Monday, November 17, 2008

Broadview Heights - 11/16/08

Running some numbers on this weekends race: With only 1 race at the fields this year, I figured it was maybe 60/40 that we would have a wet, nasty day, since that's probably been the history. But it is the fields, you'd think we lived in the pacific northwest... as the weekend drew near, the rains came... and then Saturday, it REALLY came down. So... sure to be wet race day.

The course was set up with a 100m start straight into a 90 left to a 180 around a pole, then straight to an off-camber muddy side along the long end of basketball court. A nice sweeper on the short edge, and then on the concrete for the trip back along the long edge. Then the first dismount had us ride through 2m of mud, 3 uneven stairs, and remount on pavement. Definitely the most difficult feature of the course.

Other fun sections included bombing down the wet sled hill, float the bike at the bottom, and try to hit the 10ft wide gate leading to the road. Hop the curb, ride pavement halfway back up the other side, and shoulder the bike up the other side. Remount some where either in or just beyond the mud puddle, and ride up and down some slick grass punctuated with extra slickery rail ties.

Lots of field crossings around the soccer fields included many extra soggy sections. The worst soggy was right before the start/finish, which promised to make any sprint finish exciting.

So we lined up at 1:44 fr the A race in 30* with some light flakes falling. I guess there wasn't much going on this weekend, as we had all kinds of visitors around... guys came in from Pittsburgh, and Columbus, which was nice to fill the field.

I lined up second row, and felt great at the start. sitting in about 10th heading into the first turn. I hopped off the bike to do the 180, and run the long basket ball off camber section.

The goal is to race the start aggressively, because someone will screw up the start and hold you up. So I'm feeling good about my position... then it turns I'm the one doing the holding up. At the short end I intended to remount, and ride to the stairs... but I end up tripping over my own feet... and dropping my bike. By the time I regain my balance the bike is 10feet behind me... and most of the field has passed before I'm moving again.

Reset button. So the rest of the race was spent trying to regain any of the positions I had lost. I was not very successful. In fact I was going backwards faster than forwards.

The good news is I was happy with my wheel/tire choice. I really like how the Grifo Challenge tires work in the mud. I was running about 30psi. I guess the rule is you should bottom out no more than once a lap... I think I may have bottomed out once all race. The tire didn't gunk up in the thicker mud, held about as well as anything else I've run in these conditions, and cleaned off in the really wet sections. Very nice.

I was also pleased with the lines I was working. Finding solid, fast lines pretty much every where. Thought the far soccer field was nasty until someone (Ernesto) cleared out the large trashcan in the corner... that helped my crossings tremendously.

The bad news is I really have no top end. I'm pretty much nowhere near my max heart rate, and my average for the entire race has been consistently one zone lower than ever before.

At about three quarters through the first lap, I was ready to just pack it in and go home. I didn't. I decided this would be a race of attrition, which was soon starting to play out as Rick broke his dérailleur cable halfway through the next lap. Then I started seeing more and more guys on the side of the course. I just pushed through riding my own race where I was.

My buddy Brett missed the start... I think he was focusing a bit to much on the after race beers. I'm think he saw the field go by, and decided he better hurry up to get to the Master's start... but we all started together. So, he started at least a minute behind. He managed to catch my group, which I promptly fell out of.... then I passed him when he flatted on one of the rail ties. After the race, he asked me why I was going so slow. Nice, buddy.

With two to go, I noticed Jason from Spin was coming back towards me... so I at least had a rabbit. My goal was to NOT get lapped, and maybe to beat Jason. Not fantastic goals, but you need something out there.

Jason knew I was coming, and was sprinting out of corners. But I had the technical bits down, so through the lap, I kept closing the gap. I made the first goal and finished on the lead lap. So then went after the rest of the gap. Jason ran the basket ball court. I ran the off camber, but rode the rest. That helped loads. Then I matched his acceleration away, but completed closing the gap on the sled hill descent, and attacked him on the run up. It was enough that he gave it up. It doesn't matter for his points since we're in different races, but it certainly helped my overall race day to bring him back.

I'm not real sure how the timing is going on these A races... and I'm really not complaining. I did 7 laps (I think) in about 58min.... over 8m per lap. I did see Tony coming in probably 2 or so minutes behind me when I was hitting the sled hill, so I know they must have finished up in somewhere near 45-50 min. No results yet, so I'm not sure how close I was to getting lapped, how many total people were in the field, or where I placed (overall and Master's). I do think I would have been hard pressed to hold off the fast guys for another lap.

I'll rebuff my last paragraph by saying I totally appreciate all the work that Team Lakeeffect puts into these race. I'm not sure what Bill has to do to get Lynn to score all these races and put up with all of us stuck up, prima donna racers every weekend, but I'm sure he doesn't do enough. Though I did see Lynn and Renae picking through a rather extensive collection of wine bottles after the race. Every race has been well laid out, and well run even if a lot of us whine about some minor point that we think we know better about.

I have to say that this area would totally suck if we didn't have this series... thanks to everyone for doing what you all do!

The other "good" news is I'm now fighting a sore throat. So that may have had a part in my lack of top end... and I've got 3 weeks before my next race... so I can recover, and maybe find that confounded bridge.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Kirtland Park 2008

I missed last years edition of Kirtland park, and was bummed to hear about the course additions that I missed. I like this park first because I got my first taste of cyclocross here, and second because it's a cool venue. On warm ups, Bill was saying how much this park felt like the Java Johnny's UCI race at Sunset Park in Cincinnati. Small rinky dink park, with a fantastic race covering about every available inch of ground.

I arrived in plenty of time to get lots of warm ups laps in. I started warm ups in the parking lot above the amphitheater, and promptly dump myself on the second 180 turn. How in the world do you skin both knees... above the knee cap? Great... all told I think I dumped it about 5 times in warm ups... including a nice one before the east end stair run up, that I have no idea how I ended up on the ground. I was already off the bike, close to the shoulder move, when I flipped myself and the bike down. Great! Rick assured me he didn't see that... I hope not, cause that's exactly why I was looking around... "Did anyone see that?"

The good news was, after riding the course a lot, and practicing the amphitheater even more, I felt pretty good about cleaning things... and I wasn't the only one with issues on sections. It's all about NOT loosing time.

Cool thing about the downtown race, was at 12:45, a pair of F18s did a fly over!!! Wow Cyclocross is going big time with fly overs and everything! Then military helicopters TOO! Oh, the Browns had a 1:00 kickoff, and Obama rally started at about 1:45 (I think). I like the CX big time explanation better.

I lined up on the second row next to Bill and Derick, combined start today, so we're off!

It looks to me like there are about 40 racers, and I'm sitting around 30th at the start. At the 180, I see an opening next to Bill, so I take the inside line close to the tree. There's a bit of contact, and Bill and I have a little chat about it as we accelerate to the next turn. It was literally a little chat. Up the west stairs, and the race is already well sorted out. I figure, I'm sitting around 6th in the Master's with Bill up the way a bit, and Rick on my wheel, and Derick behind by a reasonable gap.

I'm not firing on all cylinders after yesterdays efforts, but I'm about where I should be in the master's field. Then some of the A racers start passing me, that I think I should be able to hang with or beat... so that plays on my head. Rick is stuck to me like glue... which also works on me.

So 20minutes in, and I touched the front breaks on the first 180 into the amphitheater... and go down HARD. again to cheers of the crowd YAY! My foot is stuck in the pedal, Rick is by me, Derick comes by while I take my chain beack above the chain guard, and I'm now playing catch up. I was real close to just packing it all in... and going to eat some cookies. It takes a while for me to get my head back into the race.

I figured out my front brakes are a bit grabby... it must be time for some adjustment. So I take the feather touch for the remainder of the race. Up ahead I see that Rick isn't pushing it as hard without someone to follow, and Derick catches and then leaves him. I've got my own issues with Stephan from RGD in his first CX race of the year. He passed me when I first revisited the amphitheater, and was getting used to it again, so I had to take a lap to get by him, and leave for Rick.

I end up catching Rick when Mike Plank(SPIN) returns to the race after what must have been a hard fall on the service garage off camber. He tried an attack through the start finish, and I latched on. Mike got around Rick, and I couldn't get around before the 180. When he accelerated away, it was Rick and I again. I passed Rick at the remount on top of the stairs, and went in search fo Derick.

I managed to not loose a lot more space, but Derick was not coming back. I was soon caught by the Pflug/Ernesto/Martin train... right as I was approaching the single file gate out of the ball diamond... so I sat up and let them through. Then went back to work knowing I only had 1 lap to go. After conceding my goal for the day (to not get lapped) My new goal was to not get caught by anyone else... and that took some serious work, cause I could see one guy coming, and then Brent and Matt Weeks fighting it out.

Run for my life! And I did.

Turns out Bill had a mechanical, so I finished in 6th place in the masters... that would be about 35th overall maybe? I haven't seen the results yet. Overall not happy with my legs this weekend, but it's still better to be racing, and I'll still return for more punishment next time... I've got 2 weeks to find something, anything.

Chagrin River Cyclocross Challenge 2008!

Double weekend.... or the crash and leg burn! Two races this weekend, First the Chagrin River Cyclocross Challenge, AKA the CX party by the river... Brett called for a costume party, and there were 6 costumes in the A/Master's fields. Better than anything else I've seen in CleveO

Saturday, I scrambled to get together a costume for the race. I've already shown up at random races with the Shrek headgear, so I figured I should go a little bit further.... I broke out the retro (V2) Snakebite kit... which is scary enough for our resident artsy guy. Then I scored a little more fun from the drug store Halloween clearance table.

Check Rick's Flickr site for more costume fun photo's!
It turns out we had a good number of costumes, which made the day even more fun. Add beer hand ups through the barriers, and overall party atmosphere that Brett brings.... what a fun day.

Oh, and the race!

On a political note, since this is election week, there's a lot I can say about Master's races... but I'm coming to realize I am just a grumpy old man.

Anyway, I don't think they had a "payout" for the master's category, even though we started 30seconds after the A's. I don't fault Brett on this, he ran a great race.... but it did ensure that Rudy was not racing for a placing... Since everyone is giving opinions now, I'm going to vote to always start the master's with the A field in every race. That will give the slower A racers someone to race against... filing out the field, and let the Master's racers know where they really stand. The idea is to get a decent number of guys into the field. I'm SUPER happy that there are more than 12 guys in the A races now... why artificially take guys out?

OK, no more soap box. I got a good start for the Master's field. I was second wheel through the first half lap, and felt good. Rudy set the pace, and I sat. I had no problem when Jeff came around me fine, I'll sit on. Five of us were away.... four Lake Effect and me. Then Derick muscled his way past, and proceeded let a gap open to Jeff and Rudy. I have no idea if I could have prevented that gap. I felt fine, but also didn't want to get worked by team tactics. So I just sat on and hoped I could go the distance racing Bill and Derick.

Brett did another fantastic job on the course. The new sections were great, and it ended up a challenging mile and quarter course. Twisty and at times technical, I had two time loss spots about half a lap apart. The sand was ridable this year, the hill was a greasy mess... and my remount on it was less than optimal. The other spot was the "former" river crossing. I could ride it if I cut it at an angle. The fastest guys were hitting it straight and able to make it.

So, Bill gets around me, and a gap opens slowly in my time spots. Soon, I'm alone chasing Derick, and racing among the "slower" A racers, picking off those I can. In the end I'm racing with Greg from Spin, and I totally screw the river crossing.... and drop my chain. I almost took Greg out at the same time... but he made it past with only minimal contact. I get the chain straightened out, and I'm no trying to chase Greg down again!

Derick is gone, there's no one pressuring me from behind. I only got lapped by the first 5 A racers... yeah. So I finish in fifth masters. At least the scene was fun, and I got lots of cheers for the wings! Got to love that.