• Ride Report - Mount Baker (WA) with Brother & Nephew

    It’s SOP on my bike club, after a glorious race, to send around a report, which traditionally focuses more on the food (which is always copious) than the glory (which can be elusive).  Since I chickened out of the Everest Challenge this year, I’m reporting on my biggest ride of 2015 instead:  Mount Baker, up near Bellingham, WA, with my brother Bryan and his son John.  Read on, or at least skim the photos, to be immersed in timeless themes:  Man vs. Nature, Man vs. Man, Man vs. His Father, Man Struggling to be a Man, Man vs. Food, Man vs. Bike, and (for the ladies) Fish vs. Bicycle.

    Executive Summary (i.e., condensed version)

    • Breakfast:  two cups strong coffee, black
    • During:  Four bottles Powerade (red flavor); unknown quantity Gatorade (cucumber-lime); 3 Clif Bars (1 Thin Mint, 1 Beef Jerky, 1 Gluten-Free Donner Party flavor, which fortunately tastes more like leather than like scabs); two Powerbar Gels (expired ca. 2009)
    • Lunch:  nothing
    • Glycogen window snack:  one banana ( infirm, or at least not-firm); 1½ bottles New Belgium Long Table Farmhouse Ale (seasonal; highly recommended)
    • Dinner:  homemade pasta with homemade meat sauce; garlic bread; garlic hot dog buns; meat lasagne; salad; pumpkin pie with whipped cream; whipped cream without pumpkin pie (sshhh!)
    • Ride Stats:  120.2 miles; 7:57:36 ride time; 7,618 feet of vertical gain
    • Verdict:  epic pass, though I lost most of the city-limit sprints

    Full report

    It’s a long road, figuratively speaking, to the non-figurative open road.  Family life, with its careers, chores, children, and logistics always interferes.  Maybe that’s why the great outdoors beckon so strongly.  Our biggest obstacle was getting Bryan’s fleet running.  I’d flown to WA without my bike (because the airlines are such thieving bastards) and had to borrow.  Both of Bryan’s spare road bikes were out of commission (but on the plus side, what a boon, to own two spare road bikes!).  “I almost had one of them ready to go for John before he went off to college,” Bryan said, and then added wistfully, “Four years ago.”  (John just graduated.)

    So we headed to Bryan’s office, which has a full bike shop for its employees.  Pretty sweet perk, eh?  The company is called Faithlife, for those of you already polishing your résumés.  Here we are at work:

    The first bike, a 1983 Team Miyata, had belonged to my dad for awhile, before he gave it back to Bryan.  Dad had a 180mm TA Cyclotourist triple crankset on there (all but fused to a Phil Wood sealed bottom bracket); Grab-On foam instead of bar tape; front and rear racks; old-school wheels that only took a five-speed freewheel; weirdly narrow handlebars; and of course a giant puffy saddle.  He’d also removed the gold “Team Miyata” panels.  Poor bike.  Bryan had stripped the crap off before but hadn’t replaced all of it yet.  Getting that bike running felt more like an intervention than a renovation.  I feared we’d have to go out and buy a new front derailleur.  Fortunately, every former bike mechanic has a big box called The Box, and Bryan’s was full of treasures.  Check out this sweet Dura-Ace mech, from around 1980 (and no, he has no idea where he got it):

    The other bike, an ’84 Team, was in better shape and needed only brakes, a saddle, and a chain.  It actually had a chain, but it was older than George Burns and almost as dead.  We ended up keeping it on there because it was enmeshed in a codependent relationship with the equally worn-out cogs.  The saddle we threw on there was a Fi’Zi:k knockoff that came with Bryan’s new Fuji, and was designed to be thrown away.  It was better than nothing, but just barely.  Sitting on it was like sitting on one of those Spenco fake boobs we used to pass around in health class, to feel for fake tumors.  At least this saddle didn’t have any of those.  The brakes we installed were Tektro—also from the new Fuji, and also designed to be thrown away.

    On ride day, I woke at 6 and thought I’d have to go shake the other guys awake, but they were already up.  Look, my nephew John (a college baseball player) even stretches out before exercise:

    Couple quick things:  yes, that jersey does in fact match the Miyatas, and thanks for noticing.  (It was a hand-me-down from his Evil Uncle Dana, which is also where Bryan got both Team Miyatas.)  And look at that whiteboard:  we worked out the physics of this ride in advance.  The power required for the climb, all the vectors for taking high-speed switchbacks on the way back down … it’s all there.  We don’t stumble blindly into these things.

    Here’s the requisite “before” photo.  We hit out at 7:12 a.m., fully caffeinated from good, strong coffee that Bryan made.  If I were a coffee achiever I could devote a paragraph to the beans, the blend, the machinery, etc. but I’m just a NoDoz Underachiever.  We didn’t have any breakfast, because we never do, and as for its being the most important meal of the day … oh, stuff it!

    Man, it was fricking cold (41 degrees, 88% humidity, and I don’t want to hear about your “real winters” and all that—I’m a Californian).  Mist rose from all the fields as we rolled out of town.  Most of the roads had been repaved recently, and featured those rumble strips that used to keep drunks and somnambulists from going off the road, and I guess still do, but now they’re mainly for drivers who can’t resist texting while driving.

    Speaking of annoying drivers, you know what’s all the rage in WA?  Putting an oversized engine in your jacked-up truck, and then, when passing cyclists, flooring it so the groan of the engine and the whine of the turbocharger make the bikers jump out of their skins.  We bikers need to be taught a lesson, you see.

    We got a great view of Mount Baker, our destination, on the way out of town.  Cameras, for all their recent improvement, still do a lousy job compared to the naked eye.  I wish they responded quasi-intelligently to voice commands, so I could say, “No, don’t focus on the chain, focus on that ancient front derailleur!” or “Fix the exposure so Mount Baker shows up, duh!”  My hands were too cold to do a lot of futzing so I had to add the mountain in post-production.  (Full disclosure:  I’m not actually sure this is Mount Baker, and I guessed on the scale.)

    We sprinted for every city limit sign.  I thought I’d do pretty well, because Bryan is even older than I am, and this was—I kid you not—John’s first bike ride of 2015.  (He commutes short distances by bike, but that’s about it.)  I know you’re tired of all the hackneyed excuses bike racers give, so I have some new ones:

    • My contact lens prescription is on the weak side, and the city limit signs in WA don’t feature elevation or population, so they’re hard to discern from a distance;
    • I was afraid to shove hard on the pedals due to that ancient chain;
    • I’m just a big sissy.

    When Bryan and John launched their sprint into Glacier, I was riding no-handed with the camera out so there was no way I could participate.  So did I at least get an awesome photo of the glorious sprint?  No … by the time this occurred to me the guys were too far ahead for a great photo.  My brain was being as sluggish as my legs.

    It’s a bit hard to describe the climb up Mount Baker. Technically, it’s about 30 miles long, but the first 20 miles average just 1%. The climb proper begins 9.5 miles from the “summit” and averages 5.5%. (The road doesn’t reach the actual summit.) About a mile from the top is a pretty steep section, maxing out at 13.7%.

    There are a few buildings along the road, one associated with a ski resort, but nothing was open so we couldn’t get any water. About 5 miles from the summit we had some Cliff bars which we washed down with recycled saliva (our own). The modern bars have caffeine in them and come in all kinds of new flavors. I can’t tell, in this photo, if John is savoring his, or using Zen techniques to ingest it without suffering.

    Look at their shoes.  Those Lake cycling shoes Bryan is wearing?  They technically belong to John.  They’re his only pair, which is why he’s rocking the Nike sneakers.  Does he complain about having to ride 120 miles in sneakers?  No.  Does he complain about his dad swiping his stuff?  No.  Did he complain, six years ago when we last attempted this ride, that it rained the whole time and we got turned around by snow a couple miles from the Mount Baker summit?  No.  Does he complain about overuse of the serial-rhetorical-question literary device?  Possibly, and I couldn’t blame him.

    By the way, here’s a movie from that ill-fated Mount Baker ride of 2009.  I still have the scar on my leg from where Bryan tried to take a bite.

    Fortunately the weather was great this year … it was still cool on the mountain, but nice and sunny.

    Go ahead and zoom in on that last one.  Note that Bryan’s gloves don’t even remotely match:  one is full-finger, one isn’t.  Guess what he’ll be getting for Christmas!

    So how was John doing, considering that he’s not a bike racer, hadn’t ridden all year, has more extraneous muscle on his upper body than Chris Froome has in total, was wearing sneakers, and was riding a bike with wheels handed down from his aunt’s early-‘80s Univega?  Quite well, though he must have been suffering pretty badly to get gapped like this by his dad.

    Actually, maybe he was gapped only because he was futzing with his GoPro or something.  He did admit later to having suffered, but who knows … maybe he was just being polite.

    Here’s the only halfway decent action photo I got of all three of us.  It appears I may have suffered a mild stroke at some point, based on how the side of my face is collapsing and on how I’m grinning like an idiot.

    Look, we made the summit, Artist’s Point!  The elevation is 5,100 feet and we started at (basically) sea level.  A friendly hiker snapped this photo, and also gave us a whole bottle of Gatorade, which was cucumber-lime flavor.  You know what?  It actually tasted pretty good.  That’s what hours of exercise will do for you.  (I remember enjoying some ice-cold Tequiza after an hours-long hike in Yosemite; I bought some when I got back home and realized it was actually quite gross.)  We were really stoked at the hiker’s generosity, because there was no water at the summit, either.  We only managed to fill our bottles once during this ride, about 80 or 90 miles in.

    For those albertnet readers who’d like to get into a big argument about irony, here’s a photo that may or may not be ironic.  (Capri Sonne, aka Capri Sun, is one of those rare beverage companies not owned by PepsiCo, which is Gatorade’s parent.)

    The descent was glorious (if a bit brisk).  Toward the bottom of this post is a YouTube video where you can see some of that.  Following the downhill, when we finally did stop for water, we compared our helmet-heads.  Bryan’s was fricking epic:

    You can tell he was going fast by the piece of straw there.  My own helmet-head was pretty sweet, too.  I didn’t get the corn row effect, but the bugs are a nice touch. 

    The redness is because the helmet I borrowed from Bryan was too small.  I was relieved it didn’t actually wear a hole in my forehead (though it felt like it was).  There was a missing pad above my crown, which due to my lack of hair and the male Velcro bits caused an unpleasant sandpaper sensation.  John suggested I put some wadded-up paper towel in there, and it really helped.  Such a fine lad!  His heart must go out to my brother and me, the way our hair is disappearing faster than glaciers in Greenland.  (Actually, our hair is migrating to our backs … but I digress.)

    I did manage to win a city-limit sprint, into the little town of Nugent.  Just now I looked up that town to see if it was named after Ted Nugent, and I can’t find it on a map.  I guess it’s not a town at all … there’s just a random green sign that says “Nugent” so I didn’t really win anything.

    The final sprint into Bellingham was one we’d talked about the whole ride; it’s the equivalent of the Champs-Elysées stage of the Tour de France.  Bryan and I were watching each other like hawks on the approach, and just as I was about to launch my sprint, Bryan said, “I don’t think that’s it,” meaning the city-limit sign.  I hesitated, and just then John came flying by us.  There was no way to catch him.  It was a brilliant move.  Later I accused Bryan of treason; after all, saying “I don’t think that’s it” is a lot easier than giving his son a lead-out.  Bryan denies any such tactics.  In any event, John has not only great strength but great instincts (exemplifying 3 of the 5 sprinting tips I give here).

    Here’s a video of ride highlights from John’s GoPro: 

    Here’s the “after” shot, juxtaposed with the “after” shot from our 2009 expedition.  John has certainly grown.

    We sat on the back deck and ate bananas as our glycogen window treat.  My legs really hurt … this was my longest ride of the year by almost 40 miles.  My dad was visiting as well, and I attempted to scandalize him by saying, “I’m going to take an over-the-counter muscle relaxant.”  I think it worked:  my dad (an acolyte of Dr. Andrew Weil) asked worriedly, “What kind?”  I replied, “Brewski.”  Man, that Long Table ale is yummy.  Like a Saison, but stronger.  I brought out one for John too because hey, he’s of legal drinking age now!

    If you’re wondering how I came to drink 1½ beers, it’s because there was a limited supply, and John gave me half of his.  I commented on his temperance and he said, “It’s not that … you just look like you need it more.”

    Dinner was straight-up massive, and tasty:  hand-cranked pasta, a previously frozen lasagne we’d thawed just in case which was nice and meaty, salad (well …salad), garlic bread, and some hot dog buns that had been given the garlic bread treatment.  Then the pie, and whipped cream.  Have you noticed that aerosol whipped cream seems so often to come in a 3-pack nowadays?  It’s almost entrapment the way its overabundance leads to fist-sized puffs atop tiny slivers of pie.

    The aftermath of the ride and dinner was predictable enough….

    Next time I do this, I’m bringing my older daughter, Alexa.  I just informed her of this.  She replied, “You are insane.”  You can imagine her eye-roll.

  • Memorial Day Criterium Race Report

    Summary:

    Breakfast: Trader Joe's Nonfat Vanilla Yogurt with a hand full of blueberries.
    Pre Race: 1/2 bottle of accelerade/water and one strawberrry flavored clif shot gel
    Post First Race: remaining 1/2 bottle of accelerade/water, 1/2 a clif bar (chocolate chip) and 1/2 bottle of just plain old h2o
    Post 2nd Race: Water, then Mexican food at Guadalajara off fruitvale.  Not my first choice but our favorite Cuatro Caminos on San Leandro was closed.  1 - carnitas taco, 1 - carne asada taco, rice, refried beans.

    Race Results: 13th in the Elite 4/5 (nothing elite about it...bad bike handling, slow in corners, spread curb to curb at times).  I was just too far back on the last lap and wasn't aggressive enough to move up.  First race in 2 years.

    6th in the Men's 35+/45+ Cat 4.  Was much more aggressive about moving up and staying up front.  Cleaner race but still slow at times in the corner.  Moved up on the inside on last lap but got caught into the wind on the front and couldn't slide in behind anyone....still.

    In depth:

    Not really much more to add.  The food was solid at Guadalajara.  Large tacos but the corn tortillas are not as good as the ones at Cuatro...  Also, I am a huge refried bean fan and these were good (solid B to B+) but there was only a very small puddle that had too much cheese on top.  

    As far as the race went, I really felt I had the strength to be on the podium in both races.  Having not raced in 2 years my feel was definitely not quite there and I need to really be more aggressive to stay up front/near the front.  The racing itself was what I expected in the 4/5 and 4's.  No breaks, lots of slowing and bad lines in the corners, and guys doing weird things like the whole peloton moving left into the cones on the back straight for some weird reason.  

    I will say there were no crashes which is obviously great.  But and this is a huge but...there's another team out there called Halo Sports/Zocca or something like that whose team kit is very similar to ours in color and layout.  In fact, I used that to my advantage a couple of times in the 4/5 race to move up.  I saw the Halo guys moving and picking up team mates so I jumped on to their wheels and when one of their guys would see me sliding up in the orange and blue, they'd let me stay on the wheel thinking I was one of theirs!!!

    Oh and they tried to screw me on the 4/5 placing.  I finished 13th but they didn't have me scored - only as a DNP.  I complained and they realized their error.  Saw the orange/blue kit on the monitor during review, saw my number but it didn't correspond to any numbers for Halo/Zocca so they didn't know who I was.  Once I proudly proclaimed that I was East Bay Velo and I was 946 and I was 13th...they corrected.

    Traci took a whole bunch of pictures and had a great time.  Well as great a time as you can have watching a bunch of guys going in a big square for a while.  Plus the sun didn't start shining until after my second race.

    Here's a pic of Sean and me after my second race and prior to Sean lining up for his 45+ Cat 3 - and yes, right after the whistle went off for Sean's race I yelled at him to move up.  It didn't work...he was riding near the back the whole way.  Unfortunately, Traci was starving so we didn't stick around long enough to see how he finished.

    - Tony Velebil

  • Ride report - Grizzly Peak Century with Alexa

    Short version

    It was cold. The food was bountiful and tasty. Alexa rode like a boss. 73 miles, 5,770 feet vertical, two pairs commemorative socks.  Post-ride BBQ was tasty, even the lentils.  For the “visual thinkers” out there, here is a link to a photo album.

    (If that doesn’t work, let me know, because the snipped URLs sometimes wear out, like socks.)

    Long version

    For breakfast, I served Alexa leftover homemade mac ‘n’ cheese.  I sneaked a few bites and man, it was good. But I didn’t dare take any for myself, for hell hath no fury like an Albert deprived of leftovers. The members of my household are like jackals.

    We drove to the start, bikes piled stealthily in the back of the car (following Ceely’s no-rack strategy). As we approached the registration table the woman said, “You must be the Alberts.”  How did she know?  Well, Alexa’s name was flagged with “minor” and they don’t get many of those.  Huh.  Kids these days ... they have no time for exercise—they’re too busy playing “Grand Theft Auto XIII – Running Over Baby Pandas and Homeless People Edition.”

    We met up with Craig and Susanne and started the ride.  The plan was to ride together so long as we all enjoyed the same pace and I didn’t talk too much.  (For those of you who don’t know, Susanne is Craig’s wife.  I actually had a Latin class at Cal with her in like 1990.  She remembers it as being a really easy class and I found it really hard.  Story of my life.)

    I don’t need to tell you it was brutally cold.  This Indian Winter is really getting old.  I’m tempted to complain about Global Warming but somebody out there would probably respond with a lame joke about “you call this warming?” so instead I’ll say this:  I’m really getting worried about Global Climate Fuckery.  Upper-80s on Thursday and every other day of spring is like living in an air-flavored Slurpee. I was glad to climb Pinehurst just to warm up a bit. I see one of you painted Alexa’s name on the road, but you spelled it “Alexis.” Thanks for the thought ... please try harder next time.

    We cut the course a bit, taking Shasta down to Wildcat to the first rest stop rather than staying on Grizzly Peak the whole way. This is because so many residents on that road like to back out of their driveways without looking, and/or cut off cyclists and break their femurs.  I guess this isn’t exactly an epidemic but one time is enough for me.

    I’d talked up the GPC food to Alexa, and she wasn’t disappointed.  Pound cake, banana bread, chocolate-chip/cranberry cookies, oatmeal cookies, crunchy ginger snaps, soft ginger snaps ... we tried it all, and sometimes Y.  I’m sure I’m forgetting some items.  I even had a cup of coffee, just so I could pee a gallon at every rest stop like I did at the first.

    Did I mention it was cold?  I didn’t even have a jacket because I was leaving room for Alexa’s arm- and leg-warmers in the pocket of my Lycra bike racing shirt.  (I was about to type “jersey” and then I remember that there are pockets of hermitic sheepherders in Australasia who think “jersey” means “woolen sweater.”)

    We descended Wildcat, hooked a left on San Pablo Dam Road, and went around the “Planet of the Apes” loop before hitting the second rest stop.  This stop didn’t have any baked goods unless you count bagels.  If Craig fails to mention his bagel incident in his report, bug him about it because it was funny and I’m this close to stealing his thunder.  I had a “nothing” bagel with Skippy peanut butter on it—a guilty pleasure if there ever was one.  The alternative was this health-food peanut butter product that looked like diarrhea mixed with gravel.  I think it might have been almond butter, which makes about as much sense as a strawberry newton (i.e., none at all).  I kind of wished there were a New Yorker around to launch into a diatribe about there being no actual bagels on the west coast.

    I got some Gu version of Shot Bloks, which were like Jujubes for grown-ups, and Alexa coveted them, so I told her to get her own.  Turns out I’d gotten the last bag, so I gave her mine.  Note to other parents:  this is how to get your kid to do century rides—just relax your normally stingy treat policies during long rides.  (Of course, this only works if you deprive your kids the rest of the time.)

    Next on the docket was the fierce McEwen Road climb.  Craig and Susanne came up with a word game to make the riding go more quickly, and this was so effective they dropped Alexa and me.  Once we’d conquered that climb, I told Alexa the next climb would be Mama Bear.  Of course this was false.  The next climb was actually Pig Farm, and as we slogged up it I had flashbacks of the last time I rode it, some weeks ago on the club ride, with Kromer drilling it on the front endlessly.  (I'd tried to take a turn at the front but after about 20 seconds he found my pace too slow and retook the lead, which was fine with me since there was a headwind anyway, which didn’t stop Kromer and several others from rolling away from me near the top no matter how much wheel I sucked.)

    Anyway, as the climb dragged on and on, Alexa remarked on how I hadn’t warned her about this one.  (I wouldn’t say she complained, per se, but her displeasure was evident.)  Poor kid.  It can’t be easy having an idiot savant for a father.  (For those of you questioning the “savant” part, I’ll remind you I have great facility with iambic pentameter, which has saved my ass ... well, okay, zero times.)

    At the base of Mama Bear, we stopped so Alexa could take off her leg warmers.  She’s normally impervious to the cold, being the odd sort of person who would be perfectly happy pulling an Iditarod sled while wearing gym shorts.  That she waited this long should tell you how frigid the conditions were (even though the sun was doing its best).  While we were stopped, a worried-looking woman rolled up, stopped, and asked, in a quavering voice, “How long is this climb?”  Nobody said anything for a bit, not knowing how to answer.  I mean, it takes as long as it takes, which depends entirely on one’s fitness.  She rephrased her question:  “How far up does this road go?”  All I could think of was, “It goes on a right fur piece,” so that’s what I said.  Got a chuckle out of her, anyway.

    Alexa had really suffered on Pig Farm, and when Craig offered her a sleeve of Clif Shot Bloks she happily accepted.  By the top of Mama Bear she’d consumed the whole lot of them.  I found this impressive because those Bloks have stymied me in the past.  Consider this passage from my Everest Challenge 2012 report:

    Hunting in my jersey pocket I came upon a sleeve of Clif Shot Bloks that Craig had given me.  My hand groped it, trying to figure out what it was.  Once I’d identified it, my brain tried to comprehend what Shot Bloks were and what they did.  You eat them, right?  But what are they?  And how do you get into the package?  Is it like Pez?  I gave up trying to fathom this great Shot Blok mystery and managed to find a gel.

    I guess all that piano playing has really enhanced Alexa’s fine motor control.

    After Mama Bear, Craig uttered the word “kit” in reference to our bike costumes.  I glowered at him and said, “I can’t ride with you anymore.” So we parted ways.  Okay, that’s not actually how it happened.  He never said “kit.”  It’s just that Alexa descends more slowly than those guys, probably because she knows her mom would kill me if she crashed.  Moreover, Alexa and I wanted to stop at the last rest stop (I mean, free food—hello?!) and Craig and Susanne didn’t need anything.  So they rode off into the sunset.

    The last rest stop had more baked goods, and we had one more of everything, except the chocolate-chip/cranberry cookies—we had two more of those.  They also had Crystal Geezer juice drinks and we took two apiece.  “So, we just have Papa Bear and Baby Bear, and we’re done with the climbing?” Alexa asked hopefully.  I replied, “Right, though we also have to climb Mama Bear.”  This was not me teasing my daughter—this was me being an idiot.  Again.  Poor kid.  “Wait, I thought we already did Mama Bear!” she said, distraught.  I assured her she was right.  From now on, I’ll give her the map and have her tell me what’s going on.

    On Papa Bear, we passed this angry middle-aged woman wearing mostly black.  It was this weird long-sleeve costume, and under her helmet she had a thin head-scarf, tied in the back, like what a Ninja wears.  In a brittle voice she asked, “Are you two doing both loops?”  I should have said, “Hells yeah, beyotch!” but instead I said, “Oh no, just the first one.”  To which she replied, “Oh, well I don’t feel so bad then.”  Like it’s some kind of disgrace being passed by us.  Sheesh.

    Baby Bear was a cakewalk (cake-ride?) and then we hooked a left on Camino Pablo.  Rolling toward Orinda, the woman in black caught up to us—probably she pulled a lot of time back during the post-Papa-Bear descent—and she blew right by us by running a stop sign.  On her way past, she muttered, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.”  What a fascinating utterance!  Was she quoting Tolstoy’s epigraph, that opens Anna Karenina?  Or was she quoting Romans 12:19 as Tolstoy had?  Or am I paraphrasing her body language?

    On that long, shallow climb just past Orinda, after Camino Pablo becomes Moraga Way, we passed the Ninja woman again.  As we rolled slowly by, she glared at Alexa and said, “You possess, in the highest degree, a quality that makes one forget all shortcomings; this quality is blood, that blood which tells, as the English say.”  So it was definitely Anna Karenina she’d quoted the first time, though I’ll confess it’s also possible that this strange woman said nothing at all.

    About this time I became aware that we were being tailed.  This dude with a red jersey, white arm warmers, and a yellow helmet had been behind us, maybe 30 feet behind, for an awfully long time.  It’s not credible that his pace just so happened to be identical to ours.  No matter how many stop signs and stoplights we stopped at, he never got any closer.  I’m pretty sure he was with the Bureau.  Many a father/biker would have been spooked, but I’m pretty good with my fists.

    We took a left on Moraga Road:  the home stretch!  There was a slight tailwind and we had a good head of steam, but that didn’t stop the Ninja woman in black from making her final move.  She came flying by, in her best approximation of an aerodynamic position.  Somebody should explain to this woman how to ride on the drops.  I guess she didn’t grasp what that part of the handlebar is for, because she had her hands on the hoods but her elbows bent way past 90 degrees, sticking down low.  It didn’t look very comfortable, nor very safe, but she could not have cared less.  Her face was stony with determination, her mouth a rictus of uncaged ferocity.  This time she didn’t say anything, but to my astonishment Alexa cried out, “She sucks nitro... with Phase 4 heads!  600 horsepower through the wheel!  She’s meanness set to music and the bitch is born to run!”  Okay, okay, Alexa didn’t really say that.  She hasn’t even seen “Mad Max” (yet).  What she really did say was something wistful, along these lines:  “Normally women that age are just waiting for the end, but she’s breaking new ground.  I think this was a big day for her.”  I should pay more attention to that child ... I think I could learn something. 

    In case you’re wondering, the angry biker woman easily bested us in the end; she didn’t really even need to run that last stoplight in cold blood.  I wonder if she’s told her own glorious tale on the Internet somewhere, or at her book club, or on the wall of a public restroom.

    Dinner was great.  I graciously accepted the  volunteers’ offers of roasted red potatoes, jeweled rice, and even lentil pottage, though I drew the line at the couscous salad.  To my surprise, Alexa also allowed all these things on her plate, though she then whispered to me, “I took the lentils to be polite, but you’re eatin’ ‘em.”  Then it was on to the barbecue station, for chicken and vegetables.  They had eggplant, peppers, onions, all kinds of groovy stuff.  Then, on principle, I covered my plate with corn chips and those glisteningly greasy no-name potato chips that come in the 5-pound bag. 

    I was not going to be one of those guys hitting his forehead and saying, “I coulda had a V-8!” so I had one. 

    I went back for more chicken.  The volunteers don’t give you that much, so I tried a new tactic:  instead of withdrawing my plate after the chicken was deposited, I just kept it there.  There was a brief stalemate before the volunteer divined my wishes and put more on the plate.  It was like a game of chicken.  (Get it?  Chicken?)

    I’d have stuck around and eaten more, but Alexa wanted to get home before the library closed.  Can you believe this kid?!

    - Dana

  • Race Report: CCCX Fort Ord Circuit Race, Sep. 14

    9/14/14 Central Coast Circuit Race, Fort Ord, California

    Short version:

    Breakfast: 2 poached eggs, OJ, Coffee, ⅓ spinach croissant (at CRoyal)
    Lunch (en route): ⅔ spinach croissant, banana, chocolate milk, ½ bottle OJ
    Race:  7th out of 20 in M45+ 3/4 (first result as a newly minted Cat 3)
    Post-race: chocolate recovery drink, ½ Clif bar
    Drive home nosh: Medium Peet’s coffee, ham and cheese sandwich recommended by Sean, banana nut bread

    <SEAN>
    Breakfast: TJ’s steel-cut oatmeal (2 portions), OJ, decaf
    Lunch (en route): ¾ turkey/swiss/lettuce/tomato/mayo/mustard sandwich, ½ bottle Nuun, ½ bottle water
    Race: 13th out of 20 in M45+ 3/4 (4/4 times this year to be dropped and finish off the back on this course - my score heretofore was “incomplete” but now I have to say “fail.”)
    Post-race: couple swallows of chocolate milk that I’d extended with water - too thin to enjoy, leftover Nuun from my race water bottle, one banana
    Drive home nosh: Small Peet’s decaf latte - whole milk, extra hot, ham and cheese sandwich, 5 small oatmeal cookies
    </SEAN>

    Long Version:

    Course:  The same 4.3 mile loop in Fort Ord as they’ve used for a few years now, and today, back to the original “sprinter’s finish” (which I was not expecting and was first of many setbacks on the day). The course is on closed roads with decent pavement <SEAN>There are no potholes, and only a couple of cracks or bumps around the course, but this is not smooth blacktop, but rather - what is this stuff, a kind of large-grained chipseal? A great deal of the loop is coarse enough to noticeably slow you down.</SEAN> and features a set of stair stepping climbs on the backside then a sweeping downhill into a short straightaway, 120 degree right and slight rise to the start and previously finish line. Between the start and the turn into the backside climbs it’s mostly rolling, but there is a section of false false flat that ends up being pretty decisive. I say it’s false false flat because it’s really just a 6% climb ( red section on profile ) that people try to deny the existence of because they know it just leads into the real climbs. <SEAN>Oh yeah, this is definitely NOT flat.</SEAN>

    Returning to tradition, the race once again finished with a somewhat uphill sprint to where the red arrow is, after the downhill and the right hand turn.

    <SEAN>I prefer this finish, as it’s much better for sprinters. However, you have to get there first.</SEAN>

    Pre-Race:
    Today Sean and I had the luxury of racing our proper M45+ 3/4 field (as opposed to the M35+ 3/4 we did last time). This field starts much later in the day ( especially today..) That meant a leisurely 10:00am pick-up at Sean’s for the 2+ hourish drive down to Seaside/Ft. Ord.

    With the odd timing we ended up having to eat our lunches during the drive but even with a bit of Raider Nation traffic near the coliseum and one pit-stop, we arrived pretty early at the race. Unfortunately when we picked up our numbers we were informed that there had been a bad crash in the M35+ 3/4 race and things had been significantly delayed while one rider was airlifted out and the other ambulanced out. We got a look at the first rider’s bike and it looked really ugly. That must have been one nasty crash. The delay meant our 2:00 race was now predicted to start at 2:45/3:00.

    <SEAN>This is not what you like to see as you pick up your number for a race. There was actual blood on the frame of the guy who got airlifted out.</SEAN>

    <SEAN>Look how casual and confident I appear before the pain begins.</SEAN>

    With the extra time we thought maybe some arts and crafts projects were in order, but settled for fiddling with our phones a bit, getting caught up on the Vuelta, and chatting with Dean Abt who was down to race both the M45+ Open and our race. We did a few warm-up laps on the course while Dean’s first race went on and then headed to the start/finish line to catch his finish (a nice 3rd place) and then line up for our race. Dean was pretty cooked from his race and begged a pack of shot bloks off Sean, then admitted he wasn’t likely to finish our race ( I think he did about 2 laps).

    <SEAN>Yes, I think this is the first race I’ve ever done with Dean where I did not see him the entire time because I was in front of him. Even when I got popped at the halfway point - he must have pulled out before then.</SEAN>

    Race:
    I counted 19 guys in our field at the start, but that was because one guy had taken off with the field that started 5 minutes before us. I think they finally kicked him out because eventually he drifted back to our field.

    Much to everyone’s surprise a guy from a team I really can’t accurately remember, let’s call them team X, took off on the first lap and a Pen Velo  rider followed. A lot of “I’m not gonna chase, you chase”,”No, I’m not gonna chase, you chase” ensued to the point where they got up to a 55 second lead. We started to get a little bit organized and up the pace a bit, and when the Pen Velo guy lost contact with the team X guy and we got him in our sights, the smell of blood in the water got things moving. Unfortunately another guy from team X was determined to do something he saw on TV called blocking, and started to do some really bad/dangerous paceline disruption that twice threatened to push me off into the rough. Nonetheless we managed to reel his man in too, though personally I would have loved to let him dangle out there suffering for another lap after his team mate’s bad behavior.

    <SEAN>It was just about here, at the halfway point of the race, and at the first of the stairstep bumps, that a teammate of the Penn Velo breakaway dude put in a hard little effort at the front that did me in. I was glad to hear from Ken when chatting after the race that he had to dig deep for a moment when this attack happened. Made me feel almost okay about popping.</SEAN>

    With a couple laps to go it was gruppo compacto (at least from my vantage point in around 5th wheel). People were surging, but then shutting down quickly thereafter, and while occasionally a move on the hills or on the false false flat was putting me briefly in the red, it was generally the case that things slowed up again and you could get back on if you got gapped. With such a strong headwind up the backside and on the flat into the hairpin before the finish, it was hard to contemplate making a move on the climbs that would really stick.

    With one lap to go somebody put in a hard dig on the 6% section after the start/finish and I was totally cross-eyed trying to hold the wheel in front of me, but then just as quickly as it started, it stopped and we went easy all the way to the turn into the climbs. “Surely something is going to happen now” I thought, though the pessimistic voice in me had already taken over saying “It’s just going to be a bunch sprint”. Sure enough there were a few surges on the climbs, but by the top, anybody who wanted to could have ridden up to the front and been first into the descent.

    As it was, 2 guys from team X and a short punchy rider (Donald Lee?) from Pen Velo did, and I jumped on as 4th wheel down the hill and into the straight before the final right hander into the finish. I switched to a faster wheel as we went into the turn and somebody passed on the outside so I was 5th going into the sprint. Lacking proper motivation (I was pretty unhappy with the race dynamics in general and had forgotten that prizes went down to 5th place) my sprint was lackluster and as per usual 2 guys (it’s always 2 guys) passed me in the sprint proper so I got 7th. Not a bad result for my first race as a Cat 3, but also a wake up call that I need to either remember what places are worth fighting for, or just become a rabid competitive monster intrinsically motivated to push myself to the limit to beat anybody I can for the sheer animal joy of a slightly higher placing an amateur masters cat 3 bike race.

    <SEAN>Turned out that the two Penn Velo riders finished 2nd and 3rd, so I felt even better about having been dropped by him/them. Best of all was that I wasn’t even last! There were two behind me, and 5 DNFs. I rode the last 2.5 laps solo, and was not joined or passed by anybody. A victory of sorts.</SEAN>

    Post Race:
    After checking for correct results (last race Sean got DNF’d even though he finished), and getting another sobering look at the crashed dude’s mangled bike (2014 Cervelo R5 frame looks to be trashed with broken drive side dropout - among other things), drinking our recovery beverages, and shooting some post-race selfies, we jumped in the car for the drive home.

    Somewhere near Morgan Hill our personal fuel gauges hit ‘reserve’ so Sean found us a conveniently located Peet’s at which to grab coffee and some nosh.

    <SEAN>I’m glad Ken had the presence of mind to take a food photo, to somewhat satisfy Dana’s culinary demands. I think I was ripping off the wrapper and tearing into mine at this point. But I wish I’d taken a shot of the half-eaten sandwich in cross-section, as the below photo doesn’t do it justice. It’s chock full of ham - Ken actually removed some of the meat from his sandwich(!), which my dog Charlie heartily enjoyed when I got home - and is much tastier than would appear in the pic. I really do recommend it if you are at Peet’s and want something savory, not sweet.</SEAN>

  • Race Report: Savageman 70.0 triathlon

    Many of you know that for the past few years I've been going out to Deep Creek Lake in Maryland and riding the bike courses for the Savageman triathlon.  Deep Creek is the DC area's Tahoe analog -- a lake in the mountains about three hours from the metro area.  The riding is fantastic.  And since the elevation is around 4000 feet, the summer and fall weather's much nicer than that of the DC area, which is generally a nasty brew of hot and humid.

    This year I decided to actually do the triathlon proper.

    Triathlon magazine calls it the hardest race in triathlon.    Why?  Because the bike course is, well, insane.  Apologies to James, but who in their right mind would send triathletes, who often can barely stay upright on a flat, straight road, up something like the Westernport Wall, a 30% grade paved in cobbles?  Then over another  ~6,500 feet of vertical gain, much of which is up grades in the double digits?  And oh, by the way, the half-marathon run has its own 2,000 feet of vertical gain, some of which is on fire trails up to a forest fire lookout.  Oh yeah, sign me up.

    The full race distance is as follows: 1.2 mile swim, 55.7 mile bike, 13.1 mile run.  My plan was to hold back on the first two events so I could survive the run.  I do a masters swim program while the kids do their swim team, so knew the swim would be ok.  And I've been motorpacing off Craig and Dana for the past couple months, so the bike was going to be fine.  The run . . . well more on that later.

    Lucas loaned me his TT bike a few weeks back, so I had plenty of time to acclimate to the aero position (thanks, Lucas!).  I borrowed a hardshell travel case from Ian (thanks, Ian), rented a wetsuit from Sports Basement, and headed East. My sister has a house on the lake right by the course, and I stayed there with her and her husband.

    Luckily, I got great weather for the event (the folks who did the Olympic distance weren't so lucky, and did the event in driving rain and wind; savage indeed).  The swim went fine; I did a little backstroke or breaststroke when I got tired.  Masters is great, but you rarely do anything more than a 500 at one time, so I wasn't really ready for 2,000 continuous meters.  A few seconds rest did wonders though.

    The bike leg was a good time.  The big deal here is that if you get up the Westernport Wall without falling over (see vid above), and go on to finish the whole thing, you get a brick with your name on it emplaced among the cobbles on the Wall itself.  Pretty cool!  So my only real goal for this race was to get up the Wall no dabs so I would get a brick.  Turned out not to be a problem.  I was fortunate to hit the wall alone, so I could pick my line and didn't have to worry about someone falling in front of me.  Up and over, and that was that.

    Only two people passed me during the entirety of the bike leg.  Which I thought was pretty good,   I have to confess, though, that one of the two was a total Fred.  Tri suit?  Check?  Arm warmers despite the tri suit having no sleeves?  Check.  Camelback?  Check.  Beard?  Check.  Day-glo knee-height compression  socks?   Check.  And he kicked my ass.  I'll admit that rankled some.

    The run was awful.  Almost unspeakably miserable.  Not just because it hurt (which it did), or because it took forever (ditto), but because the entire time I was on the run leg people were passing me.  I mean everyone passed me.  Thin people.  Fat people.  Tall people. Short people.  Old people. Young people.  Thin, short, old people.  Tall, young, fat people.  Every combination you can think of came by me.  The only respite from the constant ego-hammering was on the steepest part of the fire trail, where most people had to walk.  I caught some people there.  I was walking too, of course, but I can walk uphill like gangbusters.  Then they passed me again when the running resumed.  I had sort of resigned myself to this going in; I know I'm an atrocious runner; but it still sucked hard.

    That said, I did finish, I wasn't last, I didn't break or tear anything, and I got my brick, so all in all a good day.  Overall results are here.  Age group results are here.  For those who don't want to bother with the links, the bottom line (age group) is:                                              

    Place Bib Code Age Sex Name City/State Rank SWIM Rank T1 Rank BIKE Rank T2 Rank RUN Penalty Time DQ
    14. 225 45 M Todd Edmister Orinda, CA 21 39:23 7 4:12 2 3:18:31 23 3:10 20 2:24:04 4:00 6:33:18

    There were 40 finishers in my age group.  2nd place on the bike split is kinda cool.  I'm not sure what the penalty was for; no one said anything to me on the course.  My sister thinks it's 'cus I got on my bike in the transition area where you're supposed to be walking.  I guess I know if there's a next time.

    Post-race food was awesome.  I went for the BBQ pork with slaw on a bun.  Yum!  Strangely, they were out of the vegetarian option by the time I found the food tent.  Who knew they'd even have a veggie option this close to West Virginia?  Much less that there'd be excess demand for it?  Go figure.

    - Todd Edmister

  • Race Report: Challenge Road Race Race

    Aug 30, 2014 Challenge Road Race Race, Challenge, CA

    Short version:

    Breakfast: Cereal Medley with yogurt, raisins and banana, orange juice, NO coffee
    Race:  1st out of 11? in  M45+/4 , 1st in larger combined M35+/M45+ 4/5 field
    Post-race: ½ banana, OJ
    Lunch: Veggie skillet with pancakes and toast, coffee and more coffee. “La Biere de Beloeil” Belgian beer when I got home

    Long Version:

    Course
    The Challenge RR course is a 52km ( 31mi ) loop starting and ending in Challenge, CA which is a little town some 45 minutes into the hills from Marysville. The course has about 1050m (3500 ft) of climbing per lap, divvied up into 3 major sections. All fields start with a neutral roll down the horribly bumpy, patched and pitted Oregon Hill Rd. ( holds it’s own with the worst of Copperopolis and Leesville ) so when the race starts you’re already at a significantly lower altitude than the finish line. Once racing starts, you climb about 250m up a set of stairsteps, then roller coaster a bit before the long plunge all the way to a bit after the turn onto New York House Rd., about 38km in. It then does a steep climb, short drop, then a set of climbs topping out at about 47km before plunging to the turn onto the finishing straight at 49km. The final 3km are roughly 1km climb, 1km flat, 1km climb to finish with the climb sections being 5% to 8%.

    The lower cats only do one lap so we don’t have to race the crappy downhill, which is a strong disincentive for catting up ;-)

    Strava: http://www.strava.com/activities/187574632

    Race
    This year I drove up Firday and stayed at a kinda dumpy but super friendly hotel in Brownsville ( https://plus.google.com/101644360389685738632/about?gl=us&hl=en ) which gave me the opportunity to pre ride the last 20k of the course and formulate my plan. Previously I’d put in a hard effort on the steep climb at 38km but it just succeeded in dragging the stronger part of the field with me then leaving me blown for the bigger climbing starting at 43km in. This year the plan was just to mark on that first climb and put in a hard effort of the next one to drop some folks. During my pre ride I also noted that a hard effort in the last little pitch at 46km could potentially stay away by bombing the downhill, hitting first km of finish straight hard, recovering on 2nd km, then powering the final km. The fly in the ointment of all this planning was that the guy who won it last year was in attendance with about 4 team mates, and the guy who came in 4th was also here with a few of his own.

    They combined our field of 11 or so 45+ 4’s with the 35+ 4’s and 35+ / 45+ 5’s to make a total field of around 20 which rolled out shortly before 9:00. The kidney rattling neutral roll down Oregon Hill generally leads to a quick group pee at the bottom before he starter gives the go and this year was no exception. A couple of the young guns seemed frisky and things got uncharacteristically hot on the first set of climbs, to the point where we were 7 or so in a lead group over the top of the last crest. I liked the fact that we had 2 of 5 Body Concepts guys (including last year’s winner) and 1 of 3 Sho-Air guys in our group, so encouraged the friskyness by keeping the pace up whenever things started to lag. On the first part of the downhill we came to one of only 3 technical turns on the whole course, and the SJBC rider in 2nd position overcooked the turn right in front of me and went off into the dirt walled shoulder. I thought his bike was going to pop out and take me down, but made it past OK. That left 6 of us by the time we got onto the big fast downhill of Marysville Rd.

    We worked well together on Marysville Rd. and the remainder of the pack grew ever more distant, though the remounted SJBC rider said afterwards that he was only about 2 min behind. On the first steep climb after the turn onto Frenchtown I stuck with the plan and just kept pace with the group and deployed an array of annoying psychological devices like talking a lot, sitting up and smoothing the wrinkles out of my jersey, and generally making it look like I wasn’t finding it that hard. It did and didn’t work because after the race the guy in second remarked that I didn’t seem to be working hard enough so it spurred him on to push the pace.

    The next steep bit kicked up to over 13% at times and that’s when I figured a few already tired folks could be dropped, and indeed a solid effort here reduced our group to 4, one frisky guy from another field and the two body concepts guys. I knew pretty much all 3 of them could take me on a shallow grade like the finshishing few km, so there was only one last bit of the plan that could give me the win.

    Right around 46km there is a 500m steep kick up that leads to a false flat then a fast plunge to the turn onto the finishing straight. I’d already had the other guys struggling a bit and so I hit this section with everything I had and opened a good gap by the top. Now the challenge was to hold it until I could get to the downhill. That was probably the hardest km of the race because I could see them trying to get organized behind me and starting to close.

    Luckily I knew the downhill really well and was able to take it at full speed in my tightest tuck an hold off braking until the last moment before the turn onto La Porte Rd with about 3km to go. From there it was supposed to be autopilot because I’d already worked out the times to go, recover, downshift, sprint etc, but now there was a new wrinkle.

    As I closed in on 1km to go, I started coming up onto the back of two follow cars following behind the top level women’s field who were just finishing their first lap. No way was I going to let my gap evaporate because I was boxed in by their entourage. I passed the back car on the right, swung left and passed the next car and then the field puffing and blowing like a locomotive. They were a bit confused not realizing that there were fields doing only one lap, but I was able to get far enough ahead of them (and even my first pursuer got ahead of them) to be able to coast in across the line with a whoop and a holler and a proper hands in the air celebration.

    The win meant a lot to me because this Challenge RR was the first one I did with my brand new USAC license back in 2011, and because ever since then I’ve been chasing a win. Now, in the closing moments of the season, I finally got it, and in a very satisfying way. It’s also probably the last win  (or even podium) I’ll get in a long time because if I race next year I really should cat up to the 3’s where I’ll get my ass kicked routinely.

    Lunch
    Right beside the  hotel is a little country diner restaurant and I was bound and determined to do my bit for the race by patronizing the local joints as much as possible. In the case of Annie Ruth’s, it was a good move. I’m all for a menu that carries breakfast options well into the afternoon, and they had this in spades. I ordered a veggie skillet which was flawless in its description save the faustian bargain of pancakes or toast. In the spirit of ZATAOMM, I split the horns of the dilemma and said I wanted the veggie skillet with pancakes and toast, to which request the server graciously acquiesced after I explained my post bike race caloric deficit situation. Here was the result:

    No bacon*, I admit, though it did hit the spot.

    * For those convinced of the necessity of animal products for top cycling performance, I will confess that in my semi-reformed vegetarian state I did have something called an ‘Italian Wrap’ for my pre-race dinner which contained gargantuan quantities of smoked ham and salami, though I did pare them down to a level that my evolving gut flora could handle.

    - Ken Cluff

  • Race Report: Downieville XC

    DOWNIEVILLE, Aug 2

    Two Sentence race & food summary:
    The race was a dusty and terrifying blur but my bike and I survived unharmed; a victory of sorts. I was too shattered by the heat to eat or drink; an unmitigated failure food-wise.

    The buildup
    It is the best of races. It is the worst of races.  I’ve long had the goal of getting top 10 in the expert class, and although I’ve come close (12th last year), I’ve never succeeded.  Two years ago I was on pace for a top 10, but a badly placed pedal resulted in a spectacular crash at 20+ mph and a broken clavicle.  I was planning on racing the tandem this year, but we crashed pre-riding it five weeks ago and my wife & stoker broke her thumb and fucked up her hip, so I swapped my registration.

    This year, I had only ridden the course once before this weekend, and that was on our tandem seven weeks ago. So we got up early enough on Friday for Alyshia to drop me at the summit for me to get a practice run in for the 20 mile downhill.  That turned out to be a blessing and a curse.  The good part is that I figured out my handlebars were coming loose (as they started to rotate in the stem on the fastest section of singletrack – yipes!), and that my rear tire had a small leak that wouldn’t seal. I also crashed on some nasty rocks towards the top third, which didn’t do my left knee any favors, and frayed my rear derr cable.  So, rather than spending the rest of Friday afternoon cleaning my chain and relaxing by the river hydrating with Alyshia as planned, I was in the sunshine out in front of the Yuba Expeditions bike shop replacing the cables and putting on new heavier tiers (2.2 Wolverine on the rear, which I raced last year, and a 2.3 Vigilante on the front, which just looked like a monster and I thought would reduce the sliding feeling I had during my DH run).  I should’ve been eating and drinking while working on the bike, but I was pretty much a semi-bonked dumbass.

    The plan
    It was hotter than most years, with temps in the 70s as I was warming up at 8am for the 9:35 start. I wanted a long slow warmup to get my left knee moving, which was scraped up and a little swollen, despite sleeping with ice on it. I figured times would be about 5 to 10 min slower than last year given the heat. Usually, heat is in my favor – I suffer too – but I seem to suffer less than most. I was hoping to finish in 2:25 – a bit slower than last year.

    As I wasn’t feeling to stoked on my handling skills, and I had my new beefy tires overinflated to 30psi (to try to overcome their slower rolling, and my desire to not flat), my general plan was to get to the summit in the top 30 of the expert field, get a bottle (maybe two) from Alyshia, and then stay as smooth as possible for the 1:20 technical downhill.  I planned to use superstarch until the last 30 minutes, where there is a fire road section and I could take on some gu to finish off strong for the pedaling section. I was planning on only using three bottles total (two water, one superstarch).

    The race
    I got to the starting pen 30 minutes before the race, and got a reasonable spot in the third row, but standing around that long didn’t do me any favors.  At the gun, folks sprinted up the pavement.  It started faster than I remember. I was instantly pinned. Not getting dropped, but unable to go any faster.  Way too fast, and I started to drift back after about 10 minutes.  30 minutes into it, I started to feel almost normal, and got into a rhythm, picking off riders that I’d let pass.  At the summit to packer saddle I waved off the margaritas and beer handups, an took an ice cold bottle from Alyshia, who told me I was in the top 40 of the combined expert classes (so probably close to top 10 in my age group).

    The first singletrack went well, and I wasn’t passed, and did pass two people (one who missed a turn, and another dude on a hardtail – there were lots of hardtails this year – and I think they all passed me).  For the fire road traverse that lead to the start of the true descent and the infamous Gold Valley road “babyheads” section, I held my position, and felt okay, but was starting to get hand and neck cramps.  Way too early for that. I drank half of the bottle Alyshia gave me, and then dropped into the baby-heads.

    At this point, the race started to fall apart.  First I got passed every now and again.  At a short climb following a river crossing, I passed  handful of folks that were walking their bikes, but at the top I felt pretty gassed. I went slow and tried to drink more water, but I think this is when my race actually was pretty much over.  From there on, I was getting passed like a three-wheeled Winnebago on a mountain road. I just tried to pull off as much as possible to not mess up anyone else’s race.  But every pass meant I had to eat dust until they got away from me.  I felt like I was bouncing down the trail. I had such a death-grip on my brakes that my rear brake pretty much failed (I must have boiled the fluid).

    Usually I have a mix of terror and joy on the descent. It has sections that are fast and flowey, and some that are “oh-my-god-don’t-fuck-this-up.”  Saturday I pretty much stayed in a mental posture of general anxiety punctuated by terror.

    After I finished, I threw up. I had cramps so bad I wasn’t able to eat food, because I couldn’t hold it ... and I don't mean hold it down, I mean my hands didn't work so I couldn't put food in my mouth - my hands were cramping uncontrollably.  My abdominal muscles were cramping. My back was cramping. My neck had cramps.  My shins and calves cramped.  Every movement led to new cramps. I drank about three liters of water before I had to use the restroom (and that was a few hours later).

    I think I should’ve worn my camelback. I hate those things, but it would’ve gone a long way.

    Until next year!!  (And I hope, the return of the long-bike)

    Next race, also a hot one: Annadel XC in two weeks.  A really fun course in Santa Rosa, put on by BikeMonkey.

    - Mike Campbell

  • Race Report: Central Coast Circuit Race, Fort Ord, California

    Short version:

    Breakfast: Cereal Medley with yogurt and berries, orange juice, coffee, more coffee
    Race: 17th out of 34 in M35+ 3/4
    Post-race: chocolate milk, banana, cherries (thanks Sean)
    Lunch: Lanesplitters Tune-up and a pint of Racer 5

     

    Long Version:

    Course: The same 4.3 mile loop in Fort Ord as they’ve used for a few years now, but with a new twist as you shall see. The course is on closed roads with decent pavement and features a set of stair stepping climbs on the backside then a sweeping downhill into a short straightaway, 120 degree right and slight rise to the start and previously finish line. Between the start and the turn into the backside climbs it’s mostly rolling, but there is a section of false false flat that ends up being pretty decisive. I say it’s false false flat because it’s really just a shallow climb ( red section on profile ) that people try to deny the existence of because they know it just leads into the real climbs.

    Traditionally the race has finished with an uphill sprint to where the red arrow is, after the downhill and the right hand turn.

    Pre-Race:
    Due to timing constraints Sean and I had to race the 9:50am M35+ 3/4 race rather than more age appropriate 45+ 3/4 later in the day. That meant a 6:15 pick-up at Sean’s for the 2+ hourish drive down to Seaside/Ft. Ord. On the way down we discussed the adaption of our general purpose teamwork plan (“Ken chases breaks, Sean blocks; If Ken’s not in a break at the finish, he helps Sean by riding as fast as he can at the end, hopefully with Sean on his wheel” ) to the CCCX finish.

    We got there in good time, got our numbers and started to warm up, Sean on the course and me on my rollers to start with. A Kovarus racer I’d been previously introduced to named Lynden came by and we chatted for a bit. He’s a recently upgraded to Cat 3 45+ and always a strong finisher so I was happy to have him to try to key off of. In the course of chatting he mentioned that the finish had been moved to the top of the backside climbs (blue arrow in the profile above). That sounded like good news to me, but i wasn’t sure how much Sean would like it and what it would do to our infallible plan for race domination.

    With this new wrinkle I figured it was best to head out for a lap on the course to alert Sean and see how a finish at the top might play out. Lyndon said that that the E4’s field had come apart on the first of the backside climbs, which seemed to make sense as it’s the toughest.

    Race:
    Our field looked pretty big at the start, with good representation from teams like Pen Velo, Kovarus, Don Chapin, and an outfit unknown to me: One Way. Sean spied some iRT guys and said to watch out for them. I tried to point out my friend Lynden to Sean.

    Sean was nearby for the first lap which was frisky but not crazy, but as per usual my nervousness (mostly about breakaways, not crashes with this field/course) I started to keep myself up in the top 10-15 riders and Sean stowed himself away in the more protected part of the pack.

    For the next few laps things were pretty consistently frisky with breaks going off on the front side climb (false false flat) and sometimes over the top of the stair steps. I spent too much energy chasing breaks & surges on the first few laps, but several times it looked like the composition of a break was good and had the potential of staying away if the riders were committed and the rest of their teams played it smart. Unfortunately neither of them seemed to happen. One Way did appear to have a road captain who called a few shots, but more often you saw riders chasing down breaks that had their own team members in them, or the break just sitting up after going hard for just a little bit. On thing I did learn in the early laps was that even though folks were going pretty hard on the front side of the course, I could generally handle the pace of the backside climbs and several times had relatively easily moved up to be in 4th or 5th wheel over the top just to have a nice clean descent down the hill and not have to chase any surges down at the bottom.

    After a particularly hard to close gap really wasted me with 3 to go, and it felt like cramps might be coming on, I decided that there was both no sense in chasing, and not much chase left in me anyways. Newly resolved to lay low, I tried my best to rest on the penultimate lap, but then on the final lap found myself out of position on the front side climb and ended up coming unstuck from the back of the 25 person or so main pack.

    This was the make or break moment. I’d been mulling over defeat and abandonment at a few times earlier in the race, and if ever there was a time to throw in the towel, this seemed like it. Luckily there appeared a Pen Velo guy with a bit of fight in him and we traded pulls and took a bit off the gap before he popped. That left me close enough to another rider ( was he from a different field, I’ll never tell…) that I could slingshot off his draft and hit the start of the little downhill into the turn at the bottom of the backside stairsteps with a good head of steam. That momentum, plus delaying breaking for the turn until the last possible moment, brought me back into contact with the main group as we started the final backside climb.

    Now there was hope, albeit tempered by the fact that I’d just chased for 1.5km and had been running at 187 BPM for two minutes already. Luckily my experience of the last few climbs played out in this final one and though it required staying completely maxed out, I was able to get up to near the front and park myself on Lynden’s wheel going into the second to last rise before the finish. Unfortunately this is where the race exploded. The final climb is too short and too shallow to make for a real sprint, so everyone had decided to start the sprint on the rise before it. I think that’s why things eased off a bit (as you can see in the HR line) just before that second to last climb started:

    Needless to say I lost Lynden’s wheel, and pretty much everyone else’s, up that 2nd to last rise, so decided I’d have to just stay at my best sustainable pace and hope to reel in some folks who’d gone to hard too soon. There were definitely riders completely spent and sitting up midway up the little finishing climb, and I did manage to pass a few, but as it turns out, I needed to pass just two more. When USAC posted the results ( https://www.usacycling.org/results/?year=2014&id=473&info_id=77911 ) my finishing position was 17th out of 34 overall, but I was 3rd out of the 11 or so Cat 4’s in the race, and the other two Cat 4’s that finished ahead were right in front of me in 15th and 16th. That was a little victory, though one that would have been sweeter had I managed to nip past them. Another observation on the results was that the ages of the top 3 finishers were 35, 35, and 36. As a 52 year old Cat 4 I’m not feeling so bad about this result against a such a young and Cat 3 heavy field. Interestingly, according to USAC’s weird rating system that takes into account the rankings of the other racers, this was ranked as my second best result of the year beating podiums and top 10’s in less competitive fields.

    This has always been a favorite course for me, and now with the new finish suits me even better. Unfortunately I’m not around for the next one on Aug 2nd to give it a go again, though that would definitely be in an E4 or 45+ 3/4 field. Sean may race it though, and I’m sure he’d love company….

    Post Race:
    After a brief cool-down Sean and I popped our recovery beverages out of the cooler and hopped in the car for the long drive home. I scarfed a banana and then Sean busted out a bag of delicious cherries which carried me most of the way to Sean’s place without audible tummy rumbling. From Sean’s it was just a quick hop over to the Lanesplitters on San Pablo where I had a Tune Up (slice and salad), a Racer 5, and another slice, before heading home. Guess I was hungry because instead of a glorious shot of my about to be consumed meal, I just have this sort of sad aftermath pic:

    - Ken Cluff

  • Race/Food report - Lost & Found 100 mile gravel grinder

    PORTOLA, CA – May 31, 2014

    SUMMARY:
    Food: Mexican breakfast, mass quantities on the bike, followed by lasagna, beer, milkshake, mini-burger, and onion rings.
    Race: Went my own pace and spent the better part of the four hours pretty much alone in some beautiful and remote country.

    1st Annual Lost & Found – hella long report
    I have been excited for this race/event ever since I got the e-mail announcing it a few months ago.  It sounded amazing: 100 miles, 80% dirt, with 7,000 of climbing.  The race started on the shores of Lake Davis, and would go through low passes and valleys in the alpine area north of Portola (which is about an hour north of Truckee). I had a few setbacks leading up to the race, including realizing the plastic hardtail I intended to ride was cracked three weeks before the event, getting a nasty virus two weeks ago and still wasn’t out of my system,  and a diagnosis for asthma on Thursday. The organizers had set up three courses; there was the 100 mile version that I’d registered to do, a 60 mile option, and a 30 mile variant. Each of the lower mileage options was effectively a bail-out along the 100 mile course, so I knew I could call it quits if I wasn’t up to the full distance.  I really didn’t want to have a day like I did the previous weekend at Hamilton, where I was pretty much crushed 50 miles into my 100 mile day (thanks again to “big winner Scene” for dragging my carcass home that day through the hot headwinds of Sonol).

    This was the inaugural race, so everyone’s strategy was based only the race map and elevation profile that the promoters had provided.  The course was super flat by mountain bike standards, but it was expected to be windy.  Some sections were long flat single-lane dirt roads through big valleys, so being in a cohesive group was going to be key.  At the startline I saw a few pros like Jason Moeschler, and my buddy Chris Kelly – but I just hoped nobody did anything silly like attack the first set of hills.  There was an interesting mix of mountain bikes and ‘cross bikes.  Most of the cross bike folks were running super fat tires (like 40s). I was on the used S-works hardtail I got the previous weekend – and I set it up with 2.0 low-knob tires.  This would be my third ride on that rig – it turns out, the bike was perfect for the course, and I was super stoked to be on a mountain bike rather than a cross bike.  I also was happy to have a newly acquired inhaler in my pocket (yay, medically allowed doping!).

    The start of the race was mass-start, with all 200 participants heading up the initial 8 miles of pavement together.  They said we were only allowed the right lane of traffic, but plenty of “centerline violations” occurred with folks moving up in the oncoming lane – good thing this wasn’t a USAC race, or 20% of the field would have been DQ’d before the first gravel section.  The pace increased as we hit the gravel, and as the peloton narrowed, I moved up to the top 20, out of the wind, but on the windward side to eat a little less dust.  There was one crash in the first few miles of dirt, but it wasn’t too bad as our speed was under 20, and I think most folks were able to slow a bit before they hit the deck.  The crash was right in front of me, but I got around it no problem.  The folks leading the race were nice enough to slow a bit to give folks a chance to get back on.  At the first left hand turn onto a narrower road, strong riders started to attack, and the bunch funneled into two lines, one for each of the buffed out sections.  Of course, this was also where there were some ruts from trucks going through in wet weather. I had slotted in behind Moeshler, about fifth wheel, and Chris was next to me.  Sucking wheel at 20mph, on mixed terrain was much nicer on a mountain bike. Some ruts were unavoidable (and invisible) given the dust, and having the flat bars and front suspension really helped.   A few folks went down in the dusty ruts, and I think some gaps formed behind us.

    As we turned up the first climb, the pace went up again, and I immediately felt the pinch. I knew that wasn’t a sustainable 6+ hour pace for me, so I backed off to something more manageable, and let the front ten roll away.  Up ahead, I saw Chris, looking at his powermeter, also let that bunch go.  Chris seemed to be holding a similar pace as me, so I closed the 15 second gap up to him, and started riding with him.  He was telling me that the leaders’ pace was similar to a 2hr mountain bike race – which made me feel all the better for having let them go.  Towards the top a few folks on CX bikes caught us, and we formed a group that ultimately swelled to about 10 as we picked up a few falling back from the first group, and others bridging up.  On the first short descent, Chris and I, being the two on mountain bikes, rolled away from the group. It was a fast fire road (30+ mph), but with some decent sized rocks and loose corners, so the fatter tires were a huge advantage.  We grouped up again once the road went uphill again, but this time it was steeper, and the group started to split up a bit.  Near the top I started to fall off the pace, and a little ways up ahead, Chris got his first flat.  My strategy was to stick with him as he is a steady rider and I thought we could work together – but I struck off without him and used the next downhill to catch back on to the group.

    In the first valley, we were back on tarmac, and we were a group of 8, doing a nice rotating paceline at about 20mph.  Probably the first time I’ve ever done that on a mountain bike before.  Workign together, we made short work of the several miles of pavement.  At the next hill, there was a small surge, and sticking with my idea of not having anything hurt for the first 60 miles, I let them roll away.   I knew there were some really strong riders, like Alan Coates, that I’d left behind on the last climb/decent – so I thought if I got caught, I’d have some more strong people to work with for the coming valleys.  In retrospect, letting that group of six go might have been a mistake.

    The next hill turned out to be pretty short, and a reasonable grade, and I enjoyed the view as I rode by myself – now at mile 25 or so.  At the bottom of the next descent, I took a nature break, and shortly after remounting saw a fellow closing in on me, so I pedaled easily until he bridge up.  He turned out to be a strong roadie looking dude on a cross bike in a VW-Raley’s jersey.  He’d stopped at the first aid station, near the top of the first climb, as in the early melee, he’d ejected his one water bottle.  I introduced myself to AJ, and for a short while we rode next to one another, chatting. Quickly realized that I was going to burn out at AJ’s pace, so I politely told him I was going to suck his wheel for a while, but I’d be happy to return the favor. Only after sucking his wheel for a good few miles, I realized that he still didn’t have a bottle (the aid stations only had cups). I was carrying three bottles, so offered him one of mine.  This was for two reasons, 1) we had turned into a tailwind and sitting in was getting harder, so this would be one way to slow him down for a short bit, and 2) I had a vain hope that by giving him a lifeline he’d take pity on my and not drop me like a sack of turnips.  In a full tailwind section, we were ripping along at 24mph, and on a paved riser, I got gapped. I don’t think my new friend AJ noticed.

    I did catch up to AJ and a pro singlespeeder (yes, there was a monster doing 100 miles with only one gear, a 50x18 or something awful) at the next aid station. I only needed one bottle with water, so managed to roll out before the other two, but into a pancake flat valley into a block headwind.  I rode easy knowing the other two would catch up soon.  Once they did, AJ went back to the front, and maintained 20mph again.  This was awesome. I would have hated to be alone in that section.  But all good things come to an end, and the road eventually turned a bit south, put the wind behind us, and started a gentle rise.  It was tough with the tailwind and I thought I wouldn’t be able to stick so I said goodbye to my new friends and watched them roll away from me.

    At this point, I really was truly and utterly alone.  With AJs motor, I was sure I’d put additional distance between whoever might be coming from behind, and I didn’t expect to catch anyone up ahead unless they got shelled out of the front groups.  At the next aid station, I refilled my two bottles of water, and picked up a few more packages of cliff blocs.  I was told there was a group of four seven minutes up the road, but I didn’t expect to catch that.  The next section was mostly downhill, to about mile 75, and then a ten mile, 3000+ ft climb.

    Although alone, it was really beautiful.  I tried to concentrate on keeping my tempo up, but I did allow myself to enjoy the scenery.  About mile 65 the fire road went into a canyon and followed a creek, slightly downhill and undulating at first, and then getting pretty fast and loose. I was using this downhill to rest for the final climb, but keeping it safe and avoiding mishap. Some corners were pretty tight and loose, and would come up without warning – but I could usually gauge those by the skid marks in the dirt on the approach.  About 2/3 of the way down I got a rear flat.  Somehow I managed to get a nail through my tire in the middle of nowhere, 10 miles from the nearest building.  I took my time changing the tube, and unfortunately got passed by a bunch of folks, including the Alan Coates group I was counting on to pull me along if I were to get caught.  After fixing my flat, once again I was alone.  I caught a group of three at the Pauls Components Aid station, and had to wait a bit for them to fill bottles (they only had one jug of H2O, so we queued up).  On the plus side, that aid station had crispy bacon in addition to standard cliff blocs and gels.  The bacon was outstanding.  They also had cans of beer.  That seemed like a bad idea, so I left those in the cooler.

    I got out ahead of the group of three, and once again was alone, and had to push four miles through a beautiful valley into a headwind on my way to the final climb.

    The climb was long and annoying.  It did follow a gushing stream, so it was pretty, but it was hard to get a rhythm as the grade varied from 1% to 14%, and by the top, my legs were telling me that I was close to cramping, so I had to spin an easy gear.  I caught and passed two people, and two different people caught and passed me.  Very close to the top, Chris caught up to me, and I learned he had a second flat. Turns out his superlight Schwalbe file-tread tires were a poor choice with the sharp stones.  Minus the roofing nail, I was happy with my 2.0 tires all day.  We rode together for a while, until about 15 miles from the finish where we got another tailwind section, and the benefit of the draft wasn’t enough for me to stick with him.  I think he was tired of being on his bike, so he rolled away from me.

    I wound up finishing 8th in the 35 – 45 age group,  in 6 hours, 45 minutes – achieving my goal of 7 hours (it was 6:30 moving time, says Strava).  The fastest times were under 6:00. I think I could do it in under6:30 with the right luck and being healthy.

    Epilogue:
    This was the 1st annual, and hope it isn’t the last.  I was surprised how fun it was to ride fire roads all day.  The choice of bike is an interesting one.  I was very happy to be on my mountain bike for the first 20 miles, and the long descent into the final valley, and the last climb. But for 70% of the course, I think a CX bike with super-fat tires and bar-top brake levers would be superior.  My triceps got really sore by mile 50 from trying to get my position low and out of the wind. Drop bars would have been very welcome.  But for year 2, I still will take the hardtail mountain bike for overall comfort.

    I don’t recommend driving home same day like I did, though.  After finishing, socializing a bit, having a bite and a beer, and getting ready to roll, I was on the road about 6, getting into my driveway at 10pm.  I was pretty wiped out on Sunday – mostly from sleep deprivation.

    FOOD REPORT:
    Breakfast: Eggs over easy with black beans, rice, and avocado.
    On the bike: five scoops of superstarch in first three hours, then four packages (not sure, lost count) of cliff blocs and three gels. I repeatedly flirted with bonking, but managed to get going again when ingesting mass quantities.
    After: Promoter-provided beef lasagna and salad (tasty!), washed down with cold beer.  Also a chocolate chip cookie.  A ½ size cheeseburger, chocolate milkshake, and basket of onion rings from “Burger Me” in Truckee.

    - Mike Campbell

  • 5,4,(ouch),3,2, but not 1

    Sierra de Montserrat Circuit Race, Loomis, California

    Short version:

    Breakfast: Cereal Medley with yogurt and berries, orange juice, coffee
    Race: 2nd out of 22 in  M45+/4
    Post-race: chocolate milk, banana, fig bars, apricots, 4-beer sampler, coffee & oat cake
    Dinner: Beet Salad, Grilled asparagus, 14” margherita pizza, glass of wine, double cappuccino

    Long Version:

    Course:  Same 2.1km (1.3 mile) course as the last two years. There’s 44m (145 ft) of climbing per lap, which doesn’t sound like much, but even in a race of only 45 minutes, that means you might do 530m (1740 ft) of climbing. The climbing is broken into two stretches, the lower one taking you up to the finish line, the second, a shorter steeper stretch, taking you up to the highest point where you then plunge down to a sharp left hander, descend past the the finish line on the other side of the road, whiz around a roundabout and start the climb back to the finish line. It’s pretty much either you’re going up or going down. They have the best course map I’ve ever seen at http://victoryveloracing.com/media/sierra_de_montserrat_map.pdf . I’ve pasted the strava segment of a lap down at the bottom of this report.

    Race:
    The weather was pretty nice for my buddy Jamy’s M35+ race at 9:40, but started to heat up as I warmed up for my 10:30 M45+ depart. It was, however, nothing like the merciless heat they have had the last couple of years when the race was later in the summer.

    At the line-up it looked as if between the Body Concepts and Victory Velo teams they had about ⅔ of the total of the riders. I’ve never been in a field so numerically dominated by by so few teams. The only guy I vaguely recognized was Jeff Tanforan, a 55+ from Sierra Nevada who I just snuck past in the finale of Berkeley Hills RR. I’m sure I’ve raced against some of the Body Concepts guys too, but they all sort of look the same to me, especially when there are that many of them.

    They started our group of 22 from the new start location for this year, just at the left hander at the bottom of the first descent. I was kind of far back at the start and did not want to get stuck way back as people gingerly negotiated the roundabout, so move up pretty aggressively on the descent into it, then kept moving up as we did the first pass up the climbs, until I was in 5th wheel or so on lap 2 (when I finally started my Garmin). Things didn’t seem that fast, and even seemed downright slow at times, but nonetheless within a few laps there were only 5 of us in a lead group: 2 Body Conceps guys, One Victory Velo, and Jeff from Sierra Nevada. I was pretty psyched. Here I was in a break with representatives from the two biggest teams! Sure enough as we came out of the roundabout and could see the chasers, it was only the other independents driving the chase. The lap cards came out with 5 to go, and around then Jeff drifted off the back and we were 4. The chase group was losing ground and pretty soon we were nearly half a lap ahead of them and starting to lap stragglers.

    With 3(?) laps to go I put in an attack on the final steep bit of the climb, not intending to really get away, but just wanting to shake things up a bit and see if anyone would either jump after me or pop off the back. I crested the climb in front of the other 3 and bombed down the descent to the first left hander, setting up to take it at speed. As I was exiting the turn, the Victory Velo go shot through on a really bad inside line, crossed my bow from left to right about a bike length or two in front of me, and to my horror, kept going right off the road to my right into the hay bale lined ditch. The last thing I saw out of the corner of my eye as I passed was his bike doing flips in the air and hay flying everywhere. Now we were 3.

    We stuck together for the next couple laps, going easy on the left hander as they helped the VV guy who crashed (collarbone and ribs broken I was told). It was hard to tell which of the two Body Concepts guys was the one to watch, so I just figured I’d sit on them until final time up the hill and then try to put in a dig and solo from the top, down the descent, through the traffic circle, then take my chances on having anything left for the climb to the finish. Unfortunately that was also the plan of one of the body concepts guys. We had dropped the other one soon after the bell, but the remaining guy got a gap on me by the top, and I could not close it on the way down, partially due to running into lapped rider traffic on the downhill and through the roundabout. He exited the roundabout with maybe 5 or 6 bike lengths on me and I just could not close it in the final couple hundred meters to the line. The dropped Body Concepts rider followed in a ways back for 3rd and Jeff T. got 4th.

    I was very happy with a podium place, though of course wished I could have held on to really contest the sprint for the win, but what was actually the best thing about the race was just to feel really great, really strong on the bike. It honestly didn’t even feel like that hard of a race until we upped the pace a little with 2 laps to go, yet we shattered the field and lapped a good chunk of it. I think last year’s Wente RR ( the one with the mechanical nightmares ) was the last time I’ve felt that good during a race. Sure beats suffering like a dog at Mt Hamilton RR…..

    They had a pretty DIY podium setup so Jamy was able get a shot of the winner and I with our prizes ( That’s the big empty bottles in the picture.)

    “What good is a big empty bottle?” you might say; I sure did. Turns out they made an arrangement with a brewery in Auburn whereby we could get our big empty bottles filled with any beer they made ( the Hoptologist DIPA being highly recommended) so off we went to Knee Deep Brewing Co. out by the airport in Auburn. Since I wasn't likely to be back that way any time soon it seemed only prudent to sample a few of the other beers that were not coming home with me in the growler:

    After a tasty tasting like that, what I ate for dinner seems much less interesting, n'est-ce pas?

    - Ken Cluff

  • Race Report - Memorial Day Criterium M35+ 3 and 45+ 3 combined

    I'm a bit late in getting out this report. I had to wait for the photos to show up online.

    Short Version: Oatmeal, OJ, decaf. 8th place in the M45+ 3 race.

    Longer Version: We went around in circles as usual. The race was fairly uneventful, though I should mention that Dean attacked and got the first prime with a nice solo effort. Mark D. tried the same move at about the same point on the course on the next prime, but the field was wise to him. I did my usual sitting in and waiting for the sprint. Although there were a couple of teams with 4 or 5 riders, none of them managed to get a real leadout train rolling, which would've strung things out in the final lap. Instead, things got clogged up and we went into the last corner nearly 10 abreast. The result? Carnage.

    Check out this series of pics: http://www.komlik.photography/Cycling/2014-05-26-Memorial-Day-Crit/Race/i-mR7bGhD

    In the first pic, you can see my orange kit 3rd to the right of the big light post on the corner (Dean is in the orange helmet behind me). Look how vertical the crashing guy’s bike is, and how horizontal he is!

    In the second pic, I am thinking, “Hmmm, how am I going to get around that bouncing bike?”

    In the third pic, I am thinking, “Okay, so the bike is no longer the problem, now which of these two downed riders do I want to hit?”

    In the fourth pic, I obviously can’t decide which one to hit, so I miss them both by threading the needle!

    In the fifth pic, I am obscured by the guy in black and red. The carnage continues on the right side of the photo. You can see Mark in orange at the far right. He stayed up. Dean cannot be seen, but is here hopping the curb and riding up the grass embankment, staying upright, and eventually coming back onto the course to finish.

    If you keep clicking, in the ninth pic, I am crossing the line for 8th place… I believe Mark was 9th in the M35+ 3 which raced together with us 45s.

    - Sean Williams

  • Mt. Hamilton Road Race M45+ 3/4

    I came over top with Cat 3 buddy John Ensign chasing about 10 guys that we came unhitched from at 5km to top. We descended fast but sanely, and both really felt the little 1km kick up at the bottom of the descent. On descent we saw that one or two riders from our group were off to side of road. One of them was a mechanical, I never verified the other.

    After a bit we had 1 then 2 more guys catch us and we caught 2 guys who popped from leaders. I was taking pulls as this chase group was growing and was really feeling at my limit. Eventually I could not keep pace with the group and at around 50 km to go, popped off.

    I rode a solo 50km time trial motivated by trying to stay ahead of the remaining half of the pack. For most of that time I was right on the edge of cramping and anything other than pedaling smoothly would cause my muscles to seize. Unfortunately at 200m to the line 3 guys caught me and I could not respond. If they had not passed me I would have been 5th out of the Cat4's . As it was I ended up 19th out of 37, 7th out of the Cat 4's.

    It was HOT! often above 100 degrees (39 C) . I drank 5 bottles over the 3.5 hours of the race ( 2 sport drink 3 water) and think I ate almost enough during the race.

    It was a tactical error for me to take those pulls in the chase group. I should have just admitted I was cooked and sat on the back. Even if I got popped later, I would have been further ahead of the chasers. As it was I kept that chase group in sight for a long time even after I popped, so I think I could have sat on.

    - Ken Cluff

  • Race Report - Berkeley Hills Road Race M35+ Cat 5

    Condensed Report:

    Breakfast: Cereal (Puffins), coffee (strong)
    Pre-Race: (2) Dates & a handful of trail mix
    Race: Plenty of Clif Blocks, and one bottle
    Result: 16th place out of 28 finishers
    Post-Race:  The other handful of trail mix I brought
    Lunch:  Meat Ball sandwich (homemade) and a glass of milk
      

    Long Version:

    Course: We all know the course pretty well, so I’ll skip the details. As a reminder to those who have forgotten the details of the Cat 5 race, its about one and two thirds laps around the bears.

    Breakfast: Well, as there is not much to it, I’ll skip the heady preparation details of how I prepare it, and just say it was a darn good bowl of cereal and an even better cup of coffee.  Am I under eating?  Having plagiarized Ken’s previous race report format, I’ve had a good look at what I was deleting before writing this and kinda feel like I’m missing the boat on proper race day nutrition.

    Race: I felt pretty good the morning of the race, and decided that I’d ride over to the start, figuring the warmup would be about the right length for my needs.  I hadn’t considered the wait once I got through registration, but thankfully it was a warm morning and not too damaging for my start of race.  Seems like there were more than 28 riders at the start line, but the official results suggest otherwise. Pace out of the start was way slower than I had expected.  More like a social club pace.  I took the advice of another veteran racer and found a fine spot up front between third and sixth wheel and pretty much stayed there all the way to Mama Bear.   I’m not ashamed to say I avoided pulling like a terminal disease. As I expected, things went to hell at the start of the main climbs.  Somehow I found myself on the front leading into Mama Bear and fearing I’d start to go backward too quickly I reached maximum way faster than my body could handle. Thankfully, I stayed out of real trouble and held onto the front group up Mama Bear and into the rollers.  At Papa Bear, however, I found that I am simply not a good race pace climber.  I was dropped pretty early in the effort and watched the race slowly roll away.  Now on most days I would have soft pedaled my way through a lovely morning climb, but as it was a race, and I did just spend the better part of $60 to participate, and I did need to write a report on my honest efforts, I dug in and determined to not surrender quite so easily this time.  So I held on and found a rhythm that I could maintain.  By the time I reached the top of Papa Bear a small group of 2-3 other riders were also close by and pushing solid efforts.  As the decent began, the main group was well out of sight and perhaps 30-40 seconds ahead (pure speculation on the time, but I do watch plenty of racing on TV, so I feel I ought to at least guess my gap).  Now here is where it gets good, at least for my small Cat 5 race report.  As I rounded the corner onto San Pablo Dam Road, I caught a distant glimpse of the main group well up the road on the long straight away.  I told our not-yet-formalized chase group of my sighting and proclaimed ‘ lets bridge back up, this isn’t over!’ and sure enough we all fell into a very solid pace line.  The pulls were hard, but very effective, and having worked well together, we caught the front group as they rounded the corner onto Castro Ranch Road.  All high fives and fist bumps for our efforts, goofy but heartfelt, for all of us knew that our day was done not 20 minutes earlier except for our effort and cooperation.  Now for a slight digression, as we started our tremendous effort, I observed a 600 series rider (45+ Cat4?) littering his nutrition foil into nature.  Naturally, I commented.  Of course, he sandbagged the entire pace line, so not only did the litter bug despoil the scenic beauty, but didn’t even lend in the effort that eventually pulled him right into his category group!  Well, that’s it for the exciting part of the day.  The rest is as you can imagine.  I can’t climb for shit and was quickly shelled out the back as soon as we hit Mama Bear.  16th place out of 28 finishers.  Great race, poor result.

    As an aside, congrats to Ken for the top 10 finish.  Also, I ride frequently on Tuesday nights with Sebastiaan and Wes (not EBVC riders) who managed a first and third place respectively for the E5 Cat.  So glad I didn’t go E5!

    Post-race: As stated earlier, Nutrition?  Huh?  Oh yeah, another handful of trail mix and I rode home.

    Lunch: I heated up three leftover meat balls (which were excellent the first go round), halved them, and ate them on toast with melted cheese.  Not so appealing for the vegans in the group, but a most excellent post race home made leftover meal.

    - Chris Lee

  • Race Report - Boggs 8 hour coed

    COBB, CA

    Longer than usual summary – because … BOGGS!

    Food

    • Breakfast: two coconut macaroons, one banana, some walnuts
    • First three laps: one water bottle with 2.5 scoops superstarch
    • Lunch: Avocado w/ Salsa, some walnuts, a banana, ½ macaroon, some leftover greasy bacon
    • Final five laps: two water bottles, 2 scoops superstarch, one Izzy’s apple soda, five margarita clif blocs with extra sodium
    • Big beer at finish line, hella chips, ½ gallon of water, some awful (but free) stewed Mexican pork and rice provided by the BikeMonkey promoter.
    • Half a meatball sub and salad in Calistoga on the drive home, 2 overly sweet lemonades, and two carafes of water.  Tasted delicious, but the second half sandwich was a bridge too far for my stomach after six hours on the mountain bike.

    Race Summary

    • Seriously one of the most fun-filled days of riding a bike – and most fun racing I’ve done.  Period.
    • AO showed serious grit by doing 17 miles (two laps) in a solid time of just over two hours, despite only spending about that much time TOTAL on her single bike in all of 2014. Oh, and her rear brake failed on lap one.  #hellatough
    • The ride was way more fun than this looks.
    • Results

    The Epic Details – WARNING, may feel as long as the race itself – Perhaps the longest race report ever written

    The Boggs 8 Hour Mountain bike race is an epic adventure.  Similar to the LeMans endurance motorsport races, the person (or team) that completes the most laps in the allotted 8 hours, wins.  This race is huge.  700 people participate, and it sells out months in advance.  I was planning camp with the “C510” group I’ve been mountain biking with on weekday mornings; C510 had a huge contingent, with racers in five separate teams/categories competing.  I was set to race 2 man with my buddy Chris (who finished 2nd in expert solo last year – but said the last two laps were no fun). He’s always stronger/faster than me, so I was trying to train hard to not let him down. Unfortunately, he broke his wrist two weeks before the start.  So, find another partner, or race solo?

    A team is born…

    If Chris found 8 hours solo a bit much, I thought I would be miserable.  I asked my wife, Alyshia (AO) if she’d be interested.  Busy with work, she hasn’t done much on the bike in 2014 other than about five tandem rides with me, and at that point, zero rides on her single bike.  But we are planning on defending our Downieville Tandem title this year, so she stepped up, thinking it would get her training kicked in gear. Nothing like racing into fitness, right?  We looked at some YouTube footage of the course (looked flowing and not too technical), and the coed times.  We thought we could be respectably mid-field, top 20 was reasonable.  One week before the event, and with one 1.5 hour mountain bike ride in JMP in the tank, AO committed 100%.   I submitted the rider exchange form, and the 2P coed team “Oakland Durt Surfers” was set to take the mass start at 8 AM on May 3.

    Race-Day Strategy

    The day was forecast to be cool (under 70 degrees), and given that AO isn’t much of a morning or cold weather fan, the plan was for me to do the first three laps to try to get out in front of some of the traffic, and then have AO do her two laps back to back (for teams, each rider must to a minimum of 2 laps).  I’d then do as many laps as time or my legs would allow.  This way AO could get some coffee and breakfast in her, and meet me to give a feed by my second lap. I was targeting 45 to 55 min laps, thinking I’d do about six in total.  We were expecting AO to be between 1h and 1:15per lap.

    8 AM, May 3, Go Time!

    After a poor night’s sleep, I found myself fumbling around getting ready. I struggled to choke down my pre-race food, took off my down vest, and rolled to the start at about 7:50.  I arrived to the start about 50 or 60 people back and thought about pushing through to the front but decided against it. It was going to be a long day, and I was afraid that I might try to stick tothe leaders at the start and burn the matchbook on the first lap.  Plus, I didn’t wanna be a jerk.  Instead, I stood next to my bike and pretended that shivering in the cold while doing some half-assed stretching was a proper warmup.

    After the promoter finished rehashing the rules, we finally got the starting gun.  Being so far back in the mass start, it took a few minutes for me to even move an inch forward.  By the time I turned from the staging area to the start of the fire road climb, the leaders were out of sight.  I moved up quickly, wanting to get to the top of the 2 mile climb ahead of a lot of the traffic that would slow things up on the single-track. Despite the lack of warmup, my legs felt great, and I was weaving through traffic moving forward, getting towards the pointy end of things.

    The descent was ripping fast and fun, and I kept picking folks off. Most racers opted for a hardtail in the interest of efficiency given the rolling nature of the course, lack of serious technical features. I had opted for my Scott Spark, with 5 inches of travel and a remote lock out. The best of both worlds.  At the start line I was questioning my choice, but once we hit the first descent, I was stoked. I could pass on really crappy lines without worries – and I knew as the hours ticked on, I’d feel less beat up.

    At the bacon and shot handup mid-lap (yes, there was an opportunity to get bacon and a shot each lap – I didn’t partake), Jim tells me I’m about 3 minutes off the leaders.  I was stoked, as I was trying to go fast enough to get out ahead of traffic, but not so hard as to feel any lactic and burn in my legs.  The course was fast and fun, and so far, I hadn’t switched out of my big ring.

    The lap has two major climbs, both on fire roads. The first one, which is a big ring roller. The second one at the end, is a bit steeper, and gets over 7% at the very end.  I hit the bottom of the second climb at 30 minutes into my first lap, I knew that hill would start to bite later in the day, so I tried to keep it steady and not go with the one-lap riders that were punching it (for the 3P teams, each rider typically does one lap at a time, and goes full gas for the full 8.5 mile lap). I rolled through the start/finish/rider-exchange area in 40 minutes and didn’t see AO; I was 5 minutes ahead of schedule.

    Keeping time

    Laps two and three were crazy fun.  My legs were good, and the second and third laps were even more fun as I had now learned the downhill lines at race pace. I’d figured out my splits to hit sub-45 minute laps, and I felt like I could keep rolling at that pace forever.

    At the end of lap two, I saw AO, who offered a bottle handup. It was so cold I still had my arm-warmers on, and only had drunk 1/2 of my bottle, so I waived her off but let her know her lap would start in 40 to 45 minutes.

    Lap three I hit a lot of traffic as I caught up to a lot of the women who were out on their first course, but there were lots of opportunities to pass safely.  I felt so good I really wanted to stay out for a 4th lap, but it is never good to change strategy mid race, so determined to stick with the plan.  It was on the final climb that I realized I didn’t really understand what I was supposed to do for the exchange, so I asked a rider I was passing on the final climb.  The rider’s expression made it clear I was a dumbass and said, just cross the timing strip and your next rider goes, then you stop. “Got it!”

    I see AO, kitted up in her EBVC orange, ready to roll, and I pass on through shouting her encouragement.

    Go AO!

    As Alyshia starts her lap, I roll through the pits and bump into Adrian from C510 who had just finished the third lap for his 3 man team.  All C510 were on schedule, and so far, had escaped mishap.  We headed back to camp together to regroup, put on some warm clothes, and get some chow.

    It’s hard to truly relax while your team-mate is out turning laps.  I had to keep track of time, so as to be there with whatever food/drink she might want between laps – but I also needed to stretch, and put in some needed calories. I’d just done 25 miles with almost 3000 feet of climbing at close to race pace, and I knew I had just over two hours to get some calories into the system before heading out again. I dutifully ate my food, and headed back to the start finish at 50 minutes into AO’s first lap.  I found a sunny spot with good sight lines, and waited to see AO come through.  She came through looking strong from her first lap, she grabbed a water bottle, took a few swigs, and tossed it down. I shouted her lap time, but I don’t know if it registered.  She was looking focused and steady.  She rarely takes on food/water when riding, so she opted to ride without a bottle, and only had some clif blocs in her pocket in case of emergency.  Turns out she turned out her two laps on nothing other than breakfast and two swigs of water.  I also learned the next day that her rear brake had failed on the second lap, so she had to be pretty cautious to let folks pass.

    How many more laps?

    I saw AO heading into the finish area the second time, and clicked in to my pedals. My first pedals strokes felt awful.  Getting started again was a shock to the system, so I didn’t gun it, but ramped up the speed slowly..  I had felt so good on lap three, I wanted to get back to the same pace, and by the bacon/shot handup, I was on target for another sub 45 minute lap.  At my split at the bottom of the last fire road climb, I was 30 minutes into the lap, spot on for a 43 minute lap, and I kept it in the big ring.  As I went through the finish I still felt fresh, and though I could do three more by the time cut off, for a team total of nine – our pre-race goal.

    Lap five – no worries

    Heading out of the start finish area I was starting to feel the pinch, and looking at the time, realized that I should dial it back, and target 45 to 50 minute laps for the remainder of the race.  The wind was picking up on the fire roads, giving an unfortunate headwind.  I caught one rider who sat on my wheel. Trying to conserve energy, I flicked my elbow to encourage him to trade pulls, but he told me that wasn’t a good plan.  He was right, I kept going, and rode him off my wheel.  Too bad, I was hoping to do my last stint of four with as much of them as possible drafting.   At that point in the race, folks are pretty much going their own pace.  I’m starting to feel a little rough, and wonder if I should start eating the clif blocs in my pocket, but I’m also not sure I won’t puke if I do. I take a few swigs of superstarch instead.

    Levi Leipheimer passes me on the first fire road, towing another skinny road-race looking dude along at easily double my pace. I keep a steady tempo, and manage to catch a draft on the one flattish section into a headwind. I’m doing everything I can to conserve at this point while keeping the tempo high.

    As I come through the start finish I don’t take a handup, but let AO know I need juice and water the next time around.

    Lap six – dance with the devil

    Up the climb again and this time I’m starting to lose it. I mess up a jump that had been fun all day and nearly stack it. I take every uphill in the small ring.  I’m still flying by folks on the downhills, loving the full suspension.  At my mid-lap split, I’m still on target for a 55 minute lap.  I go around an off camber corner and realize that my front tire is going flat.  Rather than put in a tube, I just put in some air from my C02, and remount. On remount, I get a twinge of cramp.

    Then on the last bit of single-track uphill before some loose switchbacks my left leg cramps up. First a little twinge. I instantly go into my smallest gear and hope to spin it out.  The five folks I’d just ripped by on the DH come by.  Pedaling doesn’t work, and I have to get off and stretch. The cramp ends. I try to swing my leg back over and get going, and now my leg locks up. I have to stretch some more. I don’t know what it took, but I managed to limp to the next descent, and get through that without too much trouble.

    The big fire-road climb and my cramp is always threatening, and forces me a couple times to get off and walk when I’m unable to pedal.  My goal is to get to the finish, have some juice, drink some water, and try for one last lap. I have time for that, at least, even if it takes over an hour.

    Lap seven – demon be gone

    Rolling up to the finish line, and I’m struck by how many fewer people are there at this point.  I see AO and stop, drink the Izzy’s soda, take a bottle, and give her my arm warmers.  I realize after I’ve left I don’t know why I gave her my warmers, I’d been trying to put them on the last lap, but didn’t have the coordination to ride no-hands anymore.  AO offered to get kitted up and do the next lap, but I was certain this was going to be our final turn … surely we couldn’t turn another two in less than two hours?

    Mid lap and the fruit juice and clif blocs are doing their job.  Cramps are better, and so is my focus. But at my first split I hit the wrong button of my Garmin, and instead of switching screens to see my lap time, I punch the lap reset, and see I was at 27 minutes. I was going to have to remember that number to know the lap time.

    A few twinges of cramp, but nothing that I can’t pedal through. I use the descents to stretch.  A this point, the trails are deserted at many points, with some of the 3P teams ripping past me whenever the trail tips up.  The front tire is holding air.  I’m thinking this is looking like a good final lap.

    Lap 8 – what’s 27 + 27?

    I see AO as I cruise across the finish line.  Tired. Spent. Done.  Happy to have had a good time, and ready for a beer.  At first, what AO is telling me doesn’t make sense.

    “You have 58 minutes!  You can do another lap.”

    “Uh, what?”

    “We’re in 9th, you can do another – you have 58 minutes!”

    I look down at my Garmin, the messed up second half-lap on the timer reads 27.  “What’s 27 plus 27?”  I ask. A this point, AO doesn’t have a clue why I’m giving her a math quiz.

    “54,” she answers with a confused look. “I can kit up and give it a go,” she offers.

    “How much time do I have?” I’d forgotten.

    “Under 58, but you have to get going …”

    “Ok, I’ll try.”  And with that I shoved off.

    I thought about that exchange as I went out of the pits and up the first climb. I remembered our first Downieville XC on the tandem when I was struggling with cramp, the leading tandem was just in sight on the pavement finish (rolling a flat), and AO shouted and me to put it in the big ring and “Harden the Fuck Up!”  This was another harden the fuck up moment.  It wasn’t for top spot on a podium, but to ensure a top 10 placing.

    Two solo riders came by, and I heard them talking that the cut off was 4:45. So I had two time markers: I knew I needed to complete the lap in under 56 minutes, and I knew I had to get there by 4:45.  So I watched the clock.  Wanting to avoid cramping, I was keeping an easy spin.  A very round fellow passed me. I let him go.

    At the top of the fire-road climb I was fixated on a sign that said “wrong way” – I thought it was very useful, but I wondered why I hadn’t seen it before.  Behind I heard somebody shouting “Hey, dude!” I turned to look, and saw that I’d cruised past the turn onto the first single-track by 30 yards.  If he hadn’t shouted, I don’t know when I would have realized I missed my turn.

    Amazingly, no cramps on the lap.  At my splits I was realizing I was on pace for another 55 min lap.  It was going to be very tight.

    At the start of the final climb, I knew I needed to go as fast as I could, but not cramp. I had 15 minutes to get to the finish – when I was fresh it took me under ten. Another round of cramps and I wouldn’t make it. So I very slowly and incrementally increased my pace.  I started to get into a rhythm, and realized my front tire was going soft again.  I debated trying to keep riding it, but I thought I might stuff it on the final descent, so I risked cramp, and gingerly got off and topped off with air. I pumped up that fucker but good.  I’d hit the final rock garden with 50psi, but at least my tire would have low rolling resistance!

    I got back on and managed to get going again. Near the top Levi blew by me again.

    Over the crest, and I had five minutes to complete the flat fire-road, the rocky section, and a final decent.  I needed no traffic, no mechanicals, and no cramp.  Coming down the final decent, I could hear cheers and whoops from the finishing area.  My clock showed 4:42 – but I was concerned that the cheers were for it being over.  I went into full sprint, legs didn’t cramp, and I got to the finish. The lap counted, officially with three minutes to spare.

    The C510 boys were on hand to give me a high five, and AO had the best hand-up of all, an enormous beer.

    “How many laps did you do?” One asked.

    “I dunno… what’s 3 + 5?”  Apparently, when I’m tired I like to give math quizzes.

    “Dude, that’s eight!”  More hand slapping.  AO confirmed that we locked in 9th place.  Reviewing the results showed me that if we’d stopped at 9 laps, we would have finished 10th.

    As I struggle to get off my bike, one c510 brother offers to walk my bike back to camp. I don’t know who, but damn, thanks. I had a big beer to attend to.

    Epilogue

    You still here?  Hello?  Seriously, this was crazy long.  Get this guy an editor…

    Next race:

    Berkeley Hills Road Race, Cat 3.  Same distance as Boggs, but in half the time… see you there?

    - Mike Campbell

  • Race Report: Wente Road Race - Cat 3

    LIVERMORE, CA

    Summary

    Food: 2  coconut macaroons and a banana 2 hours before race, 2 scoops superstarch during race in one water bottle, leftover Chinese noodles at home and ravioli w/ gorgonzola sauce & bottomless wine for dinner.

    Race: Nearly came off second to last lap, but didn’t, then botched the sprint to the line horribly.

    I’d been looking forward to this race for two years.  I was eager to do it last year, but I wasn’t ready due to a broken collarbone.  This year with my new morning pain train up Tunnel, I was thinking I was as ready as I’d ever be.  I love Wente. It is hard. It is pretty. It is windy.  My first road race ever was as a cat 4 here in 2001, and I went too early on the final hill and finished 7th. I’d been in a long breakaway in 2003 and got caught within sight of the line. I’d been dropped awfully on the third lap when I tried to return to racing in 2008.  Often wente is my first race of the year. This year I'd already done three races, and I was lighter than I’d ever been for it.

    The cat 3 group was about 60ish riders I’d guess for a cold (low 50s) start.   Like Zamorra, the field seemed to be 30% squadra boys.  Our race was five times up the Altamont hill, four complete laps of the course, for approx. 65 rolling and windy miles.  The final is with a cross tailwind, and in the race where I got detatched, it was in the rollers after the big hill with the cross tailwind where I got gapped and fell off. I knew I needed to be near the front each lap in that section to stay out of trouble.

    Two non-squadra riders attacked the first time up the hill.  This made the first hill hurt a lot more than I’d remembered, but it could have been that I was in my big ring, but I shifted down when I realized it towards the top of the steep pitch when the group started to slow a bit.  I thought that was a good sign.  The two got a gap, and got themselves out of sight.   This race was a lot more negative like my usual experience of Cat 3 races.  Folks would try to attack, and there would be a big surge, then they’d get caught, then the bunch would slow (dangerously sometimes), and then the cycle would repeat.  The two stayed up the road and were still clear with two laps to go, and the squadra boys started pushing the pace, burning out their riders. In so doing, they’d string out the field and started to ping people of the back.  The race also got a lot safer.  No matter what they did though, Alex was looking strong and seemed to effortlessly stick in the top 15.  Meanwhile, I was falling back when the surges would happen, then roll back to the front when the wind direction would change or the pace would let up.

    The last time up the climb, the two were in sight and the pace was punishing me.  We caught the two at the top of the main climb, and the pace stayed high. I’d drifted too far to the back an saw gaps opening. I was 100 yards from the pointy end, and was concerned my race could fall apart right there. I had to dig, and kept coming around riders that were popping, only to barely catch on at the top of the first decent. I tried to move up through the decent as best I could, even though riders were fanned across the road, because there was a left hander at the bottom that went into another cross-tailwind climb that was a bitch if you were too far back.

    At this point in the race, Velominati rule #5was going through my head.  “Harden the Fuck Up.”  (Some of may remember my lovely wife giving me a similar pep talk as we chased down the leading tandem in the 2009 Downieville XC.) You see, mental weakness is my biggest challenge.  When it starts to hurt, and it takes grit to hold the wheel, my brain says: “why do you care so much about this wheel?  Why not slow down, catch your breath, go to the car, and find the nearest bacon-cheeseburger?”  So, as I moved to the front on the crosswind section (there was plenty of room on the lee side in the gutter), I was giving myself a pep talk. “Everyone hurts. It doesn’t get easier, just faster. If I hurt, they hurt. If it hurts, go harder. Just harden the fuck up and get to the line!”

    And with that pep talk, I wheeled myself into third wheel as we turned right for the final trip up the climb. On the flattish leadout, two riders surged ahead, and I let a third close the gap, with me on the wheel.  It didn’t do much other than string things out and burn a portion of a match, but it did settle things down, and a hard tempo was being set, with me happily in the top ten.  As we turned right again for the steep section, I once again focused on rule #5.

    Around the corner, and everyone is out of the saddle, trying to surge forward.  The sound of downshifts was like strange metallic popcorn.  The but rule #5 wasn’t working.  A group of about 20 was slowly pulling away.  I knew it was a long way to the finish with a false flat tailwind, so I kept it at a max pace I could hold.  Near the crest of the steep section, to my amazement, I was closing the gap on the 20 riders.  They were seriously slowing down. In a flash I was moving around them in the gutter, and at the feed zone area, I just kicked it and pulled past.  I surged by, feeling that rush of awful and wonderful that only happens in races when your nose is finally in the wind – then I looked up.  Fuck. The finish line was another 300 yards away. At least. And although I had a gap, I was dying.  And then I didn’t have a gap, I had five on my wheel.  And I tried to dig some more, and nothing happened, and they rolled by. I had enough time to watch them in slow motion pull away. I sat down.  The group was 40 yards ahead. It was over. I recovered for about five seconds. Then I remembered rule #5, and I tried to put it in the big ring, but I failed that shift.  So I just stood up and powered away.  Again I was accelerating in an anaerobic lactic fog, and again I was closing – fast.  Fast enough to catch the tail end of the bunch and weave through a few spent riders falling off the back.

    My guess was I finished near the top 20.  My guess was pretty good.  Final results had me at 23rd.

    My lesson is to wait until after my brain says it is too late. And then wait some more. I really suck at this finishing a race thing.  But it’s fun, and I’ll be back for more.  Maybe Hamilton or Berkeley hills?

    Next Race: Boggs on a 2 person coed team with my wife.  At least in mountain biking, I don’t have to be smart in the final 300 yards – at that point, the race us usually long since decided.

    - Mike Campbell

  • Race Report: Wente Road Race M65+

    Everything seemed to fall in place for this race.  I rode the course 3 separate times before the race including a full race practice run last Monday with Ken. I used my heart rate monitor for all training and the race. Jeff  lent me his awesome light wheels; I tapered my training as race day approached; I didn't eat too much the night before the race and slept like a log  waking up feeling well rested.  I didn't waste precious energy feeling anxious.

    I began the race by leading out at a very slow pace and soon relinquished the lead, hanging near the back.  We made the turn onto Carroll Rd. and the fun began.  I couldn't hold the fast pace so I just kept within my limit to prevent blowing up.  Micky and Jon Boas were behind me.

    I was able to stay in 4th on Gerry Burney's wheel going down the hill toward the freeway.  I felt real good and was hoping Jerry would pull up to James Fox and Jim Sharpe.  By the time I pulled around Burney, Fox and Sharpe had a good gap and I had to satisfy myself with working with Burney.  I dropped Burney on the downhill into a wicked headwind and could see the leaders but could not make any progress.  So I rode by myself using my heartrate as a guide.  Burney caught up with me on Cross Rd. and we rode together for a while. I dropped him on the second climb.  On the other side of the freeway Shields caught me and gapped me; I thought he was gone but I just kept riding at my threshold.  The wind was very bad on the downhills and without a wheel it was easy to get disheartened.  So I was riding in 4th position; Shields, Sharpe, and Fox ahead.  On the third lap after the hill I saw a lone ride far ahead of me so thinking it might be Shields I picked up my pace.  Descending Cross ride I realized I was gaining and when I made the turn onto Greenville I realized that it was Shields.  I caught him about a third way up the riser much to his surprise and considered  jumping past him but quickly gave up the thought.  So I just rode on his wheel.  The pace at this point was easy so I just relaxed while he did the work.  I wasn't going to help him after all the times he's beat me.  We stayed in that position up to Carroll Rd. and the steep (up to 15%) part began.  I started fairly steady and looked back and realized I was gaining on him so I tried to pick it up a little and a wicked cramp struck my left quad causing me to slow down.  At this point Shields comes around me, not going very fast but in my diminished state was enough to get ahead.  Finally my cramp lessened and I was able to get a fairly fast pace going and passed him before the line.

    It was the hardest race I've ever done.

    - Bart Borland

  • Report from the Wente Road Race Masters 45+ Cat 4/5 race

    Short version:

    Breakfast: Cereal Medley with yogurt, banana.& raisins , OJ, coffee
    Pre-Race: ½ Clif bar, 2 SportLeggs anti-cramp capsules
    Race: 11th(?) place out of 65+ in M45+ Cat 4/5 http://www.strava.com/activities/134488021
    Post-Race: Chocolate milk and a banana
    Lunch: Lanesplitters Tune-up with an extra slice,  pint of Highwater Brewing Hop Riot IPA

    Long Version:

    Course: Wente is a moderately hilly road race on a 23km circuit in Livermore. It has a tough 2km climb to the finish line that you do one extra time at the start of the race. In the M45+ 4/5 race we did the extra segment plus 3 laps for a total of around 77km and 1200m of climbing (48mi / 4100ft )

    Breakfast: Seeking a little more heft in my breakfast I made few alterations in my normal cereal medley shifting it in the nuts and raisins direction. This morning it was (from the bottom), grape nuts, banana, plain nonfat yogurt, whole-e-O’s, strawberries, Mesa Sunrise flakes, raisins, Gluten Freda granola with nuts, sliced almonds, lowfat milk. To drink: OJ and half-caf coffee (a sin of commission or omission?)

    Race: I was coming into this race off of a week of enjoyable but unhealthy vacationioning (sans bike) in Seattle. There was a great pub beside our hotel and I became an instant regular going there 4 of the 6 nights we were there. Needless to say that put my expectations for Wente fairly low, and in a funny way that made it much more enjoyable to race. Without a lot of pressure to get a result, I felt more free to just have fun riding the race.

    The first time up the climb our 65+ rider group was in full ‘Masters Mode’ and I had to sit up to not just ride off the front. This was in stark contrast to my first Wente where I got dropped as the race exploded on first climb and I never reconnected. About halfway through the first lap a guy pedaled away off the front and a Cushman rider followed him. I was in a good spot to follow them, and had this been the second lap I might have jumped on the move, but c’mon, first lap, no way. A big mistake that.

    The Cushman guy’s team mates didn’t really do much in terms of blocking, and it turned out that many of them didn’t even know they had a man up the road, but the duo still managed to stretch the lead to the point where they were often out of sight. On the second lap some Pen Velo guys put in a pretty good effort to close the gap, but since we could not see the escapees, it was hard to tell what effect that was having.

    On the third time up the finishing climb a Body Concepts rider put in a pretty solid effort and that really strung things out and put me deep in the red. I told John Ensign that I’d pretty much just thrown my whole matchbook into the fire. On the rolling climbs after the finish line I had to make some pretty hard efforts to close gaps and not lose contact, and with twinges of cramps starting, knew I needed to get some recovery time ASAP. Luckily things stayed together enough that I could catch good drafts and try to spin my way back to at least a false recovery (you feel fine when you’re going easy, but still suffer like hell when making an effort).

    Somewhere in lap 3 we caught the Cushman guy who’d been off the front and that brought a new liveliness to the group. Racing for 2nd (and maybe even 1st if we can catch the lead guy) is a lot more motivating than racing for 3rd it seems. People kept heading off in little flurries and getting reeled in (luckily I was too tired to feel like I had to take part in relling things in). One guy kept shouting that we needed to get a paceline going which seemed kind of silly since we didn’t have sight of the lead guy and we were at least 20 in our chase group with the rest of the field in dribs and drabs behind us.

    Finally a BBC rider put in a massive pull along Greenville road and through the turn into the canyon that leads up to the final climb. It settled things down but probably did me more harm than good since it was a tough pace that further drained my energy, but really wasn’t enough to shed anyone. He pulled off about half way up the canyon leaving me to do a short turn for appearances and then pull off and try to position for the final right hand into the finishing climb.

    I hit the finishing climb in the top 10 and decided I’d better go hard in the first steep section at the bottom lest I get gapped and not be able to come back. That worked OK and I managed to stay in contact with the lead group, albeit at the back. In the final 1/3rd of the climb I looked back and saw pretty much empty road. That tempted me to just sit up and take it easy to the line, but then I noticed one guy faltering so kept it up and  passed him, figuring  I was now in 10th. Unfortunately  out of that seemingly empty road some other guy passed me and I just couldn’t accelerate to catch him or anyone else. By the line I was pedaling absolute squares and right on the edge of cramping.

    After catching my breath I rode the 15 minutes back to the start with John Ensign who I’d marked during the finish. In a couple of races I’ve finished right behind him but this time he got a few places on me. When starting back up after a stoplight both of us cramped immediately. It was a tough race….

    Post-race: Chocolate milk and a banana and a few more minutes on the rollers.

    Lunch: Got home early enough that I could shower and head over to Lanesplitters Temescal for a Tune-Up lunch special, an extra slice, and a good, but not great Highwater Brewing Hop Riot IPA ( I think the week in Seattle has me a bit beer spoiled )

    - Ken Cluff

    UPDATE:

    Results are in and it looks like they put me at 10th out of 65.

    Post-race update: Day ended with a whisky party hosted by John Ormsby at the home of Eric Sullivan (brother of Michael who crashed at same time as Katherine)
  • Race Report: Red Kite Criterium - M45+ 3/4 and M35+ 3/4

    Summary:

    Same food as usual. Two races as usual, although I changed up the mix a little bit. See below. Two solid passes, one major mistake, zero prizes.

    Food & Prep:

    The night before I'd made it a point to drink zero alcohol, and to try to hydrate properly and get a good night's sleep. This all paid off as I had NO problems with arrhythmias, not even the beginnings of a flutter, in warmup or in either race.

    Breakfast was TJ's steel cut oats, OJ, decaf. One banana while pinning my number, and most of a Power Bar (Berry Blast) while warming up.

    Race One:

    45+ 3/4 category, field of 36 riders plus 11 more 55+ racing with us. My game plan was pure crit scum: sit in, move up to the front in the last 5 laps, find Michael Boehme's wheel, sprint. This I can say I executed to perfection, although I was fighting Michael's teammate for his wheel through those last laps. You may remember from last year's reports that I've learned to follow Michael because he is an extremely consistent top-10 finisher in this field. Today he was 7th, his teammate was 6th, and I was 11th, because I got boxed in on the inside line (by Michael and his teammate, actually) in the final 50 meters and had to shut down my sprint just a little, and a few guys on the far side of the course ended up crossing ahead of me.

    Race Two:

    35+ 3/4 category, field of 45 riders. I decided to ride this category as my second race rather than the 45+ 1/2/3 which I did all last season for two reasons. First, they changed up the start times, and this year there is a 2 hour gap between the 45+ 3/4 and 45+ 1/2/3 races rather than one hour, and second, I figure I have a better chance at getting some upgrade points in the 3/4 races.

    Same game plan, although no Michael Boehme in this one. And in fact, no other EBVC riders in any of today's races, as far as I know. Both Mark Dawson and Ken Cluff had mentioned that they might show up, but alas, it was up to me to represent the orange today. There was however one friendly face in this second race: John Blasquez, who rode in orange a few years ago and now rides for Castro Valley Cyclery, was lining up with me. He figures into my major mistake. A few laps in, the prime bell was rung - all Red Kite primes are bottles of wine, but this year they are also giving out bonus points to prime winners for the overall omnium standings. As my plan was to sit in, I wasn't planning on chasing any primes and thereby burning matches, but halfway through the lap, John came by me calling my name. I jumped on his wheel as he zipped up the outside of the field between turns 1 and 2. On the back straight he continued moving up, was briefly slowed by some traffic, then found a hole and shot through to the very front with me locked to his wheel. At this point we still had about 200 meters to the 3rd and last corner, we are out of the saddle and we have a gap on the field. Approaching the last corner, he's dying and sitting down. As I come through I glance behind and see that one other rider has jumped across to us, and then there's 50 meters or so to the field. I am pretty much gassed at this point. I decide - and yes, here's my tactical mistake - to soft pedal a little wide through the corner, hoping that the guy behind me will pass me on the inside, as there's about 150 to the finish line out of the last corner. Nothing. He's not able or willing to come around. I realize I have to jump now or it's all over. But it's already over. Some big sprinter dude has rocketed out of the field and is at full steam as I stand up. So I sit back down, get passed by that guy and several others and then most of the field, and spend the next lap and a half trying to recover.

    Back to Plan A. I don't know who in particular to follow at the end, but I manage to work my way near the front in the last 4 laps, and keep fighting to stay there. I'm fearing that we'll get swarmed but the pace stays really high, even though there doesn't seem to by any particular team driving a leadout (a few teams had 3 or more riders in the race, but tactics and their execution are a little sketchy in the 3/4 fields). However, the last two turns are about as clean as you could want in this category. On the back straight I'm reminding myself that really the race is TO the final corner, and work to pass a few more guys before getting there. And sure enough, the order of the top 10 going into that final corner was as far as I could tell unchanged at the line. I was 8th.

    Final Analysis:

    Getting there, but still some work to be done. Specifically, sustained power, to get me to the last 500 meters with something left in the tank for the sprint. Suggestions on how I accomplish this? Without the use of PEDs, I mean...

  • Race Report: Sea Otter Classic M45+ 4 Criterium

    Short version:

    Breakfast: Cereal Medley with berries, OJ, coffee
    Pre-Race: ½ Clif bar, SIS isotonic gel
    Race: 3rd place out of 23 in M45+ Cat 4 criterium
    Post-Race: GU chocolate recovery drink, Clif Sierra Trail Mix bar
    Lunch: Cheese Emoladas, rice, beans, chips, guacamole at La Tortuga

    Long Version:

    Breakfast: 4-cereal medley with yogurt, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, apple chunks. 1 cup caffeinated coffee, OJ, one cup decaf on the drive to fool myself into staying awake.

    Course: The Sea Otter criterium course is a hot dog with two stubbed toes (see Strava http://www.strava.com/activities/128948539 ) On the south end there are several very tight turns on a descent and that section is mostly taken single file. There is a rise in the middle in both directions. On the north end there is a 90 degree right, a tight right hairpin, then a > 90 degree left turn into the finishing straight. The finish is partway up the rise after coming out of the northern set of turns.

    Race: Like last year there was one guy kept going off the front at various points, apparently just for kicks because he always sat up and got caught. There were no concerted attacks and I generally went after miscellaneous forays off the front just to have something to do. Nobody seemed to want to push it through the downhill turns so I generally got myself to the front at the top so I could bomb down it and get folks to chase on the way out.

    The race basically comes down to the order you go into the final 3 turns so on the final time up the rise on the back stretch I was ready to take a flyer. Luckily somebody else did it for me and I was able to ride their wheel all the way to the first of the final turns on the north end. At that point nobody was going to come around until we came out of the final turn.

    When we hit the straight the guy died and I started sprinting. Two guys caught and passed me and I came in third by a bike length or so. I think I was so shocked to be (briefly) in the lead in the final sprint that I didn’t really got my sprint cranked up.

    Post-race: GU chocolate recovery drink, for real podiums up on a stage with music, announcer, kisses from podium girl, cool medals, and a case of Clif bars as my prize. Ate one of the clif bars.

    Lunch: Mundo’s cafe next to my hotel was closed by the time I got back so I went to the Seaside standby La Tortuga ( of the ghost written Hurache lunch race report fame). There I had the Emoladas which are basically cheese enchiladas drenched in mole sauce along with rice, beans, chips and guacamole. Yum.

    - Ken Cluff