2015 Woolley Cross – Cascade Cross #1

We actually had a little bit of rain on race day!

It wasn’t enough to generate any mud, but at least I got to experience a few sprinkles while out on course.

The day started off with another women’s specific clinic run by the Washington Women of Cross. Dawn attending this as her second clinic and was able to absorb a bit more knowledge on tire pressure, tread, cornering and some other CX skills. They’re doing a great job of growing the sport among local women and I’m glad to see it!

As far as the race itself goes, I heard a lot of positive comments out there. We had a few people who were on their first cyclocross race and this was a good experience for them.

While we had a serious runup over tree roots, there were no traditional barriers that required dismounting or remounting. The biggest challenge (at least for me) was the long stretches over the still bumpy grass. Some short sections got smoothed out by racers, but it was still pretty bone jarring.

Given my experience at the last race (South Sound Super Prestige) where I kind of blew up early and had a hard time sprinting at the end, I was going to take a different approach at this race.

The plan was to keep an eye on my heart rate and make sure I didn’t get into a zone where I would not get a chance to recover. So rather than blasting out the gate at the start I kept my cool while people passed me.

This seemed to work out fine until we made it to the run up. Normally this would be a good feature for me as I can power up the hill and get back on pretty quick (usually). In this case I totally flubbed the remount. Instead of getting back on smoothly and heading forward, I ended up stopping all momentum while jumping on and ran into some bushes.

Getting myself sorted out and back on course cost me several places and got me out of the “flow”. My HR shot up. Rather than blowing myself up to catch back on I focused on not letting my HR get too high and was going to try and slowly ride myself back on.

Turns out the rest of the field was totally not in with that game plan.

When we got to a relatively smooth and straight stretch they all took off while I focused on keeping calm. By the end of that sector they were all gone.

I didn’t really give up at that point, but it gets harder to justify going into the red when you’re so far off and have little chance of catching on. So I saved my legs for next weekend and rode hard, but didn’t turn myself inside out. I still managed to catch one guy before we both got lapped.

The friends, family, and other race fans were all out doing a great job of cheering, heckling and providing the beer & bacon handups.

Music used in this report video:

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2015 MFG #2 South Sound Super Prestige Race Report

MFG keeping production values high with their running commentary.

Last minute prep for the South Sound Super Prestige began the night before. I stayed at Shawn’s place, a friend and teammate, even though wasn’t going to be able to race the next day. His place is about two hours closer than mine to Lakewood. It’s a good chance to visit and save a bunch of time in the morning. The idea being that I would be better rested and prepared for the next day’s event.

My intention that night was to just have one beer with dinner. Turns out beers went down before dinner started being made. So out came the wine.

A little wine while making dinner.

A bit more wine during dinner.

Even more wine and conversation after dinner.

Before I realized it, it was 10:30 pm and the two of us had emptied two bottles of wine. This was probably not the best prep for a race I’ve ever done.

Waking up at 6:00 am the next morning I had a bit of a headache and a tad dehydrated. Not too bad, all things considered. I guess that’s one upside to being a Clydesdale: more body mass to metabolize alcohol.

Starting off the Clydesdale race at 10:30 with mild alcohol poisoning, I was ready to be done by the second lap. The climb to the top of the water tower hill was the most obvious challenging feature of the course. However the less obvious and more challenging feature was the long stretches through bumpy turf.

“Bumpy” is not really a very complete description of this turf. The moon is “bumpy”. Gravel roads are “bumpy”. This was more like being the rattle shaken around inside of a spray can. Roughly a quarter of each lap was spent enduring this uniquely sapping experience.

After getting out of the “turf of purgatory” you would hit the start/finish stretch. This is normally where you would try to recover or sprint the finish. In my case it felt like just a little bit of relief after the constant pounding. After getting off the pavement you have some time spent on some less bumpy – merely washboard – section of turf before heading through some trees and towards the climb up to the water tower.

Being a Clydesdale (200+ lbs) I was surprised at how many people I could catch and pass on this climb. It’s relatively short, about a minute and a half, so my strategy was to apply as much power as possible, climbing out of the saddle most of the way. By the top I would be crushed, but there was a convenient downhill section to allow a bit of recovery.

After getting back down to the bottom of the hill we had a bit of double track, then into the turf of purgatory, starting with a set of double barriers.

After the barriers you settle in for the long stretch of bobble-head training. I understand the secret to riding this kind of terrain is to use a lower cadence and apply more power. For me that worked up to a point. By the time we got back around to the paved finishing straight my legs and cardio were pretty cooked.

Regardless, by the last lap I still had delusions of glory in the possibility of being able to outsprint two of my Clydesdale competitors.

I caught the pair near the barriers and formulated a plan to sit in until the final paved section. I modified that when it appeared Guy #1 was pulling away from Guy #2. I didn’t like seeing the gap grow, so I accelerated and got in behind Guy #1.

Everything went to plan until we got back on pavement. Guy #1 and I both started accelerating when suddenly Guy #2 came flying by me. He went past Guy #1, who took up chase.

They both pulled away from me despite my fully going into the red zone. I nearly collapsed after the finish.

I blame the bottle of wine.

Music used in the highlight video:

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Labor Day Cyclocross Championships 2015

The inaugural setup of the Pints & Cowbells team tent.

On the drive down to JBLM I was having second thoughts about my tire choice for the day.

I’ve been set up with file treads for dry conditions and was considering switching over to something more aggressive. The rains over the last week had me thinking I should account for terrain that might not be so hard packed. Through a combination of not really wanting to change tires the day before a race and assurances from teammates “it will be fine” I kept the file treads.

As we hit rain squalls driving down I-5 I began thinking the file treads might not be the best choice. But the time we got there (at about 7:30 am) and set up the team tent the rain had stopped and clouds looked less menacing.

On the course pre-ride I could tell the tire choice would be fine. There were no big muddy climbs and there were several sections that were either dirt road, gravel road, or hard pack soil. Other parts of the course were routed though large trees, with plenty of tight corners to keep it interesting. The soil in these sections was a bit looser, but easy to get through with half decent handling skills.

There was one barrier to get over that forced a hill run up on the opposite side.

I ended up racing in the Cat 4 Masters 45+ since there was no Clydesdale option and I didn’t feel like getting crushed by the Cat 3’s.

I had decent start, and was conscious of not putting myself on the front and burning too much energy too early. I was passed by a fair number of racers in the first couple of minutes, but navigated around them later as they blew up.

I found I was able to gain on those in front of me by concentrating on keeping a low cadence and applying more power. Then when the tight corners came I would take turns passing and getting passed by other racers. Counter-intuitively, to me anyway, I was stronger on the “fast” sections than in the tight technical sections. It felt a lot like a diesel coming up to speed. My RPM’s would get up past 75-80 and I would shift up. Cadence would creep up again and I would shift up again. There were two or three sections where I could play that game and make gains.

In the end, I finished 18 out of 30. Still not that top 50% I’ve been chasing, but not bad for a race I have not really been targeting.

A big shoutout to the organizers for the Labor Day Cylcocross Championships for putting on a great event. It was a nice venue and the gear I got set up for the team tent made it even more fun for our group.

2014 Cascade Cross #2 Bellingham BMX #2 Race Report

October 25th, 2014

The race this day was a lot different from the last one. Last time we ran this course it was dry and there was just enough moisture to make it nice and tacky.

Today the rain made parts of the course into a derailleur eating soup. As it turns out, derailleur eating soup is not my ideal racing conditions. It’s not that I don’t like mud per se, it’s just that it seems to be more of a drag on my racing than on other racers.

With that in mind, I was prepared to suffer through the race but a mishap at the start put me even further behind than I would have been ohterwise.

I was lucky enough to get a first row callup. Apparently attendance at previous races counts because it sure wasn’t based on my stallar results. It also helped that a lot of the people who whould have been called up ahead of me did not show up that day.

In general I can start out in a higher gear and power to the front in a start. This time I did not take into account the slight uphill on the grassy start. When the start horn went off I realized I was in the wrong gear when everyone else starting going by me.

So much for a front row start.

To add insult to injury a guy came up on my right just as the course narrowed. He cut me off, then crashed immediately in front of me. He was slow to get his bike out of the way so I had to back up to untangle my bike from his, then go around him.

The rest of the field was long gone ahead of me but I put in the effort to try and catch on. I caught up to the back by the time we hit the stair run up, but came unhitched again in the thick mud.

One thing to take away from this experience is brake adjustment. I tend to have my brake pads set close to the rim for the improved stopping power. This is great for dry courses, but as soon as there is any mud I get a lot of scraping between the rim and the pads.

It’s probably taken me way too long internalize this, but that scraping is the sound of watts being wasted. I can’t help but wonder if part of my struggles on wet courses is due at least in part to having power sucked away by muddy brake track being in close contact with the brakes.

That’s definitely something to work with in the last two races coming up in January.

Staci May and the Heckle Squad
Staci May and the Heckle Squad

I need to give a special shout out to Pints & Cowbells racing team member and Earl’s Bike Shop partner Staci May, along with her group of cheering hecklers. Even though I was out there riding on my own for most of the race I looked forward to them whooping it up and having a good time cheering on riders out in the singletrack woods.