Silver Lake is one of my favorite venues in any of the series’ that I’ve raced. Mainly because the course is always so darn challenging.
This day the course was laid out a little differently from other times I’ve raced here. Rather than starting out and heading straight across the beach into a left turn, over a barrier, and up a hill… it went the opposite direction.
We started out heading south, hitting the section of course that in other races is the set of downhill grass and hairpin turns that signals the end of the lap. This direction it’s a set of hairpin turns soon after the start line and then up the grassy hill. And then you hit a set of off camber hairpins before going on with the rest of the course.
It was this section of turns that caused my initial grief for the day.
Going through the parts that were heading down, with an off-camber hairpin heading back up my front tire burped out some air. I though I might be able to limp along to the pit, but the next corner burped out more air and I was sure the tire had come off the rim.
It turns out the tire stayed on, but was so low that I was bouncing the rim on the hard pack grass.
So it was time to throw the bike up on my shoulder and start hoofing it. I was still fresh enough that I was able to run most of the 1/4 lap to the pit. This alone cost me about half a lap on the rest of the field.
When I got the pit I changed out the front wheel without too much trouble. I started to change out the rear tire to try and avoid any other trouble for the remainder of the race, but in the haze of adrenaline and wanted to get back in the race I forgot to undo the rear brake.
So I couldn’t get the rear tire to come out and by the time I figured out why I already had it snugged back in and wanted to get back to pedaling. I was hoping it would for the rest of the race.
It did hold. For a while.
In a cruel twist of fate it held just long enough to get around through the start line to finish the first lap. And long enough to get past the first entry to the pit area. Then it felt like it burped a little air through some corners.
And then it lasted just long enough for me to get past the second entry to the pit. Then it finally went nearly completely out.
Even though I was just past the pit, racers are not allowed to go backwards on the course. So that meant either quitting (and getting a DNF) or running/walking for half a lap, getting back around to the first pit entrance, and replacing the rear wheel.
So the bike went back on the shoulder and I went back to running.
Running through the sand.
Running past the start/finish line, getting heckled by the announcer.
Running through the hairpins, getting heckled by the lady racers.
Running back to the pit, finally getting that rear tire on.
After doing the tire change I was able to get back into some sort of rhythm. At this point I was in with the singlespeeders group who had started a ways behind us.
The course was still hard even though now I was riding it instead of riding it. I watched the leader of my race pass me for the second time as I headed back around the course.
Finally I hit the start/finish for the last time and heard the announcer call me out as being in 29th place. Turns out that 29th was the last of the people who didn’t DNF (32 total).
This was going to be a hard race regardless. Silver Lake always is. This time around I made it a little harder on myself by experimenting with a new tire setup on race day. It’s a lesson learned that I can carry forward and share with anyone who cares to listen.
Temperature: 81 degrees
Dry, hot and dusty
Cat 3 Masters 45+
The Marymoor Velodrome accumulated more people as the evening went on. These first two races of the season have been the hottest we’ve raced. Both have been eighty degrees or above. This makes a 40 minute race where you’re going all out even more of a challenge when you don’t have water on board to drink.
One of the things that was nice about racing Cat 4 last season was that we were typically the first race of the day and would get a chance to take a lap or two of the course before the race. Sometimes the course would not be 100% marked out yet, but that was generally okay.
Racing in the 2nd or 3rd race of the day can mean trying to sneak in a recon ride and then getting chased off the course so they can start the next race. It’s a challenge, but the up side is that we don’t have to get to the venue quite so early. At least, that will last until we start setting up a team tent at the races. Then we’ll be going back to being at races really early again.
To be completely frank, Marymoor Velodrome is not my favorite course. It’s mostly flat and uninteresting, but the organizers do the best with what they have. Mixing it up by running the race up and down the outside of the velodrome is a good touch, as is putting a log barrier section on one of those outside uphills.
The real star of the course is the velodrome infield. This aspect is a real standout as you have food trucks, vendors, sponsors and the beer garden all in close proximity. The fact that there *is* a beer garden is definitely a highlight.
Overall, I’m just glad to be able to race and it’s a good time regardless. I was able to stick around for the elite women’s race at 7:00 pm and the men’s elite race at 8:00 pm. Those are definitely worth staying late for. You get to see some very strong athletes tackle the same course and obstacles you were just on earlier in the day. You get a feel for just how much they have to push themselves to go as fast as they do.
I recommend that you go to race yourself, then stick around for the party and the night racing!
It was a bit of a different experience getting to the venue just shortly before the first race of the day. Normally Shawn and I are in the first race of the day. Today we start at 11:10 am.
Since we arrived at the venue at about 8:30, this gave us plenty of time to scope out the course, take a recon lap and start getting warmed up.
On recon we found there were three sand sections. One that was short and ridable, the second that was a little longer and ridable, and the third that was longest and not ridable at all.
My strategy going in was to ride as much as I could and then run the remainder. I was thinking that riding would be faster than running, despite my previous experience that I can make time on the other racers when I’m running. That came back to haunt me a bit later in the day.
The remainder of the course was dry and fast with a mix of pavement, hard pack turf, and navigating a small grove of trees.
At the start they did call ups by last digit of your race number, which put me at the back of the start.
It was a pretty clean start with a bit of a bobble and contact between Shawn and another rider. Starts can be sketchy with all the nerves and guys trying to put out maximum power to make the hole shot. Shawn saved it and continued on without trouble.
I made my way through the first corner without trouble and managed to pick my way through the field, passing Shawn within the first few turns.
My focus for the first 2/3 of the race was going to be not to “blow up” like I’m known to do. I tend to start races feeling really good, but then have nothing left for later.
I rode through the first sand section according to plan with no trouble.
I also rode most of the way through the second sand section, but it cost me energy and race positions. This is where Shawn passed me back. He kept that lead for a couple more laps as I was still trying to conserve energy but also still making the mistake of trying to ride the 2nd sand sector rather than running.
The middle of the race was fairly uneventful, other than it was a fun course to race and navigate. Before too long I found myself in among the group that started a minute behind ours, so at least I was not racing alone, even though I may have been at the back of my own group.
With two laps to go I started expending a bit more energy to try and catch Shawn as well as try to get a little better overall result.
That paid off, as well as finally figuring out that I should run the 2nd and 3rd sand sectors. I caught Shawn just after the third sand sector with just over a lap to go.
I figured he would work to stay on my wheel until the finish and he would try to out sprint me.
I stepped on the gas a bit more and minimized my recovery on the last lap to make sure I put in some distance and to try for the best possible result.
There was a guy I caught on the final run through the final sand sector who seemed completely cooked as we exited the sand. He surprised me by coming around me after the remount. I figured I would be able to pass him, or least hold his wheel for the sprint at the end.
I had him in sight until the barrier section, but then just after that he was completely out of sight. I don’t know how he put ten seconds into me before the finish, but that’s what happened. Good move by him as I was at my limit by that point.
I crossed the line 53rd out of 58 and was lapped at some point by the winner, but it felt a lot closer than that. With the winner turning in a time that averages just over 7 minute 15 second laps, it was not hard to foresee getting lapped. In fact, only 37 of the 58 guys finished on the winner’s lap, with 5:08 separating first from 37th.
The MFG Nine2Five mountain bike race was back on July 26th. The format for this (inaugural) event is eight hours of racing from 9 am to 5 pm – hence, “Nine2Five”. This can be done solo (ugh!) or in two or three person teams.
One nice thing about this weekend is that it was a bit of a getaway to the wilderness of Roslyn, WA to do some bike racing in the mountains. We weren’t really sure what the weather would hold in store for us. If it wasn’t raining I would be happy!
That came back to haunt us a little bit when the temperatures were in the 80’s while we were racing. High temperatures add a whole new dimension to fatigue.
We went as hard as we could. After all, there was a T-Shirt on the line! If we could finish more laps than hours (9 laps in eight hours) then we would win the coveted prize. That’s a little bit of a fudge. A rider had to start the ninth lap before 5:00, so really it was 8 laps in just under eight hours – plus however long it took for the last lap.
We had the good fortune of being able to stay over at a house owned by a teammate’s uncle in Roslyn. It was barely a five minute drive from the house to the start in some sort of horse competition ring.
We arrived in Roslyn Friday night, found some dinner at a Mexican restaurant, then got to bed at a pretty early hour since we had come to the uncomfortable conclusion that we needed to be up at 5:30 am if we wanted to get our tent set up at 7:00.
After a breakfast of sausage and eggs we geared up and headed out the door. We ended up with a nice spot for the tent and set up our camp for the day. Funny how it turned out that we wouldn’t see or talk to each other much during the day except for when we saw each other at the end of each lap.
The course was definitely one to test your fitness. After getting out of the horse area and navigating a short rock garden you found yourself on a gravel double track that went slightly uphill. After that is when it started to get hard.
An immediate right up a short gravel section had a lot of people out of the saddle, a lot of people sitting and grinding it out, and a few people already starting to walk.
After this was a longer section of climbing that I was determined to ride up, even though I had no idea how long it was. It turns out I didn’t quite make it to the top without getting off and walking. It was a brutal climb (for me, anyway – and a lot of others) and it was a treat to get to the top and ride the singletrack.
Before getting to the highest elevation on the course there is a bit more up and down with some additional elevation gain.
Then things start going downhill – fast. Although I would call the downhill “technical” there were no big drops to contend with. It was a lot of downhill hairpin turns and a bit of loose dirt/gravel. Often I visualized my brake rotors getting red hot from all the braking. I was too busy trying to stay on the trail to actually check if that was the reality.
After getting to near the bottom of hill there was a section of double track before going back into the woods for more climbing and a fun, less steep, downhill section.
As a team we were able to manage getting our nine laps in. They ran out of shirts on site so they sent them to us later. The organizers said they will make earning the shirts harder for next year. Oh, joy.
Shawn and I were already planning to increase our total number of laps next year anyway.
Even though it’s one of the harder cycling events I’ve done, I’m looking forward to the challenge again next year. It was good to be able to hang out and spend a day racing.
Is it surprising that you need strong aerobic fitness in cyclocross? It kind of was to me. If you’re familiar with CX, you’ve probably seen how much power is needed right from the start to get to the front. Plus there’s a crap ton of accelerations since you need to slow down for barriers and sharp turns. Then there’s the mud and grass to deal with.
This all led me to believe that you could do well in cyclocross races if you could produce a lot of power in short bursts (anaerobic power). While that’s true, you also need to be able to recover in between those bursts.
When I finished my 2012 cyclocross season I was not really happy with how the season went. I was pretty much at the back of every race I entered. And it’s not like I’m racing at the highest levels. I race Cat 4 Men, 35 – 44. That’s not exactly where all the glory is.
At the time, I figured the anaerobic conditioning I was doing with Crossfit would help carry me through. Well, it probably got me fit enough to at least be strong at the start, but my physiology tends more naturally to the anaerobic side.
Figuring I could do better, I asked one of my Crossfit coaches to help me develop a better engine for the 2013 cyclocross season. He’s very good with programming conditioning and improving athletes, so I figured this would be a good fit.
While my results were better for 2013 over 2012, it’s not quite what I was hoping for. Having someone work with me over the past season, and seeing what the results were from that, helped determine where my main weakness is (recovery from anaerobic efforts) and what I need to do in training and in races to address it.
What I have going for me looking to next season is that I know where my engine is and my coach knows how to move it where it needs to be.
It turns out I’m pretty heavily on the anaerobic side of the spectrum. While you would think that would be good for an event that doesn’t last more than an hour, I’m so far on the anaerobic side that I don’t recover that well after putting in big efforts. I have very good power output when I’m fresh, but then I’m tapped.
So what we need to do is build up more of the aerobic capacity. I need to be able to recover after putting in the big efforts I’m capable of.
This also works into the strategy for my last race of the season, which comes up tomorrow. Even though I can blast off the line and be in the top five to ten of my category, I probably shouldn’t. Because every time I’ve done that this season, I lose the leaders after half a lap. Then by the second or third lap I’m really hurting because I’m still trying to push hard, but I’m not getting the recovery time I currently need.
So my strategy for now is to go out not quite as hard and ride within myself, taking the occasional dig into my anaerobic power when I need to. Maybe that will keep me from being DFL this time. I can only hope!
I’m definitely looking forward to building out my aerobic and recovery capacity over this next training season.
Transition bikes has released a new bike from their stable. These folks are bit more on the single speed side of cyclocross, when means more flannel, knickers and drunken binges than I can personally manage. I don’t have anything against singlespeeders, but I do like gears on my bike. It may be something I’ll have to try out one day.
Regardless, I had to come up with an excuse to show the launch video they make for their new ride, the Rapture. I’m sure it’s a fine bike, but what really makes the sale is the video. After starting out with some technical bits about how the singlespeed dropouts work they go in to “training day” with two SS CX racers.
First they’re doing mud puddle training, with some extra toughness thrown in. And of course there are the varying difficulties of taking beer hand ups. You must train for these. Then there is the my favorite, which is the CX version of motor pacing. This makes roadies look even more petite.
Transition Bikes HQ is not too from from Pint’s & Cowbells HQ, just up the road in Ferndale. Their industrial park has also been the location of some wicked CX races in the Cascade Cross Series as well.
I’m all for supporting local companies, but there’s a couple of reasons I probably don’t see a Transition bike in my near future. For one, steel. I admire craftsmanship, but I just can’t see myself riding a steel bike again. And… gears. If they ever come out with an aluminum frame ready for discs and internal cable routing I would definitely take a closer look.
But for now I just admire their videos and their dedication to making some mighty fine bikes for their market. And they make some pretty cool videos.
With the cyclocross season starting I’ve received a few questions about what to do before your first race. My mind starts reeling with all the different factors to consider, but I’ll boil it down to a few elements here.
Once you have that covered you will want to get some practice doing some of the things you will only do on a CX bike. Regardless of what kind of course or weather you’re going to have, you will be doing some dismounting and remounting. Besides actually pedaling your bike, this is going to be your most used skill.
Go out in a grassy area in the yard or a park and practice a bit.
To dismount simply swing your right leg over and behind your bike. As your foot comes around and you’re ready to step with that foot onto the ground unclip your left foot from the pedal if you’re using clipless pedals. If you’re using platform pedals without clips this is much simpler as you don’t have to worry about unclipping.
If you’re using toe clips or cages, remove them. Seriously. You’re going to get hurt.
Be sure to dismount a few steps ahead of the barrier or whatever it is you need to run through. This will give you a chance to hit some stride before the obstacle and get over it cleanly.
When remounting try to keep some speed with the bike. Swing your right leg over and hop onto the saddle first, aiming to land on the inside of your right leg (rather than straight on your bottom). Landing on the inside of your leg reduces the impact. Then you just slide your butt into position on the saddle while getting your feet back into the pedals.
It feels clumsy and awkward at first. If you check out the pros on YouTube videos it seems like they do the whole thing without breaking stride. They make it look easy because they’ve done it thousands of times. Practice.
Here’s a good instructional video for dismounting and remounting:
Kris (in the video above) mentions that “step through” is an advanced technique. In truth, even most pros are not doing step throughs anymore. You just need to watch videos from pro CX races from the past few years to see that. Also, here’s 2012 US National CX Champion Jeremy Powers discounting the technique:
As you’re looking at the calendar and figuring out which race you’re going to make your debut, there’s a few things to consider. You want to prepare for the weather.
Hopefully you will be doing your first race in the early season when the weather is not going to be such a shock to the system. If it’s 36 degrees and raining for your very first race, you might be facing a few more challenges at once than you need to.
If you’re doing a race in the September or October time frame, then you have fewer things to worry about. No drive trains are likely to freeze up in these relatively mild months.
Here’s a beginning packing list. After you do a few more races you will figure out other things you may want to bring along. For now we will just keep it simple.
Starting at the top, you obviously need a helmet. Any helmet intended for biking use will do. If it’s going to be cold, you might want to get some ear warmers.
Sport glasses are nice to have, but not absolutely necessary. Lots of people use them, lots of people don’t. If you wear contact lenses it may be a good idea. I wear contacts and when I have not worn protective glasses in dry and dusty conditions my eyes were very uncomfortable by the end of the race. For muddy conditions the need is probably a little more obvious. In ‘cross season it’s likely to be overcast so track down some clear lenses.
Going with a base layer t-shirt is largely a personal preference, but since I started using a base layer I’ve really come to prefer it. I like having the layer between my skin and the straps on my bib shorts. Avoid cotton if you can and go with some sort of technical wicking fabric if you have it. Under Armour makes very popular shirts for all weather conditions designed to be worn as a base layer.
A cycling jersey is great if you have one to use. You probably will not need to carry anything in your jersey pockets since the races are relatively short compared to road races or recreational road rides. The one thing you may need to carry with you are your car keys.
One way to be sure your keys don’t get ejected from your jersey pocket is to use one of the pins you get with your race numbers to pin them to the inside of your jersey pocket. You really don’t want to spend the rest of the day going over every inch of the course looking for your car keys.
For shorts, you really want to have a pair of biking shorts, either regular shorts or bib shorts. Even though these races are shorter duration the chamois in biking shorts helps protect your more sensitive areas from the bumping and impacts you’re sure to experience. Also, well fitting bike shorts will not get in the way when you’re trying to do a running remount on your bike.
If it’s colder you can opt for some insulated cyclings pants or tights. The big caution here is to wear something that’s not going to snag on your saddle while you’re doing your running remount.
That tends to end badly.
If you can, wear your insulating layer under your shorts. Avoid leg warmers. They have a tendency to fall down around your ankles which puts a bit of a damper on trying to pedal.
For your feet, you can wear shoe covers for your warm up laps. But as with the leg warmers, during the course of a race they have the distinct possibility of becoming dislodged or getting jammed up in your cleats.
Instead you can wear some thicker cold weather cycling socks or use the chemical toe warmers you can find in sporting goods stores.
That’s about it for clothing.
For food you may need to experiment with what works best for you. Keep in mind that beginner or Category 4 races are usually the first ones of the day. This means a relatively early morning start, somewhere between 9 am and 10 am. A good rule of thumb is to finish breakfast about three hours before you start. This should give you time to digest and have an empty stomach at the start line.
Starting a race with a ball of food in your gut is an awful feeling and does nothing for performance.
On the mechanical side, it doesn’t hurt to bring along some extra tubes and a pump. I had one experience where I had three flats just doing warm up laps. I ended up borrowing a tube from another racer, but then still ended up borrowing a wheel from another racer as I flatted again heading to the start line.
If you’re doing a race and it’s pretty dry out you may not need to worry about cleaning much before packing your bike up. But if you encounter any amount of mud, you’re likely going to want to get a bit of that grit out before heading home.
Unfortunately, most amatuer venues don’t have pressure washers for all to use. So the next best thing is to bring your own. But rather than getting something with a motor and still needing to hook up to a hose, just get a two gallon sprayer from your local hardware store. Actually, get two. In the morning before you head to the race fill them up with hot water from the tap.
Also bring along a small bucket, some brushes, and a bit of car wash liquid.
When you’re all done racing you can take a few minutes to scrub down your bike (and your legs) with some nice warm sudsy water. You’ll be the envy of all the other races. I’ve even had offers for beer in exchange for cleaning bikes! Even though I kind of like the bike cleaning process, it would have to be a good amount of good beer to get to do someone else’s dirty work.
That’s my advice for doing your first race!
You can leave any other questions not covered here in the comments section and I will get back with you!
As much as I hate to admit it, the experiment with running my Clement LAS clinchers on converted Shimano RS10 wheels is just not going to work out. However, I do have a “Plan B” that may not be quite as plush and reliable as a good tubeless/tubular setup, it should still be decent.
So how did the experiment end?
It ended with me standing over my bike, looking sideways at the sealant bubbling out from all around the bead. As good as Stan’s is, there was no way this was going to seal. I was near my floor pump so I made a valiant effort to re-inflate and try different pressures again, but there was no way it was going to re-inflate without a compressor.
This day actually started out with some promise.
For four days prior to this I’d had my wheels laying up horizontally on a bucket and small trash bin. I even flipped them over and shook them each day to make sure sealant would get to all the right spots and give the whole setup a better chance of success.
On test day I took the bike out to a local part and inflated the rear to 35 psi and the front to 30 psi, measured using a digital pressure gauge. This is pretty close to the pressures I used for last season when I weighed in at about 210 lbs. I was about 195 lbs at the time of this test, so I figured these pressures would be a good starting point.
I went a couple laps around the park on various bits of singletrack, making an effort to bottom out and see what would happen. I tried a moderately off camber line on a grassy hill and everything seemed to hold up fine.
After this, I reduced rear pressure down to 30 psi and front down to 27 psi. For a real test of what might happen during a race I rolled up to a parking curb and hit the front wheel at an angle.
The seal between tire and rim instantly blew.
It was this moment, watching helplessly as the air bled out from all around the rim, that I realized this was just not going to be a reliable solution.
There are (at least) two basic problems that I was trying to work around and look past to make this work. The first is that the sidewalls on the Clements are very supple. This is an advantage when running tubes as you have less combined tire stiffness, which should give a ride that hooks up better.
The second problem – which is likely the main issue – is that the tire fits pretty loosely on the converted rim. Even with additional rim strip and tape, the rim and tire contact did not make enough contact to allow the tire to be inflated with a floor pump, or even with a CO2 inflator.
This is my main lesson. I think to really make a tubeless setup work, the tire should be able to be inflated (and hold air) using a floor pump and not relying on sealant. Especially with the lower tire pressures we want to run in cyclocross, you should have a tight seal between tire and rim. Let the sealant be the second line of defense and puncture resistance.
I still want to go tubeless, but it’s not going to be for this season.
I would like to get a new bike for next season set up specifically for tubeless (compatible rims and tires). For this year I’m not going to invest in new wheels, and I already have the two sets of clements.
My “Plan B” is to go with latex tubes. This has some other potential downside, but from what I understand there is some upside to make it worthwhile. I’ll have another report on the details coming up.
The next stage in my saga of getting Clement’s LAS clinchers on my Shimano RS10 wheels (converted for tubeless) finally got here.
As much as I want to support my local bike shop sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands. After trying to get them to order both a set of Clement LAS and PDX clinchers for me (and getting tubulars instead) – and then telling me that none of their suppliers had them – I finally went ahead and ordered them myself online.
They were at my house within four days. That includes two weekend days.
Now that I have the rubber it’s time to take the whole mess to the LBS and have them do the conversion for me. This includes the tires, wheels and my NoTubes Cyclocross Conversion Kit. I know that Clement does not “officially” support going tubeless with these tires, but the potential gains are great enough that I’m willing to take some risk in getting these puppies set up.
The local bike shop has a couple of things going for it. For one, they have an air compressor which is almost certainly going to be required to get these tires to seat on a converted wheel. For another, they have a fair amount of experience doing this conversion with mountain bike tires. I’m confident they can get it work, given enough time.
At this point I still have plenty of time before cyclocross season starts so I can put the setup through the paces. I would much rather have a failure now and have a chance to fix it. Much better than the alternative of finding out on the race course.
This was my first race of my first season of cyclocross in 2011.
It makes for an easy transition from other bike racing since it’s so early in the season and we have the nice weather transition from summer to fall. In the previous two years the course has been very dry, with quite a bit of dust kicked up from grass sections. The temperature has even reached into the 70’s on race day. Some call this “The AntiCross” because the weather is so pleasant.
The down side is that you have to prepare a little differently from your typical CX race.
It’s important to hydrate well before the start. Since most racers don’t carry water with them, the mouth can get pretty parched when you’ve been sucking dust for 30 minutes.
If you plan ahead you can take advantage of knowing is probably going to be dry hardpack on the day of the race. This year I’m planning to go with a file tread rather than regular aggressive knobby tires. On paper this should get me going a little faster than I might otherwise.
When I raced this in 2012 I came in 70th out of 79 racers in the Cat 4 Master Men 35+. Since January of this year I’ve been working with a coach and I truly expect to place a little higher than that this year. If I can start placing in the top 50% of the race that will be a big improvement.
Also in 2012 I learned a couple of the bottleneck points and saw a couple of strategies on dealing with them. Perhaps I’ll get a chance to use that to my advantage.
This is also the first race my 2 year old (now 3) was able to do the kiddie race. In 2012 he did it on a scooter. For 2013 he’ll be on a two wheeler. Progress!
All in all, it’s a great way to start the season. A fast, dry course to test out the legs and see where you sort out in the local competition.