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