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:

2015 Lake Sammamish GP Race Report

This was another day that had the potential to be a nice day out for the family, or to be the cyclocross version of trench warfare.

We left Bellingham at about 5:45 am to head south to Lake Sammamish. The kids were loaded in and they were already started on some “screen time”. Hey, you do what you need to do. Team gear filled the back of our Sienna.

The nice thing about being on the road that early in the morning is you get to see the sky lighten up. We didn’t really get to catch the sunrise since it was overcast.

Getting closer to Seattle we noticed the clouds get darker and some sprinkling rain start to come down. It seems this could have gone either way – clearing up or downpour.

For the sake of my kids, I’m glad it went towards the clearing up direction. Even though we have gone “all out” on having a team tent this season, it’s still nice to have the option of having the kids go out and use the play area without complaining about it too much.

My wife Dawn has started racing this season in the Beginner Women category and is having a good time with it. Her race went off in the first group of the morning. The kids and I got around to different parts of the course to cheer her on and take photos.

The youth racers went off just ahead of the women. This gave me the chance to cheer on the next generation of racers, both boys and girls, as they made their way around the course. One of the more inspirational moments was watching the smaller kids heave their bikes over the double set of barriers. Imagine having to heave your bike over a barrier that is 1/3 your height, then climbing over it yourself!

These kids were not about to give up and there was quite a crowd there to cheer them on. It really looks like these kids have caught the CX bug we’ll see them racing for years to come. There were some determined young ladies in that group I see as a continuing force to be reckoned with.

Just as Dawn’s race was finishing up my group was already staged at the start. This year I’m racing Clydesdales, which up until this race I was having mixed feelings about. I’m one for sticking to “officialness” in a lot of cases and it kind of felt like the Clyde’s was sort of “made up”.

I appreciate the effort to have something for us burlier guys, but it still felt like a patronizing effort.

That was until I actually raced in the category.

Clydesdale is no joke!

In other years, and in other events, I would race in the Cat 4 Master’s 45+. The winner’s time in the Clyde’s was 1:19 faster than the winner in that group! And while I managed to pull off 9th place (of 20 – barely top 50%), my time would have put me 30th of 69 in Cat 4 Master’s 45+.

So while my percent finish may not be as strong in the smaller field, there is something to be said for racing against a smaller field. Also, since these guys turn out to be really strong riders it might be even better preparation for me to go up through the “traditional” categories as I get more tuned to racing cyclocross.

Check out the video (above) for more detailed course description and experience.

Music in the video used under Creative Commons license:

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.

Aerobic Fitness In Cyclocross – Personal Insights

Anaerobic Power in Cyclocross

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.

Kick Off Cross 2012 – Race #1 2012-2013

kick off cross roger hutchison profile

Kick Off Cross is the first cyclocross race of the season in our neck of the woods (Seattle and northward). It’s held down at Big Finn Hill Park in Kirkland, WA.

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.

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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.