Doing it all the hard way...

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Mutual of Enumclaw Stage Race 2013 Photos and Race Report

First off; photos of all racers and all races can be found here:
Riding back to the car post TT
Although I had always wanted to do a stage race, I didn't even consider doing one until just a few weeks ago. My goal for the 2013 Road season was to earn the points to upgrade from Cat 5 to Cat 4. I managed to do that, but Hottie and I were having so much fun, and I had that unexpected success at OVRR, that I decided to go for one more.
Perhaps a bridge too far? Read on....
Work was getting about as intense as it ever does but the kindness of others allowed me to sneak away early Friday. With guilt I read email traffic that continued well past dinner Friday and on through the whole weekend. I have beers to buy.
Friday afternoon saw Hottie and I heading toward soggy Enumclaw with the war wagon packed tight with bikes and wheels and clothes and wheels and food and wheels and camera gear.
We hooked up with Geoff and grabbed some dinner and then Hottie and I drove the courses.
We had decided not to stay in Enumclaw so we had a short drive to our hotel. The hotel was snuggled between a freeway and train tracks. There were a few cycling teams staying there and energy was in the air.
Hottie was photographing all of the racers and the first TT riders were going off at 0700 hours; so we got up pretty early. We got set up and I warmed up on the trainer for a few minutes before heading out to my start. The occasional sprinkles changed to a steady rain and I resigned myself to getting soaked.
Phil, my second favorite race official (behind Wick) was the starter and I asked him to count me down in French. He did so and when he said, "Allez!" I was off.
I ramped up quickly and settled in. I watched my HR climb into the 170’s where it would stay until I crossed the finish line. I pushed my shoulders down low and shifted my hands and elbows forward and I felt like Superman flying three feet above the ground. I caught my thirty second man about three k in. The rain was dripping off my aero helmet, known around Casa de Evo as "The sperm hat."
The first corner was sharp and I got out of my tuck just for a moment and after settling back in I really had a good rhythm going. A little hill disrupted me and it took a good while to get going smooth again.
Evo breathing hard and going as fast as he can
Soon I passed Hottie and I tried to suck my gut in so I would look skinny for the photos. Really.
As oxygen debt really set in and made decisions such as "should I breathe" difficult, there were a few final turns that required some attention. One k to go sounds so short, but at times, it is just a time measurement for your allotted increments of pain.
One final left hand turn and up ahead was the timing tent and I'm all done. But in fact, I'm only done with my first race of the day. This is crazy. What am I doing?
Everything I know says that recover is the name of the game so I rode back to Hottie and changed into dry clothes, ate something and got as close to prone as I could in the back of the car while she photographed rider after rider.
The rain stopped, the rain started. The rain got harder, then as my Crit start time approached it got more harder. I dug out arm warmers and shoe covers and a cycling cap and covered my bike saddle as the rain pounded all hope from our hearts.
Geoff snagged a podium finish in the Cat 4 Crit. After watching a couple of crashes I figured we Masters racers being a little older and (one would think) a little wiser would start out mellow and stretch out as the race progressed. I could not have been more wrong.
It was a gun fight from the word "ready." There were two guys from a Candian team that were sitting one two after the TT and they took off like they had robbed a bank. Bombing rain, slick streets, middle aged men who are supposed to know better and we are racing like the fate of the free world is at stake.

A close look and you can see the water flying
Spray from rear tires in my face and I am trying to take smart lines and avoid the abundant "road iron" of man-hole covers, grates, and lids, not to mention (although I am indeed about to mention..) pot holes and lumpy road patches.

I took an inside line and hit a puddle and felt the cold water run down my shin and inside my right bootie. I looked at my Garmin computer and we were flying. Then a crash and two riders went down in front of me. It was just far enough that I had time to avoid it, and look the other way. The older I get the more I am able to hone and exercise my powers of denial.
Evo leading Scott for the moment.. Looks wet eh?
My quads were screaming. Attack, attack, brake for the corner, attack, attack. I saw the lap counter going down, but not fast enough. My TT was sixteen minutes of pain and the Crit was looking like it would be thirty minutes of absolute high intensity suffering. Despite a 3:05 start time, the dark and rainy skies gave the race a twilight feel.
All too soon I was done. I despite the wet and cool temperatures I was anything but cold. I grabbed a towel and wiped down and threw my wet clothes in a bag. Cyclocross has taught me nothing if not to bring a waterproof bag for my wet clothes post race.
We stuck around for the later races and Hottie kept shooting pics and I tried not to let anyone see me whimper. Once the endorphins wore off, I realized how spent I was. And in less than 20 hours I would be done with the road race. Crazy I am.
I took exceptional pleasure from my shower back at the hotel. Hottie rubbed my sore muscles and I fell asleep faster than it took you to read this sentence.
Sunday was the road race and we have figured out how to do that. The course has 250 meters of climbing per lap. What goes up must come down and the descent is a screamer.
The buzz of the afternoon and night before was replaced by tired haggard looks as riders shuffled around getting ready for the race. There was a heightened sense of camaraderie amongst the walking wounded. Puffy eyes and messy hair told the story. We were all cooked before we even got started today.
The skies looked ominous but the ground was dry(ish). I determined to follow the Chouinard principle. Chouinard once said that the best way to survive an alpine ascent was not to bivouac, and thus not carrying bivouac gear was a wise move. Some of my friends and I have embellished this and often say the best way to prevent rain is not to bring rain gear. I started with no arm or leg warmers and naked white shoes. I was going to single handedly make it dry, and to my credit I succeeded.
The race started off and shortly after the neutral roll out the punches started flying. Small easily defended punches, but it got our legs warmed up for the climb which is the dominant feature of the course.
We hit the climb and it hit us back. The road kicked up sharply and the racing began. The attrition started in earnest and riders were dropping like crazy. I was still in the hunt and on the final part of the climb I could feel my legs begging me to back off and my HR was redlining. I was among the last to be spit off from the lead group, but off I was.
The climb finally got me..
At the top of the climb is a false flat that goes for half a mile and I was hoping to catch back on. I watched the pack pass a pole and counted off the seconds until I passed the same pole. Then I picked another landmark and did the same. I was losing ground. Shit.
I looked behind me and there was nobody coming. I was in the place that has become familiar to me in races this year. Last off and a big gap behind me has happened more than once and it signals the start of a hard day.
A hard left at a controlled intersection and I was screaming downhill. I was down in the drops and drilling it. The road finally leveled out and I was slowing down. Just at that time when my mind was starting to wonder what next, I heard a booming voice call out, "Davo, jump on!"
Those sweet words meant I had not only friends, but salvation, and I jumped on. We were a little ragged and Chris, a classy Cucina rider showed leadership and got us organized and we started a decent rotation.
We were all glad to be part of the platoon of suffering and we hung together and hit the climb for round two. To my surprise I found myself at the front and halfway up our group of six had become three. Chris and Neil from Victoria and Evo took workman-like turns putting our noses into the wind.
Down to the flats we went, taking hard pulls as our descent speed topped 65k/hr. Soon we were approaching the climb for the final time and Chris was hurting and taking shorter and shorter pulls. Neil was a beast of a rider and we both knew we needed Chris as much as he needed us.
We kept a steady tempo on the climb and Chris started drifting back near the top. At the top I said we should soft pedal until Chris joined us and a few moments later he latched onto my wheel.
"Hang on," I said out loud and I put in a long pull and when I finally peeled off and Neil came up, I inserted myself in front of Chris to give him a breather because he is a strong rider and his power would be a huge help on the descent that would be starting in two minutes. A little recovery never hurt anyone.
Soon we were taking rotations and going pretty well. We knew that at the bottom of the hill we would get to take a right turn and then take two left hand turns and cross the finish line.
Soon we made the aforementioned turns and were approaching the line. We hit it three abreast to give the judges something to sort out.
Evo, Neil and Chris
The sense of brotherhood was high as we were all glad to have completed the three stages. Crashes, injuries and fatigue had claimed some of our numbers. Evo ended up 21st on GC. There had been 38 who entered battle on Saturday morning, so I am calling that an acceptable mid-pack finish.
I am on the fence about my road racing future. Either I upgrade to a carbon wonder bike and train harder, or I take my Cat 4 status and cruise to my grave. Today is not the day to make such a weighty decision.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Ravensdale Road Race 2013 Report and Photos

Before I get all self-indulgent; photos of everyone else can be found here: Spotshot

Evo in traffic

It might of been the right place, but it must of been the wrong time..
   -Some easily forgotten song lyric from the seventies

To be honest, I wasn't feeling sharp going into the race today. My back was a little tight and I had strained my hamstrings and gluts (ass) doing weights on Monday and it was so bad I was cramping on my Tuesday commute home.  I was grateful for the warm weather and was expecting that the race would stay together so I figured I would loosen up.  I did.

It was supposed to be pretty nice, so I wasn't spending my evenings this past week pondering shoe cover/arm warmer and multi-glove combinations like I was back in March.  I did feel like I had finally figured out packing for a road race so that it has become like packing for a cross race, I know what I'm doing and it is almost automatic.

The race started at 8:30 so despite being only one hour away we still had an early departe'.  My dear mom came along with Hottie and Tux and she was cheering. Despite all the intensity of the peloton, the whirr of pedals and aero wheels I can still make out her seventy seven year old voice screaming, "Rip their legs off," as I go by.

As I rolled to the line the teams were out in force. It looked line Cucina, Bikesale, Fisher Plumbing and Olympia all were getting set for team rides. I checked out the facial expressions. They looked serious. The race started off pretty relaxed.  I wasn't sure when the neutral roll out turned into racing, the ramp up was that gradual.  There course was shaped like a capital D rotated ninety degrees to the right. After the long straight we took the first turn which started a long gradual uphill and as I predicted we punched it. I was ready and jumped on.  Five seconds later the riders in front shut it down. What the heck?

The close proximity to Seattle, the lack of any killer hills and dry weather all contributed to a large field.  There were seventy men racing in the 30+ plus category.  Kind of weird for a guy whose oldest son is 29 years old to do battle with 35 year olds.  I wanted to ask, "Hey young fella, how many grandchildren to YOU have?'

Similar to Mason lake, we had places on the course where we went fast every time and other stretches where we went slow and why those places had their assigned speeds is beyond me. There was a stretch on the backside where we were going just over sixty kilometers per hour and I was excited. Then when we hit a slight, and I mean short and slight, uphill and it slowed down so much I said "Aw..Come On!" out loud.

I had figured if the large field were to split it would happen on the first lap. Otherwise it would be a sprint finish.  It didn't break up so I just tried to stay out of the wind and be in a good position for the finish.  My legs felt heavy on the first lap and I was worried. They were feeling pretty good later on and I started to think big.

On the third of four laps a rider, whom I choose not to name, moved up on the right. I felt a tap on my left shoulder. A gloved hand pointed to the rider on the right. "Watch out for that guy," he said with sincere caution.  In a bike race, you need all the oxygen you can get, so saying anything during a race has a cost.  The warning was warranted and sincere. "That guy" is a nice guy. He is squirrelly on the bike. I knew him as "that guy" from earlier races and, in the interest of full disclosure, I have also warned other riders in races to keep an eye out for "that guy."  For all I know others in the peloton point to me and say the same thing.

On one of the two corners "that guy" slid across with his rear wheel locked as he went from the inside to the outside which could easily have caused some blood to spill, but the riders had been cautious granting him more room than usual.  We regrouped and soon we were on the final lap.
Flying peloton !
I was well positioned approaching the final corner. There was still some good distance after the corner, but I wanted to be in a good spot. I was on the yellow line and sitting top ten. My buddy Geoff was on the right and I was thinking we could both have high finishes.

I expected that on the final straight (three miles or so) the speed would ramp up and there would be splits.  We slowed down and the peloton "amoeba'd" from the right and similar to OVRR I thought I was done for.  At OVRR I didn't get much worse than top fifteen or twenty position. As the pack oozed up on the right I went from top ten to last fifteen in a finishing field of sixty two.

Despite trying not to panic, I panicked. I slowed and moved to the right shoulder to try and find a lane to move up.  I started fighting my way to the front. I wasn't off the road, but I was close and was willing to go off road if necessary.  I heard someone say on your right and I couldn't figure where they would fit so I leaned into the rider to my left. I still can't believe I did that.

I was working hard and the pace had ramped up and we were flying. We passed the 1k to go sign and I was still in a bad place. I finally made it to a top eight spot and tried to tuck in out of the wind and catch my breath. I think I took two breaths and I could see the 200m sign and it was show time. I was exactly where I needed to be.  I was in a perfect position.  I tucked behind plaid man and he started his sprint and he had nothing. Plaid man pulled off and I was looking at the line up ahead. I looked to my right and Geoff was already going for it.

I hit the gas and there was nothing there. Like a Volkswagen microbus climbing a hill- there was no power. I had burned all my matches getting into position and had nothing for the sprint.

I've ridden two hundred miles in a day more than once. I've ridden some of the hardest cols in the French Alps. Those final two hundred meters were endless and my legs were screaming. Legs that scream when you are going fast are so much better than legs that scream when you are dying.   I was dying.  Make it done, make it done.
Geoff in the center of the shot (yellow cuffs on blue shorts and jersey) and Evo on the right.
I went from fourth to twenty second in the final two hundred meters. It was the opposite of my last race when I just blew past people (with me being the one going forward).  Before and during the race I had several people mention my sprint at OVRR and I had been feeling pretty good about myself. I had humble pie for lunch today.

After the race I saw someone with a three digit number, put his arm around "that guy" who, like Evo, rides with a four digit number (the road newbie sign) and I braced for him to tell the guy he was an idiot.  Instead he gave him some advice and encouragement. Frankly that was the best thing I saw all day.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Coffee and Lies #19 I need a hat !!

Could you say "No" to that slightly sticky face ?
No team ride this week. Grandson Kyson came and stayed with Hottie and I for 48 hours Friday to Sunday.  Hottie fulfills her role to spoil him.  When we brought him home Hottie gave him a baseball, a tiny baseball mitt and a bat. Knowing his sports better than boys twice his age (so..I am comparing him to four year olds..) he stopped in his tracks. "I need a hat," He confidently declared.

Despite having a closet shelf full of baseball hats yet mindful that the Giro was starting, I quickly offered him the cycling cap you see here. He slapped it on his head where it spent most of the weekend.

As comical as that sounds we are all so wrapped up in our stuff that we would never THINK of riding a bike without wearing the right gloves, or the proper liner shirt. The idea of riding in tennis shoes (whoa, dating myself with that term) is inconceivable.

We had fun. Kyson had fun.  Adventures at the zoo and hours running and playing at parks wore him out and quiet time listening to Hottie read him stories rounded out his time.  We were sad to see him go and I think he had fun.

Riding a bike is fun.  Being a husband, dad and a grandpa (pronounced "Gum-ba") matters.