Sunday, April 5, 2015

Barry Roubaix Race Report

7th place Masters 40-50 category; 61.7 miles; 3:08:28 (19.7 mph)

Barry Roubaix is part of the American Ultracross Series, it's the biggest gravel road race in America with nearly 3000 participants and it's only a 4 hour drive from home - This would be my 3rd time racing in 4 years.  The atmosphere of the race is unique, the whole town of Hastings gets into the spirit, the main street is closed with barriers just like a Tour de France finish.  There's a huge after party well lubricated by title sponsor Founders Brewing which reinforces the carnival atmosphere.

Hastings is a small Michigan town about 50 miles north east of Kalamazoo, at the start of March the weather conditions are unpredictable leading to big variations on course conditions between editions of the race - however the course has been largely the same for the last 3 years and consists of about 70% gravel roads over rolling terrain.  The long gravel segments are connected by short stretches of pavement (the inverse of the race namesake!).  This year because of a hard freeze leading up to the race, the Sager Road segment was included, this rutted double track "road" provided the most technical challenge on the course, it's less than a mile long but you definitely needed to be close to the front to avoid being delayed.  Sager Road is only 18 miles into the 62 mile course, a bit too early for a selection to be made, there are no real hills to create separations either so the finish has typically been a bunch sprint.

The nature of the course and the bunch finish really suits road racers who have the experience of "reading" the race from within a large group and are practiced at reserving their energy for the critical moments, and the finish.  I have none of these attributes!  I rarely race on the road, I lack the strategic experience to "sit in" at the right times, and I always seem too eager to work hard on the front.  Despite knowing all these things, and telling myself to sit in & be patient, I still think I failed to "race smart".

Me, not racing smart, off the front of the bunch!
Picture from Snowy Mountain Photography
This year, it was very cold (17 deg F) at the start.  I tried to get to the staging area as late as possible and had to sneak over a barrier to get a front row position, despite this I still chilled quickly.  I'm sure everyone else was the same, at the start the pace was high as everyone tried to warm up.  It didn't really feel like it slowed down much either, so the race was mostly neutralized.  After 60 miles of attrition, it all came down to the pavement run into town and who had the most left to kick on the last hill.  Then it came down to who could keep the power going through the crit style sequence of 90 degree bends around the high school.  The answer was Robbie Ventura.  He won last year as well, with years of pro racing experience and pro level power, he chose the right moment to go and rode away from the fast charging, but fatigued group of wannabes.  Even though I was found wanting in the final moments of the race, it was a great experience to see it unfold in front of me, knowing I could do nothing to respond.  It's still my best finish in the race and the points go towards the minimum number of races needed to qualify for the Ultracross championship.

I rode my Trek Boone in the same configuration as the Gravel Grovel - you can learn more about that in the Gravel Cyclist feature here (link)

Some details about the race (my race diary, probably not very interesting...)

17 deg F at the race start, 28 deg F at the finish.  Mostly sunny; rodes frozen in places; Hard pack gravel

North Face long sleeve thermal base; Bicycle Station jersey, Rapha Pro Team Soft Shell jacket (awesome); Bicycle Station gillet
Castelli thermal leg warmers under Bicycle Station thermal bib-knickers
Rapha merino socks, Bontrager RXL shoes, Garneau over-shoes

1 x Ugo cherry & cacao
1 x Macha & Lemons Skratch labs drink
On the ride:
4 x Orange & Caffeine Cliff shot bloks
1 x Hammer nutrition apple & cinamon gell
(too cold for Ugo bars!)
2 x Skratch labs hydration mix (Orange)
Post ride:
1 x Ugo Nutter bar
1 x Skratch labs hydration (Rasberry)

Check out UGo Bars for great gluten free, vegan, home made energy food
Check out Skratch Labs for great exercise hydration

Boone Di2
CX0 tires @50 psi warm as I got them out of the car (figured they would lose ~5psi  as they cooled down to the 17 deg F ambient)

Brake pads need replacing

Sunday, March 29, 2015

It's finally Spring! Time to think about some goals....

It's been ages since I posted anything.  The start of the year has been hectic with work and family life but I've kept running and riding (and even swimming a bit).  The spring half marathons have been my focus for the past three years, and this year is no different - although in past years I've been aiming to set a PR, I'm in some doubt that will be achievable in 2015.  Compared to 2014 I have run and ridden more in the first 3 months of the year mostly aided by the weather which was not as terrible as the "polar vortex" we enjoyed 12 months ago.

For 2015 I've been lucky enough to sign up as an ambassador for UGo Bars - a locally owned & operated sports nutrition business making wholesome energy bars from real, fresh ingredients.  They're based in Bloomington, I'm hoping to convince some shops in Columbus to stock the bars!  In the meantime check them out online at

For the Quaff ON! running team, I'm competing in the Hoosier half marathon (April 11) and the Kentucky Derby Mini Marathon (April 25).  The first of these is a hilly workout, definitely not a PR course, but a great race around Bloomington and Quaff ON! is the beer sponsor for the event - we'll have a big after party at Quaff ON Bloomington with all the team members, friends and family to celebrate.  The Kentucky race is flat and fast, I set my PR (1:17:45) there last year, winning the 40-44 age group.  This year, despite having run more, I feel less prepared.  I haven't put in the hard work at the track to build speed, so these races will be a bit of an adventure!

The one key workout that I have managed to repeat is my 3 x 5k run at the start of March.  In 2014, I used the Pink Power 5k race to do this, running the course twice before the actual race.  This year, I couldn't attend the race but managed to convince Quaff ON! team mate, Danny Fisher, to join me on the people train one Thursday evening for the same workout.  We had a strong head wind as we ran towards town making the first half of the 5k harder, while that hurt, the tail wind on the return was very welcome each time we made the turn!  It's a truly punishing workout, we ran an average of 5:54.9 per mile for the 9.3 miles, I was pretty broken by the end of it, the slow jog back to town as a cool down run was uncomfortable as my calves tightened and quads ached.  As the saying goes, no pain, no gain....

There's 4 weeks until the Louisville race - I plan to get back into our Track Tuesday workouts and build upon what I've got.  I doubt I'll run a PR but I hope that I can repeat my AG win, which means something sub 1:19:00.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Christmas Cross & the Rapha Festive 500

Ride 60 miles from home with a tail wind & fresh legs
Race 50 mins cyclocross
Ride 60 miles back home with a head wind & tired legs

Each year, Strava issues a challenge to ride 500km in the 8 days between 24-Dec and New Year.  This year marks my 4th attempt, having completed it successfully in 2011 and 2013.  It's a great motivation to get out of the house and ride some "base miles" to offset the customary calorific intake of the holiday season.

I love riding my bike but I always prefer to have a destination and purpose to the trip instead of making an arbitrary circular route.  Participating in the Festive 500 makes me eager to find excuses for riding to destinations and Christmas Cross organized by the Kentuckiana Cyclocross series seemed like a perfect fit, a cross race about 60 miles from home with a start time of 2pm on Sunday 28 Dec.

To avoid getting a chill after the ride down and the race, I needed changes of clothes and shoes.  This was too much to fit in a back pack and riding for 7-8 hours with a weight on my back was an unpleasant prospect so I elected to use my Bob-Yak trailer.  This also meant I had the capability to hail a set of cross wheels and ride some faster rolling tires there & back.  With that, the plan was formed.

Ready for the road, trailer with cross race wheels & dry clothes
It took me 3 hours 40 mins to ride there with a tail wind & fresh legs (not a great combination, I struggled to stay warm enough).  I got to the race venue in Charlestown with time to register, change into race kit, remove the bottle cages and fit my cross wheels.
Bottle Cages off, Race wheels on...
The race was a small affair but with a high standard, people making final preparation for Nationals.  My legs were a bit shocked with the aggressive demands at the start and I found myself dead last early in the first lap.  The muddy course demanded plenty of running and as I warmed up, I started passing people again.  With one to go, I had no chance of making up another place so was happy to ride out the final lap, but the accumulated mud on my bike had other plans - my rear derailleur seized up, ripped off the mount and got stuck in the rear wheel.  I ran the final quarter lap already wondering how I was going to get home.
Rear mech damage after the race
The cyclocross community proved (again) that it is just that, a community.  I was offered various rides home, however I was still set on riding back if possible.  I managed to get a replacement mech hanger from John Gatch, got a complete tool set to use and was able to repair the damage, ready to hit the road after the podium.
Repairs complete, ready for the ride home
John Gatch (4th), Mike McShane (3rd), Andy Messer (1st), John Card, (2nd) Tim Proctor (5th)

The ride home was about 75% in the dark and the wind hadn't dropped or changed direction so it was largely a head wind.  Just short of Seymour I picked up a flat on the rear wheel.  Fortunately, I had my cross wheels on the trailer, so it was a quick change to get up and running again.  My ride home took just over 4 hours, given the head wind, tired legs and wheel change I was pretty happy.

I'm always amazed when I manage to get from A to B (and back again) simply with the power of my body.  Strava estimates I burned 5,500 kcal over the day, but I burned no gasoline!

Strava data for the day (via Garmin Edge 500):
Ride to the race
Race (finished 5th overall)
Ride home

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Gravel Grovel 2014 Race Report

First Place Overall, Masters 40+ winner (3 hours 31 mins)
Strava Data via Garmin Edge

The Very Cool Stone Winner's Trophy - A bit like Paris-Roubaix!

6 Years of race entry plates & the original event poster

The Gravel Grovel is held every year the weekend after Thanksgiving in my "backyard", the Hoosier National Forest, I've participated in all 6 editions.  This year, it was also the final round of the American Ultra Cross series of 8 gravel road races which spans almost the entire year from February (Southern Cross) to November.  It was a big race for me this year, having won the event in 2013, I wanted to defend my title and there was a deeper field of local riders including Ryan Knapp as well as visitors from further afield such as Garth Prosser and Mike Simonson who race most of the Ultracross series and are all tough competitors.

I've split this report into 3 sections - a brief recap of the race as it happened to me - some data analysis comparing 2013 and 2014 - and finally some details about the bike setup I used.

Also check out Jayson O'Mahoney's Gravel Cyclist page with Race Report and Race Video

Race Summary
I wrote lots of words about the race but figured it needed to be more succinct so here's the race in 5 Tweet like phases:
  • Follow Knapp - Ryan was a marked man at the start, no one wanted to work hard and everyone wanted Ryan's wheel, so the road race "dance" began.
  • Where's Knapp? - Ryan cut his tire only 15 miles into the race, when we emerged from the Combs road segment, he was already heading home.
  • Then there were 6 - After the new segment of the course, there were more losses, leaving only 6 in the lead group (Atwell, Simonson, Hauber, Golas, Keck, Proctor)
  • The bold attack - after I effectively neutralized the Nebo single track by taking the lead & setting a steady tempo, Jonathan Atwell attacked on the Mt Baldy climb gaining about a minute - I thought this was the winning move as we struggled to pull him back.
  • The final attack - to our surprise we did regroup, catching Atwell in the final trail segment.  I made an all-out effort in the 5 minute long final climb to the Fire Tower.  At the top, with 10 miles to the finish, I was on my own.  I kept the pressure on and solo'd to the finish for my second win.
Lead Group on Trail 21
Data Analysis
The table shows the race broken down into 15 segments (not actual Strava segments) and a comparison of my times in the 2013 and 2014 editions of the race.  The final column is the difference in time (in seconds) - red means I was slower this year than last, green means faster than 2013.
  • Despite what felt to me like anxiety in the bunch about finding & holding Ryan Knapp's wheel and the surge / coast effect, we were actually faster through segment 2 to the top of the fire tower after the "neutralized" start.
  • Segment 3 was definitely slower with soft ground making for harder work and a larger bunch definitely meant there were times when we all sat up (last year, Andy Messer was just drilling it all the way to Combs).
  • Through Combs we were significantly faster, I think I lost time time in 2013 with a couple of force dismounts as riders ahead of me stopped.  This year I was closer to the front & had no issues.
  • Section 5 is where the two courses are different - so comparison isn't valid
  • Over Nebo trail (segment 6) I'm amazed at how consistent the time is, within 5 secs.  This was a hard tempo pace, not all-out, it's not a place to win the race (with nearly 40 miles still to go) but it was important to ensure that the lead group of 6 stayed away from any chasers.
  • The faster gravel & pavement section 7 from the top of Nebo to the start of the Mt Baldy climb is very exposed and we had a head wind this year.  Mike Simonson was pushing the effort the year, but we were still slower than 2013, my guess is that the wind was the main factor.
  • The next section (8) covers two sustained gravel climbs.  The first (Mt Baldy) is where Jonathan Atwell attacked the group & went clear.  We tried to counter on the short pavement section between the climbs but he stayed away.  The attack & chase made us faster than the race in 2013 when we largely stayed together (no serious attacks).
  • The same is true for the next section - on the pavement, Mike Simonson, Nathan Keck and I worked pretty well in rotation trying to close the gap on Atwell.  This increased the speed over 2013.
  • Trail 21 (segment 10) was much harder going than last year - soft ground made the climbs much harder work, last year there was still some frozen sections.  We dropped a lot of time here, half a minute in only a 5 minute segment.
  • Segment 11 was also different between the 2013 and 2014 races - the same roads, but direction was reversed.  I personlly think that the Polk Patch road ascent in this years route is harder than the climb towards Hickory ridge that we took last year - however the time was faster in 2014 so maybe it's just perception on my part.
  • Segment 12 - Trail 20 - the final section of trail had us visibly catching Atwell.  Simonson kept the pressure on and we closed the gap before emerging on to Fire Tower road.  This trail is mostly wooded, not exposed like Trail 21 so the ground condition was better and having a rabbit to chase down I'm sure influenced our time which was faster than 2013.
  • Climb to the Fire Tower - this is where I attacked in both years, the actual climb only takes about 5 minutes, this segment includes some rolling terrain before the real climb.  The road was softer than in 2013 making it slower going, but I was also more fatigued.  We'd all worked hard in the group trying to catch Atwell and I could feel the efforts in my legs when I decided to attack.  Last year, I felt confident I would ride away from the group, this year I really didn't know - I was all-in and if anyone stuck with me to the top, I knew I would not be able to counter.  The ground condition & fatigue all show in the 70 secs (nearly 9%) slower time this year.
  • From the top of the Fire Tower climb to the finish is about 10 miles (Segment 14).  This is split between 5 miles of rolling loose gravel roads that sap your strength and morale and then 5 miles of fast hard pack mostly downhill to the finish.  I think that the road was in about the same condition as last year, but I was still slower by 45 secs through this segment - with a clear lead, I wanted to stay out of sight of chasers, so tried to sustain as much power as possible but I was definitely not as strong over this section as I was last year.

Bike set-up
Trek Boone
Shimano Di2 10 speed
Shimano Ultegra tubeless wheels
Bontrager CX0 34mm tires (tubeless with Stans) @ 45 psi
34 / 46 chain rings
11-28 Cassette

I only realized after the race that I had short changed myself on gearing.  Last year I rode a 38/46 (non-compact) chainring but used a SRAM WiFli rear mech with a 12-32 cassette.  My lowest gear in 2013 was 38/32 = 1.19; whereas this year I rode 34/28 = 1.21.  It's not even 2% different and to be honest, climbing Combs and Nebo were both OK with this gearing, I don't think I'd try to change it for anything lower.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Corporate Challenge 2014 - Bike & Run Race Report

The Indiana Sports Corporation organizes a Corporate Challenge each year where companies compete in a wide variety of events ranging from traditional sporting challenges through "school sports day" type events (tug of war etc) to traditional Indiana past times (corn hole etc).  Each event is a team effort being scored in a similar way to Cross Country racing based on individual finishing ranks.  I haven't been able to participate in previous years due to other racing commitments including the Mill Race Marathon last year.  2014 was different, and I was asked to represent Cummins in both the cycling (time trial) and running (10k).

Bike - Time Trial - P2 overall - 13:46 - Strava Data Link via Gamin FR910XT

The cycling event was hosted at the Major Taylor Velodrome in Indianapolis on Saturday 20 October 2014.  It was a 6.2 mile time trial with many of the roads being familiar from the Tri-Indy course.  For the team scoring, the best 5 times including one female athlete counted and we had exactly that, 4 men (Glen Alden, Spencer Dell, Josh Knight, Tim Proctor) and 1 woman (Melissa Morelli).  
Glen Alden; Melissa Morelli; Josh Knight; Spencer Dell; Tim Proctor
The team had been selected by captain, Andy Messer who wasn't able to compete this year, based on a qualification event in Columbus a few weeks prior.  The Cummins team has won the Time Trial event in numerous  years passed, so the pressure was on but we were confident of having some of the fastest riders in the field.
Given such a short distance, it's actually hard to judge the effort required - quite a lot more than "threshold" but too much and it's easy to blow-up before the finish.  Warming up thoroughly and effectively would also be key to come out of the start able to push hard immediately.  Glen and I rode a few laps of the Marion College Cyclocross course which is a permanent feature in the grounds of the velodrome at this time of year, it was good to ride instead of just sitting on a trainer, but the course demanded a lot of short sharp bursts which aren't what's needed on a time trial effort - so after getting the blood flowing, it was back to the pop-up and on the trainer for a methodical warm up.
Warming up before the race
My problem for this race was knowing what the target race effort ought to be - 10 miles is about the shortest race I've ever competed in regularly and clearly I would need to be going harder than that with an expected time of under 14 mins.  I think I went a bit too hard on the trainer and didn't allow enough time between finishing my warm up and going to the start because as soon as I set off I could feel the fatigue in my legs - it was going to be a long & painful 14 minutes of racing!
Every time I felt myself settling into a rhythm, I stood up & sprinted for a short burst to up the speed and effort.  I stood up & sprinted out of each corner, I tried to stay one gear higher than I felt comfortable, forcing the cadence to keep the speed high.  I passed the 1 mile to go sign and my vision was slightly blurred, always a sign that things are on the edge, the thought of one more mile was a bit of a blow psychologically, but I knew there was a downhill run in to the finish, I found some additional effort to find the velodrome in sight below me.  I managed a small bit of recovery on the hill and then was able to sprint after the turn into the parking lot for the finish line.
Spencer rolled in just a few seconds after me with Glen close behind.  Josh and Melissa had opted for earlier start times so we didn't know how any of us had done until we regrouped back at the pop-up.  Personal timing only told us it was really close between Spencer, Josh and me so after getting changed, we headed over to the official timing stand for the results.
The team had a great result - we took 2nd, 3rd and 4th overall (Tim, Josh (by only 0.2 secs), Spencer); Glen got 12th overall and Melissa was 9th placed woman.  Despite not getting the overall victory, the points we secured gave Cummins a comfortable win in the Time Trial and the overall lead in the Championship going into the running & other events the next weekend...

Run - 10k - P4 overall - 34:54 (PR) - Strava Data via Garmin FR910XT

One week after the bike events, the Corporate Challenge moved to the iconic setting of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the 10k and 5k run, 5k walk and other events such as tug of war, basketball shoot out etc.
I was running in the first event, the 10k race, which started at 8am.  This meant an early start from Columbus to get there in time for a warm up run, collect my shirt and bib and be ready for the start - however, the organizers had underestimated the number of participants, or perhaps their enthusiasm to arrive early, so as I turned onto Georgetown a couple of miles from the designated parking lot, I hit a traffic line that was nearly stationary and panic started to mount!
I changed into my new racing flats whilst sitting in the traffic and resolved that my warm up would be the run from the car to the Cummins tent to pick up my shirt & bib number!  So much for the calculated & methodical warm up routine, sometimes you just have to go with what you've got!

Having looked at the results from last years event, I knew it was a fast field at the front, and I felt a bit self conscious lining up on the front row alongside some obviously serious runners - so it was a surprise to find myself in a completely uncontested 3rd place as the race got underway.  The two leaders went through the first mile in close to 5 mins dead, my first mile was 5:26 which I knew was too hot to sustain for the full duration of the race.  I was convinced there were other people who should be running similar times to me so I resolved to slow down a bit, catch my breath and then use the motivation of running with others to force the pace in the later stages of the race.  This seemed to work pretty well.  Just as we came to mile 2 (5:46), I was caught - I thought there would be a bunch but it turned out to be just 2 other competitors so I latched on to them at what felt like a manageable pace with plenty of space between us back to 6th place it seemed that this was the race for 3rd, 4th and 5th.
From mile 2 to mile 4 we were running on the main speedway track - it's a huge and imposing venue that seems to take forever to run around!  During the drag along the back straightaway, our group of 3 was reduced to 2.  I started to worry about holding on to the 3rd place battle but as we turned off the main race track to the infield course I was able to find a bit more drive out of each of the corners and close up the gap, eventually taking 3rd place just before the 5 mile mark.  The final mile was a miserable winding labyrinth through the garage complex before we emerged at the 6 mile marker with only one turn remaining to the finish.  After pushing hard in the 5th mile and maintaining a surge after each of the many, many corners, I just didn't have a sprint left for the line so my partner for most of the race was able to ease away from me in the final minute and cross the line 4 secs ahead of me.
My time of 34:54 was about 30 secs faster than I had hoped for and given the winding, technical course, I was really pleased to set a new PR.
Everyone in the Cummins team (5 places scored including at least 1 female) improved their times from last year and we were able to contribute to yet another overall Cummins victory in the Corporate Challenge.
My race splits worked out like this:
Mile 1 - 5:26 (too fast!)
Mile 2 - 5:46 (waiting for someone to catch me)
Mile 3 - 5:41 (running as 3rd, 4th, 5th)
Mile 4 - 5:34 (stretching it out, dropping 5th place)
Mile 5 - 5:35
Mile 6 - 5:35 (the twisty nature means the time doesn't do justice to the effort involved!)
0.2 Mile - 5:26 (push for the finish line!)
Overall - 5:37/mile

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Cross is here - OVCX Race 1 - Brookside - 14 Sept 2014 - Race Report

Elite Men - 11th place overall; 4th place Masters 35+ - Strava Data via Garmin Edge

In the Pain Cave... Photo Credit - Kent Baumgardt
The first race of the OVCX championship is always a big event, there were over 500 people racing bikes in one or more categories throughout the day.  The first race location rotates between the regular venues and this year, Brookside hosted the start of the season.  The warm weather and sunshine was a strange experience as traditionally this event has been towards the end of the season and last year fell in mid-December as the finale.  Gone were the snow and icy mud, multiple layers, embrocation cream and danger of frost bite, exchanged for a dusty dry course and the need for sun screen!  The Brookside steps, a broken, uneven climb remained as the one constant, menacing reminder of past encounters.
The Brookside Steps - Photo Credit - Kent Baungardt
There was a good representation from the Bicycle Station team and as I arrived, with Jake and Amanda Virostko, team mates Jeff Fetterer and Dylan Wick were already on the course in the Cat 3 race.  I was able to pre-ride a lap with Jake between races and then watch the 50+ and Elite Junior field, had another ride around the course before warming up properly on the trainer whilst the Women's 1/2/3 race took place.
Calm Before the Storm - Photo Credit - Kent Baungardt
The Elite Men's race had a strong field and as I lined up on the 2nd row of the grid behind Spencer Petrov, I knew that it would be a good day if I broke into the top 10 after 60 minutes of racing.
The start was a brutally long pavement sprint up an increasing gradient and as usual it was explosive right from the whistle.  My improved starting for this year definitely helped, but I still found myself being swamped as the field galloped away from the start.  With the long grade taxing everyones legs I managed to regain quite a few places before we jumped onto the grass and headed to the first off camber right hand bend.  About a third of the way into the first lap, a spectator yelled out that the group I was with was "top 15".  It was a relief to know I wasn't further down the field and I could still see most of the lead group as we completed the first lap and in particular a group of 4 riders about 10 secs ahead of me included Eric Anderson, Rob Kendall and Freddy Rose - all racers that normally beat me so I knew if I could stay in sight of them I would be at least be pleased with my performance.
At 60 minutes, the race has the chance to develop some real phases of action, as opposed to being just a mad dash.  For me this race was in 3 parts, at first, I was shocked at the pace, and effort required to stay with the people around me.  This lasted about 3 of the 10 laps making me wonder how I was ever going to last the rest of the time.
Phase 1 - Wondering how I'm going to hold on for 60 mins - Photo Credit - Kent Baungardt
The second phase was marked by people around me and ahead of me who had gone out too hard starting to fade and drop back, my pace didn't change much but I started to feel more in control of things and started to believe I could hold the effort through the end of the race.  It's around this time that they start counting down laps - whilst cyclocross is a time limit race, after the first laps are complete, the officials assess the pace of the leader & determine the number of laps to complete the race at or around the target duration.  When you're already feeling exhausted, it's psychologically tough to see "5 to go" and this is definitely a factor in people starting to crash.  Rob Kendal had a really bad lap (with "5 to go") and he dropped off the Anderson / Rose group, I caught & passed him.  Normally in a race like this, that's it - you fade and there's no coming back so I was pretty amazed to find Rob coming back by me a lap later and then start to ride back up to the group ahead.
This marked the start of the 3rd & final phase of the race for me - I tried as hard as I could to go with Rob and whilst I didn't "stick on his wheel" he did help me pull up to the group of Rose, Anderson and Kendall.  This final part was really about believing I could chase and race with this group of riders that I've previously considered "untouchables" - out of my league.  It became clear that Eric Anderson was fading as Freddy and Rob kept the pressure on with 2 to go.  I was riding on my own but catching up, the frequent switchbacks providing excellent visual cues to judge the time gap.
With 1 to go, it's all or nothing, time to ramp up the effort for the final lap.  I caught & passed Eric Anderson (first time ever in a cross race) about a third of the way into the final lap and had my eyes on Freddy Rose, continuing to close the gap.  Through a slow technical section before the high speed finish to the lap I got off line lapping a slower rider and that opened up the gap too much, Freddy made a very clean and fast run through the barriers for the final time and whilst I made a ceremonial sprint on the pavement section, he was too far ahead to think about catching before the line.
I wound up 11th overall (just as I thought, tough to break into the top 10) but with some encouraging signs from my performance. It was also great to get the first race over - I know that my preparation hadn't been ideal and the fact had been weighing on my mind.  Racing for 60 minutes with some of the best riders in the mid West is a pretty daunting proposition but with the race done, it's somewhat off the pedestal I had built for it - sure it's hard, but I can do it and be happy with the results.  This is the start of "racing to get stronger" for me, I need to build up the volume and intensity of my training during the week and make a conscious plan for some peak in performance vs just training through the whole season.

Here are my race diary notes:

OVCX#1 - Brookside - 14-Sept-2014 dry, rain on Thursday - muddy in a couple of places - tacky, not slippy
A bike - Boone
Tufo Flexus Primus 30psi F&R - glued 12-Sept 2014 (new glue after Lionheart CX)
Last years wheels
PDM-540 pedals worked well
Really powerful brakes - some pulsing from glue on the rim?
Di2 worked well
Saddle is a bit bent after crash at Lionheart CX
B bike - Crockett
Tufo dry plus 30psi F&R - glued 06-Sept-2014
New China wheels
Left pedal better - cleaned & lubed since last race
Brakes not great - didn't ride, can't comment if there is any improvement but no changes made since last week

Pre-ride - rode 1 lap at 12:45; rode 2 laps at 1:45; half a lap at 2:45; Race start 3:00pm

Race - grid 13th - middle of 2nd row - behind Dillman (I think) - 60 min race
Start - quite good - but still felt like I got swamped in the initial dash from the line.  Managed to pass significant people on the way up the paved hill (long, long drag to the grass).
First couple of laps two people came past me, could still see the Knapp group ahead and Kendall / Rose / Anderson stayed within sight (10-15 secs ahead)
Middle of the race, felt OK - people started coming back to me - the Kendall / Rose / Anderson group stayed in sight - race data showed I was matching them lap for lap.
Kendall had a bad lap & I passed him, but he recovered & bridged back up to Rose / Anderson
Anderson started to fade & dropped off the group, I took time on him with 1 to go & passed on the final lap
Psychological barrier of racing with & passing Anderson, like Messer last year.
Felt good, final lap was faster than average lap time.
Got baulked by Cat 3 lapped rider on the last turn before the fast run to the barriers.  May have been able to catch Freddy Rose if that hadn't happened.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Cross is Coming... Lionheart CX Race Report

It's the night before the first Cross race in the OVCX championship and I know I've not prepared the way I had planned.  A sinus infection, antibiotics and a hectic work & social schedule combined to limit the time I have spent on the bike ahead of the first race.

However, not deterred by this and in a vain attempt to over compensate, I had a two race Sunday last weekend.  In the morning, I joined Quaff ON! team mates Jane Moisica and Danny Fisher at Tri32 Indy, an Olympic distance triathlon, where we had been challenged by two teams representing Tatum's Bags of Fun.  In the afternoon I took part in Lionheart CX, a non-OVCX cross race organized as a fundraiser for the Lionheart youth development program in Cincinnati.

Lionheart CX - Men's cat 1/2/3 Race - p20 overall; p9 35+ masters - Strava Data (partial)

This was a pre-season Cyclocross race and a great chance to refresh in my mind everything about racing and to check out my new Trek Boone cross bike in a real race ahead of the OVCX championship.
We drove to Cincinnati as a family and I was dropped off at the race venue, Kings CX, with my two bikes and race kit whilst they all went to Ikea - on the drive over, I realized I hadn't picked up my helmet so the first job after registration was to find someone that could lend me one for my race... not an auspicious start.  Fortunately, the friendly faces of Ty and Lilly Peck were there and Lilly loaned me her helmet so I was good to race!
Last season a consistent weakness was my starts and I'd been practicing them at home - I checked out the start and found a similar stretch of grass and made a couple of practice runs, after the Time Trial in the morning, my legs definitely felt heavy but I was pleased that I still felt pretty strong.
I was staged 7th on the front row of 9 racers with a total field of about 40, at the whistle I buried it with my head down and was surprised to see only one person ahead of me, Spencer Petrov who is really in a class of his own.  This was shortly followed by arriving at the first corner a lot faster than any of my practice laps, my bike handling skills got an abrupt wake up as Spencer proceeded to ride away from the rest of us.
Over the first lap, 2 or 3 people came past me including John Gatch who had only just finished racing the Masters race - this was a bit of a relief as I could follow some lines from more experienced racers.  I settled into about 5th place feeling pretty comfortable with the effort to hold this position, but as we entered a right hand bend on the 3rd lap I found myself suddenly on the floor rolling with my bike bouncing beside me, I had no idea what had happened.  When I got back to my feet, the wheels on my bike wouldn't rotate and I realized that both front and rear tires had rolled off the rim, since it wouldn't roll I had to shoulder it for the long run to the pits for my spare bike.  We hadn't long passed the pits so I had just about a half a lap, 0.7 miles, to run with my bike, people continually passing me - most offered some encouragement for my predicament.  When I reached the pit, Ty Peck already had my spare bike (Trek Crocket)  ready for a fast hand over and I was able to quickly jump on and start chasing back into the race.  There was no way I was going to make it to the front again, so this was now a hard training effort - I rode the sand pit every lap although it was faster to run it.  As a new rider became visible ahead of me, I focused on chasing them down & passing as quickly as I could.
In the end I finished 20th overall and 9th in the 40+ Masters category which was still satisfying since I'd been almost dead last after the tires came off.
After the race I was grateful for the advice of John Gatch, long time cyclocrosser who recommends re-gluing tires each season - the tires that failed were glued last year and when I looked at the rims it was clear that a season of cross with repeated cleaning & cold weather had made the glue brittle where it failed.
It was good to have tested everything about racing cross before the championship races started I'd learned the following:
  • Remember your helmet!
  • Check out the first corners at full-on race speed
  • Re-glue tires before the season starts

Here's my race diary notes from the event:

Lionheart CX - Sun 07-Sept-2014 - dry hard pack, dusty, some wind

A bike - Boone
Tufo Flexus Primus 25psi F&R - glued Sept 2013
Last years wheels
PDM-540 pedals worked well
Really powerful brakes
Di2 worked well

B bike - Crockett
Tufo dry plus 30psi F&R - glued 06-Sept-2014
New China wheels
Left pedal hard to enter
Brakes not great

Race - Call up #7 - front row (grid x 9)

Forgot helmet, Lilly loaned me gets. Ty Peck, Lilly and her mum helped me out with somewhere to hang out whilst Clare went to Ikea.
Great start 2nd behind Spencer Petrov
Dropped to 5th by time I wrecked - Petrov - ?? - Freddie Rose - John Gatch
Wind picked up from the camels towards the club house
Wrecked 2.5 laps
Rode 4 laps on B bike
Garmin didn't work all the time
LH pedal on B bike needs to be loser