Archive for September, 2011

Remembering My September 11 Thoughts

Posted: September 11, 2011 in Thinking

On this 10th anniversary of a day that may have had more impact on our country than any other, I re-read what I wrote shortly after the horrifying events:

Masters Road Nationals: Appendix

Posted: September 10, 2011 in Bicycle Racing

I realized that I didn’t document my road race experience and thought I should do so for posterity. After my dismal showing in the criterium, my confidence for the road race was pretty low. I pre-rode the course forwards and backwards (literally, one lap each way on different days) and the hills were daunting, especially watching some of the older Masters going up them. Sunday dawned with Nina getting up to do a half marathon in Sunriver, about 20 miles south of Bend. She did well without trying hard and got 2nd in her age group. I had all day to get nervous about my race that started at 5:00 PM. My friend, Craig, was in the first race of the day and he told me that if you were more than 10 minutes behind the leaders at the end of second lap, the race officials would pull you. Given my confidence level, this was significant information.

Leaving for the race, I forgot my food so we had to backtrack after driving about halfway to the start. I still had enough time for a light warmup in near 90°F temperatures. We were the last race of the entire championships with 3 laps scheduled for a total of about 52 miles. We got our race instructions and there was no mention of any time limit. The only information from the Chief Referee related to being dropped was that you had to stay as far right as possible on the road. The race actually started a few minutes before the scheduled start(!) and I parked myself near the back of the pack. Craig told me that in his race (Masters 55-59), the field rode at about 30 MPH leading to the first major climb and my race was no different. In fact, per my Garmin bike computer download, we averaged 29.3 MPH to the bottom of the first climb!

I was at the back because of my hesitation on the descent leading to the climb. I wasn’t in the mood to crash on my freshly healed face so my pack descending confidence was pretty low too. As we hit the climb I passed a number of riders as I attempted to stay in contact with the main field. Unfortunately, as we reached the top of the climb and passed the feed zone, I found myself off the back. I hooked up with two other guys but only one of them was willing to work. We caught a few more people as we reached the steepest climb on the course.

I saw another group in the distance and I decided to drill it on the climb in an attempt to make contact with them. Instead, I ended up cooking myself and the guys that I had initially left, passed me on the second half of the climb. I didn’t have enough left to hang on to anyone as we hit the rolling descent on our way to finishing the first lap.

I was riding solo until just before the descent leading to the first climb. Two other guys caught me and I took advantage of the small respite before the climb. I hit the climb at a sustainable, but hard pace and soon found myself with just one guy. This time I took a bottle from Nina which I had to juggle from a less than smooth handoff. I later heard my juggling and eventual control of the bottle was impressive. The guy that stayed with me on the climb was riding better than me and as we hit the steepest climb he dropped me.

Now, as I approached the finish of the second lap, I started wondering about the time limit. Approaching the traffic circle, going downhill at about 30 MPH, there was an official yelling something at me. I really couldn’t hear her but I assumed it had something to do with getting pulled. When I got into the circle proper, people were directing me to the road leading back to the finish line and I heard something like, “Race to the finish.”

I felt kind of ridiculous “racing” to the finish since I was by myself but I kept the pace up for the last 1.5 Km to the finish. As I crossed the line I saw several other competitors who had apparently been pulled too, including some of the guys who had dropped me on the first lap. Another rider rolled through after me and he was obviously from SoCal based on his club kit. We started chatting and eventually I asked if he had a cell phone I could borrow so that I could call Nina to let her know that I was done.

After Nina, Craig, and Kati got back to the start, they told me that when I went through the feed zone on the second lap I was less than 10 minutes behind the leaders so I didn’t miss the cutoff by too much. That bit of information was about the best news of the entire race week. It was the bit of good news that gave me some hope for being able to be pack fodder for next year.

And with that I was really done with the 2011 USA Cycling Masters Road National Championships.

(…Assuming you aren’t a pig lover.)

Having had several days to mull over my (lack of) performance at the 2011 USA Cycling Masters Road National Championships, I have tried to be objective about what I gained from the experience, my second trip to a national championship. First and most important is the experience. I said this when I first decided to go this past spring: my main reason for going was to gain experience for the 2012 event when I would be moving up an age group (to 55-59 years old). Looking at courses and course profiles on maps doesn’t really tell you the story of what it’s like to race on them. Reconnaissance rides also help but race experience is the best and I got that from this trip.

I also learned how my body will feel at the moderately high altitude of Bend, Oregon (about 3,500 feet above sea level) and how I need to train to be better prepared for next year. I have no delusions of victory and winning has never been my main motivation for racing bicycles (yes, I know that’s heresy for some), but I like to test my limits and I like my limits to allow me to “be there” rather than off-the-back.

I also had a nice break from SoCal with my wife and son and some friends. Bend has a lot of good restaurants, some shopping, some sightseeing, and great scenery.

Bend, Oregon, scenery

A view from one of the road course climbs.

I have a year to prepare for my third venture at Masters Road National Championships.

What can I say? Yesterday’s criterium was bad. I couldn’t get my foot in my pedal at the start and I ended up at the back of a fast field. No racing for the previous month left me without the strength or reserves to move up and ultimately, hang in.

I got dropped after a few laps and pulled a few laps later. I wasn’t the last classified finisher but close to it. This was especially bad as I haven’t gotten dropped in a criterium since a stage race in February.

The road race is tomorrow and I hope that my recent weight loss helps me in the hills.