch behind him. So I was ready.

Off goes the gun, and we're off. I'm hammering a start sprint, and I'm second to the barriers. Nice dismount, and I'm past the guy in front of me. A clean remount, and I'm on the front. Around the turns to the fence... and I'm trying to get someone else to take the lead. I do not want to break wind for the entire race. And there was some serious wind! Mostly blowing south to north, it was almost always a cross wind, rarely a tail wind... but when we turned south... nasty. Finally, Brad from Spin comes around, and we follow him around for the remainder of the first lap.

As we're heading along the fence, They've let the C's go. I see the group hit the barriers, and Luci is the last one through. I give her some encouragement, as Brad comes around.

Second lap. Brad is on the front through the barriers. Shortly after, Phil makes a jump. 2 new guys follow, and I'm on the wheel. Sitting fifth. Phil is off the front, Brad is there, then the two new guys. Over the bridge and around the trees. As we head into the off camber turn, the guy in front of me hits the leaves hard and slides out! I'm thinking I'm down, but somehow I thread my front wheel right between his feet and his bike. Gonna have to watch those leaves. And they are everywhere.

Third lap. Still sitting 4th. Brad is coming back, but the guy that went down comes around me. Riding along the woods at the end of the fence, I hit a leaves wrong and I'm down. Up quickly enough, but Brian and an Orrville on a single go by me... and open a gap as I reaccelerate. Shoot 7th! I pull Brad back before we hit the road, and we're onto lap 4.

I passed Luci once in here, and asked how she doing. She seemed a bit frustrated and said she might quit. I just told her she doing fine and whatever she does, she's done great.

Fourth lap, status quo. I'm opening a gap on Brad, but not bringing back Brian and the Orrville rider. I can see them trading pulls, and I can't close that gap. Around and through for the 5th lap.

I've got some nice lines going except for the section where the guy went down in front of me... I take that one wide every time to avoid the same problem. Still I loose time in that section as well. I passed Luci again on our fourth lap (I think), she's less frustrated and said she decided not to stop. I'm sure this is her last lap though. she's running close to her 30 minutes.

Fifth lap, no change. The good news is my remounts have been clean throughout. The bad news is there is only 1 per lap. More barriers and more run ups would be better for me. Phil is sitting third, the two new guys are not far in front of him. Then Brian and Orrville are trading in the chase. I'm alone, then there is a chase behind me of what looks like 6 guys. David Major, Paul Salipante from Square Wheels, Brett and Pat from SnakeBite, and Brad from Spin. I can't drop back, I have to try to catch the two ahead of me... but they are not coming back.

Sixth lap... Time is running out. I've got to start stepping on it. Rick and Luci have finished up. I come through as Luci is climbing off, and give her another cheer. As I pass the S/F, Rick is shouting that I'm not going hard enough... I look down and my HR is max is 182. I don't have much harder I can go. No difference though. I'm in no-man's land. Not closing the gap, but not getting caught. Up and around

Seventh lap, and they're ringing the bell. I make sure that they've told the other 5 guys ahead of me, because I haven't heard a bell, and I try to give it everything. The gaps aren't moving. As I come up the sidewalk, I see Phil has moved into second, and the guy in third has basically sat up. I'm fighting the urge to do the same, because I might be able to catch one of the two guys ahead of me... or they may catch the guy in third... nothing doing though. Around the field, back down the street, and I see there is now way I'll catch them. Now it's just hammer for pride and to be sure to stay away.


Through the finish for sixth. Not what I wanted, but Brian only got fifth. So he pulled 2 more points in front of me on the overall. Brian is now in first overall with 48 points, and I'm in second with 44..It was the best case scenario, since I couldn't get back to him.

I was again about 30 second behind them. I managed to hold off the chase group by about a minute... not bad for a solo effort. It gave me enough recovery to cheer in some of the guys I know... Hopefully, I didn't make any enemies, as I tried to encourage Paul Salipante to hold on to beat Pat Miranda. Oh well, Paul was shaking his head the whole time anyway. He'd given up before I started yelling.


Rick raced the C's because his son was with him. He ended up winning on his SS by a minute. Luci did great for her first race, completed 2 laps on an adult course. I haven't asked her if she'll ever race again... I think she will. She'll make a great crosser. The first thing she said to me after our races was "I got a bad start! So I was last into the barrier section." She even knows the proper excuses.

As far as my excuses... the course wasn't hard enough (Really), I'm better when we've got run ups and barriers. I can't say I had a bad start, but my one fall cost me. I may have been able to hang onto Brian and Orrville if I'd have stayed upright. AND... I'm really trying to peak later in the season (that one sounds good).

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The HR data from the race is again really interesting. I managed to hit the button on every S/F pass. 1.7 miles per lap, I averaged about 6.5 minutes per for 7 laps. My average HR was 174, every lap had averages of plus or minus 2.

A Race

Since I brought a lunch for the kids, and even though there wasn't a play ground for them, they said they'd be fine running around while I did the A race. Phil said he was going to join in also... it's all for training. He'd taken second in the B's and beat me by a minute and a half, so I had no illusions that I'd be beating him in the A's. It'd be fun to have someone else suffering like me, though

I'd already done 7 laps, what was a few more? I did put the bottle cage back one, and carried a bottle. No run ups, so I wasn't shouldering the bike for anything. So there was no advantage to not having a bottle. Brett had intended on doing the A's, but I guess his finish (11th) and family told him he'd had enough.

So now I'm racing with the big boys. Paul Martin and the normal A's, and Bill Marut and Chris Aron who raced B's last year. Chris assured me, he'll be near me for the entire race, but I'm not buying. My only goal is survive, and with luck, I won't finish last. Everything else is practice riding, dismounts, remounts and just get another hour or so in.

I was kidding Phil about going for the hole shot again... this time from the third row. I did see one guy behind me that I had an obvious chance of beating... if he's actually racing. He's line up about 5 yards behind the field. There's also a guy with street clothes and a tie. I don't know... maybe?

The gun, and we're off. I'm on Phil's wheel through the barriers, and running them hurts. Remount and follow everyone through. On the fence and the gap starts to grow. I'm last except the guy that lined up off the back. I see him hit the barriers behind me, so he did start.

And so it begins. 9 laps of pain. I actually passed a Summit guy on the second lap, and gapped him hard by the end of the 4th... so much I thought he may have DNF'd. About 32 minutes, I was really dead. I took another gu shot and drank, and just hoped. My kids were at the S/F giving me high fives as I went through one side, and then almost knocking me off as I came around the other side... twice. John Reade was near the barriers giving me info on my splits. Rick was also calling encouragement.

From lap 3 to about lap 6, I was chasing a guy on a fixed gear, and he was coming back slowly. I kept chipping away, and chipping away. About the 5th lap, Paul Martin was catching me before I hit the sidewalk. I help up before the descent so he could pass and hit the pavement unhindered. I didn't loose any places with that move.

The wind was horrendous, and getting worse (or so it felt). On the open stretches I felt like I was leaning hard to the south. I really should have figured out how to tack the bike into the wind! There was one gust I was greatful for as I came to the 10 foot rise on the back field... leaves were indicating I had help... and I enjoyed it for what it was worth.

On lap 6, I came around the turn by the bridge and did the same slide out that the guy did in front of me in the B race. Wheels hit the leaves and just slide right out from underneath me. I hopped back on, but had dropped the chain. I was able to pedal it back on, but the fixie was gone then. My only motivation was the guys cheering on the course and the fact that I was in front of someone.

Lap 7 I saw that Derek from Lake Effect was starting to come back to me. John confirmed, and I was chasing again. Obviously Derek saw I was coming back, and just maintained the gap. I think he was toying with me.

The most impressive move was Phil... after doing the B race, he was well in front of me... many places in front. He was doing damage in the A's after racing hard in the B's! Turns out he got 11th place out of the 17 starters (not including the guy that lined up off the back). Bill Marut and I both think he could have top fived the A's if he skipped the B race. Pretty much puts at least the top 3 places in the B race solidly in the sandbagger field.

I ended up 16th out of 17. Not last! Hurray! I also cleaned 15 out of the 16 remounts even when tired. It was the closest I've ever come to climbing off the bike during a race. Once I'd gotten through the halfway lap, I knew I would finish though. I ended up 30 seconds behind Derek and only 1 lap down on the leaders. With another lap, I may have been able to lap the guy behind me... if I could have survived it... I was pretty cooked by then. He finished 2 laps down. I was about 1 lap and 5 minutes down on the leader, so I was far from being lapped again.

Oh... the guy with the tie... it's Halloween dude. Zak from Lake Effect dressed up, including a wig and he had a goatee for the race. I didn't recognize him until he took off his helmet after the race... and then the Halloween thing was so clear.

The most interesting part was following the A riders (as they lapped me) through the course. They had lines I'd never thought of. I think they all went to the right of the tree at the bridge where I slid out. It straightened the line out considerable, and made it totally ridable. Took me 11+ laps to find that one. Of course the first couple of laps had that line taped out, but the last 6 laps on that line where fast and easy.

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Again, my HR was higher than I thought... average over the 9 laps was 163. Again it was in the +/- 2 range on each of the laps.

Next Week

Next Sunday we're at Brecksville. This was my favorite course last year, hopefully, they won't change it much. I think need the technical sections, especially if I'm going to get in front of Brain. There is also a race on Saturday in Orrville. If nothings going on at the house, I may try it out... not to win, just to go out and have some fun on a different course. I'll be looking hard at it over the week.

Some Pics from the A race. Rick was snapping and cheering at the same time... it meant tons in my ability to finish. Thanks! Believe it or not, this is a race, it's just I'm again in a no mans land.... really close to the back.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

BA Cyclocross 1 - 2004

The 2004 Bike Authority Cyclocross Series

October 24th, 2004

So here we are, my target series is here... and I'm still trying to figure out how to train. I've done a couple of Wednesday night practice races at Edgewater. The first one was great, the second one was terrible. OK, not really terrible, just not as good as the first... The down side was the 2nd race was 4 days before the series started. So my confidence was a little bruised. OK, I'm not shooting to win the training races, my goal is to pick up at least one race win, and get the series win.

I ended up taking most the week off the bike. I only road the Wednesday race and did an easy Saturday morning. I felt like trash on Saturday also. On the bike, off the bike... it didn't matter. I did a few intervals, and mostly took it easy for the day. A short nap helped... and a nice sleep in on Sunday morning... there are advantages to 12:00 start times.

The first race was in Vermilion, OH. Yes, way west. So I loaded everything up on Saturday. On Sunday morning, I threw the bike on the back and was on my way at 9:30. I arrived at about 10:40 with the gas stop. Signed in and scoped out the course.

The Course

Sherod Park is right on the lake front. They laid out the course with about 8 switchbacks. Some of them went around trees, but most of them just did a 180 degree turn. Pretty wild and twisty.

We started near the road on the grass and did a short straight uphill start to the finish line and the main course. This was in an attempt to spread things out a little before things got tight... it almost worked. A couple of sweeping turns and we're into the trees. Three sections about 20 yards long are connected by 180 turns around 2 trees... and under some pretty low branches. Then a long loop around the front of the park. The course was probably half made up of wood chip trails. It's kind of like sand only bigger chunks, it still sucks a bit out of your acceleration, but doesn't ruin your gear quite as fast... and it makes it tough to hold the wheels down on the switchbacks.

Down past the pavilion to the start location and the first true switchback, just to add a bit to the trail. After the turn, accelerate up a 10 ft grass rise to the road and hit a sweeping right turn to the next field loop. 180 around a tree, up the hill, and then down to the wooden bridge crossing. 3 foot wide bridge, you can only do single file. Oh and no hay bails... in case you were wondering.

A quick left, another switchback onto the wood chip trail and a ridable climb. If you stayed on the chips, and stood you could make it but the rear wheel wanted to come loose. I tended to stay on the grass on the right side for traction.

At the top, we loop through the sculpture (very cool), and around and back down the hill. Through the only marginally muddy section and we looped around the third field. A short parking lot stretch led to the next descent. This one had us go through a sand pit... well, you could go through, but I don't think anyone did. There was another switchback right after the it, so it was best to avoid the sand to the right to setup for the left hand turn. It was tight considering it was at the bottom of a hill.

Climb the hill, a sweeping 180 and head downhill to the first barriers... at beach level. 2 barriers, then 10 yards to a 3 foot diameter log. Over the log and claw your way up a 6 foot climb on a set of mud steps. Then hit the off camber remount... downhill right, so the bike slides away as you hop on... 30 yards, of off camber, then a left turn to the run up. Not huge, but the turn did the damage. Some could ride it, but it was a grind. I shouldered and ran it.

Next we squeeze through a couple of tight turns (through an opening in an 8ft fence) to get to the baseball field loop. Around the fields, and head back in. Before we get to the finish, we do another set of twisty wood chip paths, and the second barrier set. This one is right before a right hander onto another wooden bridge. To make it more interesting, the bridge leads to the uphill finish.

The Pre-Race

A very interesting course. Lots of grass, lots of wood chips. 1.5 miles almost exactly... and the barriers are placed in wild locations. The first set requires you run the short beach, log and hill climb before remounting. Some guys ran the second set, bridge and hill to the finish. I decided to remount on the bridge and ride the finish hill.

I did my pre-rides at 60psi. I pumped up before the Wednesday Edgewater race to try to avoid pinch flats. That worked fine, but I wasn't sure how the sand and wood chips would effect my ride. So after the pre-ride I reduced back down to 45psi. Number one mistake of cross riders is running to much pressure, right? The course had almost no mud, so I wasn't sure what to do... last year, everything was muddy.

There were lots of people I knew there. Guys from last year, guys from Edgewater, and guys I'd met throughout the year. The first race of the year, and we have to see where everyone is fitness-wise.

The Race

19 on the line for the start of the B race. I managed to get a front line position, and try to figure out what gear to use to get a good start. The gun and away we go...

Evidently, I picked to big of a gear, and I'm 6th over the hill and onto the course. Brett sets the pace on his single speed, and we all follow along. Through the first lap, a few gaps open in front of me, but nothing huge. I gain a bit through the barriers and run ups. Things are pretty stable through the first lap... with about half the field gapped behind.

Starting the second lap, I'm around 5th when Ryan comes around me. So I've got Ryan and Brad from Spin, Brett Davis, John Reade from Honey-Stinger, and a Summit Freewheeler in front of me. Near the middle of the second, I passed Brett. I guess the switchbacks really sap the momentum advantage of the single-speed. I also pick up the Summit guy going through the barriers and run up. Fourth... not what I want, but we've got some time to get up there. Having Brett behind me is already a good sign.

3 guys ahead and I've beaten all three of these guys. Granted, I've only beaten Brad once, and that was mostly by his misjudgment of what lap we were on. Brad and Ryan are up front, then John and I. I use the rest of the lap to close the gap to John... maintaining the distance to Brad and Ryan. I'm hoping to recruit John's help to bring back the two Spin riders. As I catch John, I asked how he's feeling, and he can't answer me. Turns out he's having an asthma attack... so he's backing it off to recover. I'm in third with with Ryan and Brad up ahead.

Start the 3rd lap... and Ryan and Brad are looking pretty good. I'm actually hoping they're pushing it too hard... I'm comfortable (as you define comfortable in a cross race!), and I'm hoping I'm recovering for the final laps... oh yeah, how long have we been out here??? 27 minutes. So we're about half way there. Focus on maintaining the gap... don't let it open, but don't blowup. Heading into the second barrier section, and the Summit guy is back! I bobble the bridge remount, and he's around me as I swear and regain the course. Up and over and I'm on his wheel.

Through the trees, and we're bringing back Brad. Ryan's gone away, but it looks like Brad is cooked. On the wood chips, and we catch him... then Summit attacks him before we get to the switchback. I should have jumped there also and stayed with him... instead I end up fighting for position through the switchbacks and over the bridge... it takes the big climb to finally get him behind me for good.

Now I'm third again. Brad is fading, but Summit has opened a gap... not a huge gap but it's big enough. Ryan is looking really strong... can he hold it? I keep watching ahead, and behind. I'm pretty comfortable that I won't get caught from behind... now what can I do about moving up the podium?

33 minutes through lap 4. Nothing is closing. I'm still pretty smooth through most of the sections. I bobble the shifting on a few of the descent/climb transitions, especially the sand pit. I really should start picking up my pace.

I can still see Ryan ahead... and we've got to be getting to the bell! Pick it up... everyone will be cranking for the last lap. So you have to chase hard! But the gap is not coming down! Around the baseball fields I even put it in the 48 to try to get some more speed. Watch the path to get the best line. I am not closing. As I come around the last switchbacks, the Summit guy is through the last barriers... I'm third. OK, no mistakes... just bring it home. Through the barriers, and I ran it up the finish hill.


49:22 for third place. It's a start. Ryan came in just over a minute in front of me. Summit was about 30 seconds up. I ended up taking home some bar tape, which about covers my expenses... and it's the right color also, black! All the better.


My average heart rate for the race was about 169... that's averaging 93% of my max for almost 50 minutes! Maybe I should figure out how to time trial! Nothing strange in the data either. Max was 177, high average lap was 171, low was 168. I was running about 8 minutes a lap. The last lap was the fastest at about 7:53, but I didn't hit the button at the end of the 2nd and 3rd... and the 1st was also a bit off.

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Other things to tinker with are tire pressure, and my race tactics. I felt like my rear tire was flat on the wood chips. I think I should have left that alone after the preride... or not been so aggressive and run something closer to 50-55psi. I also messed up the start with my gear change before the gun, I should have followed Summit's attack around Brad from Spin, and I should have started pushing harder on the second to last lap. It's like I'm learning to race cross all over again.

I'm hoping that I raced poorly because of how I was feeling this week. It may have been the week off the bike. Time to get back on the training... I'm hoping to improve over the next 5 weeks. Ryan has 5 points on me... We'll see how the rest of the races go. I've been putting a lot of pressure on myself to do well at these, I may do better if I just relax and have some fun. I'm content with my third place, but I'd like to do better for the rest of the series.