It is no exaggeration to say that last week, here in Oregon, summer came to an abrupt end and winter arrived. One day it was in the 70s and sunny and the next it was in the 50s and raining. It's still raining, only now it is even colder.
This sort of thing, of course, makes for great cyclocross. I think it is safe to say that the dust races of 2012 are over and the mud is here to stay.
The weekend started with the Canby Cross-Word CX Challenge. A smaller race, not part of either local series, it was nonetheless well-attended and saw some good competition. It was also the first muddy race of the year, and we all had to adapt to the new conditions after dealing with hardpack and dust thus far.
I started at the back, but quickly made my way up into the top three. As you can see from the file below, I started a bit too hard and I paid for it later on. The first 1/3 of the race saw my HR average 183bpm, with correspondingly high power output (which I will keep a secret for now!). The rest of the race only saw an average of 179bpm – the cost of an imprudent start. At one point, I had caught the #2 rider, but a slip on corner saw him ride away and I had to settle for 3rd place on the day. Small mistakes often have high costs in 'cross.
|Canby CX: Red is Heart Rate data, yellow is power data. The dashed red line is at 180bpm. The dashed yellow line is at 350W. Click the image to magnify.|
Cross Crusade Heron Lakes:
The weekend's second race wasn't what this cycling coach had hoped for. The Heron Lakes course at PIR is one of my favorites – flat, fast, and hectic. I missed last week's race (I was attending the USA Cycling Coaching Summit, my first one as a Level 1 coach) and so I had forfeited my call-up and had to start at the back again. It didn't seem to make much difference as less than six minutes into the race, my rear derailleur decided to join my front derailleur and I was going nowhere. It was a curious failure as it did not seem to involve sticks or mud, or other riders. The body of the derailleur simply sheared off the pivot bolt.
I'm looking at the bright side – I have one 3rd place, and my bike frame and my body are intact. It's easy enough to get a new derailleur.
Here are some photos from the weekend:
|Canby CX. If I look surprised by the mud, it's because I am.|
|Heron Lakes: My teammate Monty (aka Montador) and I before the start.|
|Heron Lakes: Erik V and I round a bend in the first 3 minutes of the race. That was about the half way point for me!|
|Heron Lakes: My rear derailleur breaks, ending my race. Aw, muffin!|
"It is not so difficult. Go flat-out before the corner and then go flat-out again."
-Tommi Mäkinen, four-time World Rally Champion
Today I raced the Battle at Barlow, a traditional course east of Portland on the grounds of a high school. The course was dry and dusty, consisting of some open, although bumpy, grass sections, one bit of asphalt, and a few twisty singletrack climbs. The centerpiece of the course was a two-barrier descending dismount, followed by a steep run-down, a wooden bridge, and then a series of tall railroad ties as a run-up. Confused? So was I when I hit it at full speed.
I started several rows back, due somewhat to bad luck, but mostly to laziness. This was a mistake. On such a fast, twisty course, it would prove very difficult to make up time on those ahead, even once I found my rhythm. The race started fast and within 30 seconds I was at my LTHR. Today would prove to be another data anomaly as was able to maintain a 181bpm average for the entire hour. Again, I was able to maintain a higher-than-normal average for a couple of reasons:
- It was warm again, and this always elevates HR slightly at a given effort, and,
- I was very fresh, having done very little riding in the previous week in order to try to fully recover from a pulled muscle in my left leg.
So, although I didn't feel like I was on a great day, I can see from my data graph that I was able to pace myself well and do a very good effort:
|Battle at Barlow CX: Red is Heart Rate data, blue is speed data. The dashed red line is at 178bpm. Click the image to magnify.|
A dropped chain on the third time up the railroad ties cost me about 7 places. I think I managed to get a couple of those spots back, but I never saw the other guys. This guaranteed that I would be out of the top 10 on the day. One pays dearly for small mistakes in cyclocross.
It wasn't the greatest race ever, but I made the best of it and managed to learn a few lessons along the way. I also had the mid-race pleasure of seeing the always-friendly Ira Ryan and that awesome smile. He looked so happy to be racing his bike.
Next up: Heiser Farm CX and the Cross Crusade opener.
Photo updates here as they happen:
|Comin' in (sorta) hot|
|Leading a small bunch around one of the asphalt corners|
|Over the triple barriers|
Today we raced in the sand. Not far from the scene of Het Meer a couple of weeks ago, Zandercross took place in Vancouver, WA. It's part of a burgeoning series I like to call Couve Cross. Happily, it was a benefit for the excellent non-profit P:ear.
The promoter decided that the main feature of today's race would be sand, and its waterfront venue provided plenty of the loose, deep, and soft stuff. In addition to a few barriers, there were two (for some people three) long running sections in the sand. There were a few steep banks, but all could be ridden if one took the right line.
I pulled a muscle in my left leg last week at Marathon Nationals, and the all the running today only served to irritate it even more. It made running and dismounts painful, but I don't think it really slowed me down. The data show a decent pace, even if the start was a bit harder than I would have preferred:
Zandercross. Red is Heart Rate, blue is speed, and orange is elevation data.
My LTHR is 178bpm, but today I was able to average 180bpm for the hour-long race. This is possible for a couple of reasons. First, I was relatively fresh. I hadn't done a lot of training in the past week as I was (and am) tired from last weekend. The aerobic system recovers quickly relative to the body, however. So, even though my body was still a little tired, I was able to maintain a slightly higher HR since my aerobic system was relatively fresh. Second, it was warm today. In hotter conditions, one's HR is often slightly elevated.
If we break the race into two halves, we can see that I started a bit on the fast side (for me). For the first half of the race, I averaged 183bpm, while for the second half my average HR was 179bpm. I hit my max of 193bpm about 20 minutes in, while passing some people on one of the sand runs. That effort cooked me a bit and afterwards I had to slow down to recover. My effort today netted me 7th place.
Here are some photos:
The start. I got the call-up, but dust makes me chicken.
This week the Wall Street Journal did a segment for print and video on cycling "tribes." I was asked to describe the "roadie," and here is how it went:
It's a bit ironic, as I'm not really just a roadie, but cyclists like to label each other and the Journal picked up on that spirit, too.
I have had a day or two to digest what happened last Saturday and I've finally had a chance to sit down and look at my data file as well.
It was a day where everything came together just right: The start was fast, but not too fast. The climbs suited my new lighter physique. The bike felt perfect and I was confident on the descents and singletrack. I had no mechanical issues. I had rested properly in the previous week. The distance and hot weather both suited me. I was able to stay focused for the entire 4+ hour effort.
All of those things are the ingredients of the perfect race. Together, they allowed me to do my best possible ride on the day. In terms of numbers, here is what that ride looked like:
|Click on the image to magnify. Red is Heart Rate, blue is speed, and orange is elevation data.|
My LTHR (Lactate Threshold Heart Rate) is 178bpm, represented above with the red dashed line. This places my Threshold Level (also referred to as Level 4) at 169-188bpm. Theoretically I can ride at 178bpm for about 1 hour. On Saturday, the data shows ideal pacing over the duration of the race. I managed to average 167bpm for the entire distance, keeping my effort sustainable over that period.
The nature of MTB racing is such that there are often times when you must exceed your LTHR in order to clear an obstacle, or stay with a rider you need to stay with, etc. Several times I bumped up against my maximum HR of 194bpm, but my training has been such that I was able to recover and maintain a high pace. During the race, my HR never dropped below high Level 2 (Endurance), even on the descents. It was a consistent effort, and by the finish I was completely spent.
The last week has seen two great lessons in pacing in two very different types of events (see the post on last week's cyclocross race here). One event was short and intense, while the other required more endurance and the ability to focus for a very long time. Happily, both yielded great results!
I came to Bend not expecting too much from myself. I haven't been myself lately, and my anxiety level has been really high. It's tough to concentrate like that, and for a 4+ hour race, it's a tall order to do so. In addition to all that, I hadn't touched my mountain bike in months.
None of that seemed to matter today. I put it all behind me. I felt great, rode well, and did my best ever National Championship result: 6th place.
It feels amazing. I just wanted to finish and I dared not dream of a top-10 placement.
The rest of the crew had pretty good days as well. Mark and Jeff just squeezed into the top-20 of their respective classes, and Chris (Specialized/Adventures 212) was running in a solid 15th until a cut tire dropped him to 20th.
My race seemed to last forever. The start was harder than I would have preferred (just about every one is), but I settled in on the first climb and started to feel better. The descent to Flagline was awesome, and that is when I began to move up in my class. I knew a lot of people had started at a level they would not be able to sustain, so I simply rode at my own pace and made sure to eat and drink regularly (a special thanks goes out to Chris Graham for doing hand-ups for us). One by one, the riders began to come back. I wasn't sure, but I thought I was in the top 10.
By the time I reached Tiddlywinks, just about everything hurt, including my stomach after the USAC neutral feed handed me a bottle of Gatorade (ick). I managed the descent without incident, and barely hung on while I climbed Funner to the finish. Desperate to know where I stood, I asked a checkpoint official where I was. He simply replied, "Oregon."
When I finished, I had to lay down for a while, the violence of the effort having taken its toll over more than 4 hours. Once I was told I had come 6th, I went back to the car and had a little cry by myself. I'm still not sure I believe it.
I didn't know if there would be any photographers out there, so I took some snaps myself:
|Mark's car ready to roll to Wanoga and the race start|
|Prepping with my pal Brian Gerow|
|The tail end of the lead group rides under the highway|
|Somewhere in no-man's land. I decided I still had enough energy to snap a photo|
|Exhausted. Looking and feeling very old|
|Another amazing Bend sunset with wildfire smoke|
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Now, back to our regularly scheduled program:
Today I am in Bend, OR with one of my pro MTB racers, Chris Peariso (Specialized/Adventure 212), his wife Michelle, and my best bud NURD from California. We are all here to race the USA Marathon Mountain Bike National Championships, which take place tomorrow.
The course consists of some sandy doubletrack, some rocky climbing with sand, and lots of sandy singletrack, all starting and finishing at the Wanoga Sno Park. It has been very dry here this summer, and the trails have a deep cover of fine powder. Here is the not-very-simple map from USA Cycling:
We rode the second loop, which is one of my favorite rides. The last time I rode it early in the summer was one of the best rides of my life. It's all singletrack with a long descent followed by a (at least on the pre-ride) mellow climb back up to the finish. NURD, on his first MTB ride in Oregon and had a blast. We have since cleaned all the bikes, taken naps, eaten lunch, and prepped for tomorrow. Now all we need to do is relax and enjoy the sunshine.
Here are some photos from our morning out:
|Aliens with large heads prepare to ride. From right: Chris, Michelle, NURD, Ak|
|This guy followed me all day|
|Chris on Tiddlywinks|
|NURD climbs Funner|
|Ak chased by a NURD on Funner|
Today I raced my first cyclocross race of this season, the TBGP Het Meer race in Vancouver, WA. I made a day of it by riding out there, doing the race, and then riding home again. It was a cool, overcast day and perfect for cross (unless you like mud).
The race consisted of lots of straight, fast sections, followed by some twisty, fast sections, followed by a mean sand trap on a lake beach. The drop into the sand trap caught a lot of people off guard, resulting in some spectacular crashes. I managed to avoid them:
I'm on the left avoiding the unlucky fellow who is now going the wrong way.
Once I got into the groove, I was able to ride the sand without any trouble.
I've been having trouble focusing lately, but CX racing is a good place to put life out of your mind for an hour and just concentrate on what you are doing. This is what I look like when I concentrate:
Notice the tongue (and the cute girl with the dog).
Despite all the craziness, I had a great race, ending in 5th place. I was able to start off within myself and finish strong, picking off one-by-one the riders ahead who had started too fast. I didn't have my Quarq on for this race, but I did record my speed and HR data. The graph shows a nice, steady cardiac drift. This is an example of good pacing. The red line is HR, with the dashed horizontal at my LT HR – 178bpm. Check it out:
red – HR
blue – speed
Despite a relatively open course, I was able to start easy, settle in right at my LT, and then push it up a bit in the last laps. This served me well and garnered me one of my best ever CX results – in the season's first race!
Chris Peariso took his 6th win at the Copper Harbor Trails Festival last Sunday. There is a great article about it in the local paper:
Chris is on track to have a great race at the upcoming Mountain Bike Marathon National Champs in Bend, OR in 10 days. I will be there to race it with him, and will post a report, perhaps even with photos, right here.
AES Pro MTB Racer Chris gives us the scoop on his excellent 4th place at the Mohican 100:
Watch more video of Mohican 100 2012 on cyclingdirt.org
AES athlete and pro mountain bike racer Chris Peariso scored his first big result of the season with a solid 4th place in last weekend's Mohican 100, round three of the 2012 NUE Series. The full interview on Cyclingnews.com is right here:
AES athlete and Vanderkitten Pro road racer Jenn Reither took her 2nd win of the season last weekend at the Missouri Professional Cycling Series Dutchtown Classic. Jenn's aggressive riding style paid off in spades when she rode to a 27-second victory over a top pro field.
Here are some photos:
Jenn on the podium in St. Louis
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