Sunday, November 27, 2011

Eau Claire Princeton Valley ‘Cross Race

Real nice event, just a bad day for the good guys….

Everything leading up to the race this week should have foretold a better race than what transpired.  I’d ridden my best ever highest power output 10 & 15min intervals on Tuesday and rested with easy riding a good share of the rest of the week.

Did “A” fast guy race.  Finished a disappointing 7th a couple minutes off winner Jesse Reints, & Trevor Koss who I went toe to toe with at Carson Park race.  Trevor finished 2nd staying with Jesse most of the race. 

Sliding out on one of the first corners I road blocked the back half of the race and immediately was gapped by the Matt Peterson, Jake Begley & the other lead guys.  I recovered and passed a few guys (Matt O’Meara & co.) to get back with Brian Koenomen, only to slide out again on a corner and lose contact.

Another lap or two in another guy, who name I never found out, was riding with me was working  on catching back up to Brian K.  only to tangle both us up in course tape.  Weird, somehow he tangled up in the course tape and pulled it out far enough that it got tangled in my front brake/shifters too.  So instead of passing him I was caught up and losing more time, that was the third mishap by then. 

Brian K. had begun to fade so we caught up with him eventually.  I just didn’t concentrate and stay focused well enough to hang with them and to top it off I was just feeling off.

The remainder of the race was playing yo-yo with those guys, closing the gap to under 10 seconds and then falling back.  I’d get a good lap in only to not have it for the next one.

There was a total of 11 laps in the race.  On lap 8 or 9, we passed up Nate Lillie who was riding his 2nd race of the day (workhorse of the day award goes out to him – the first race was on single speed).   

Though by this point I thought I had the cornering on this very tight course down, it wasn’t to be.  On the penultimate lap, I slide out & went down for the 5th time of the day and it allowed my rear tire to “burp” out a good share of it’s air.  The bontrager ‘cross tires were a  good choice but could have benefit from more careful handling or bigger side knobs, my Michelin Mud2’s might have been an incrementally better choice though the course was plenty dry for the most part, it was just the corner was often and very tight.

That last incident was significant enough that I wasn’t able to recover enough to make a run at catching Brian K. & the guy he was riding with in the final 2 laps.  I wanted to make sure my tire didn’t roll off completely and with how the day had gone though I didn’t give up I was ready for it to be over. 

Maybe it was too much Turkey dinner, pies and desserts at Thanksgiving, or the personal stuff of the week, but this race had my number and I didn’t have it’s.  Not exactly the tune up I was looking forward to going into Badger Cross Midwest Championships and Nationals in Madison.

Gotta just talk to coach Gordy and get back to the drawing board.  He’s real good about the stuff so if my racing legs are meant to be found he’ll come up with a way.

Was great to have a cheering section at the race with my family & one of my good friends – who all quite frankly had to freeze their butts off in the 32 degree temps and wind chill that brought it into the mid to low 20’s.  It’s a pretty darn good consolation that people you care about are there when having one of those days where the race isn’t really going your way & vastly missing expectations.  Puts things in good perspective afterwards and helps you move past the bad days.  thanks guys!

All in all, still good to be out racing.  Always great to see the  other guys like Nate Lilly & Matt O’Meara & catch up with them at a time of year well past MTB season’s end.

We’ll see how the next couple weeks go and Badger Cross.  It’s actually been nice to race this late in the season and despite some recent results I feel pretty fresh at least mentally & a lot of my training show my fitness hasn’t dropped off (that is until this race, ugh).  But I would say it sure seems to help make the winter months go by faster when you race into January and can take down time in Jan & Feb instead of trying to get in base training hours under what most people would say are the least ideal cycling conditions of the year.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Snowbound & sad…

…Well, ambitious as I was to take the UP Cross Championship mo-jo over to Crystal MN last Saturday for the MN State Cross Championship.  Life and circumstances didn’t have the same plans.

Snow came in good abundance up North & near the lake (Superior) making travel plans less desirable.  Not to mention tensed up driving in a car for 3 1/2hrs  by yourself & then trying to have a big race doesn’t always make for the best formula for success.

Lastly, a really neat person, one of my two grandma’s passed away that weekend. It’s been along time since I last lost a grandparent, probably 20yrs, you forget how losing that part of your family feels.  I call it being heartbroken tired.  Try as you may, you just don’t have the gusto to give it your all. 

Like I said she was a neat old lady.  Endlessly superstitious and full of old wives tales.  An undereducated women of her day, I think she made it thru the 8th grade.  But when you were born in 1919, that was probably pretty good. 

In her later years she was constantly harassing me for riding and racing my bike and how I was always going to get hurt.  Just two & half months ago when I told her about crashing and breaking my ribs, I thought she was going to stroke out just reading me the riot act over that.  But that was her way of showing she cared and loved you.  The lady made incredible homemade pies, raspberry was my favorite.  I think she talked about dying for the past 20-25yrs yet no matter what her health problem she kept going.  It was something like -- you think God maybe forgot about her? 

Her illness & nursing home stay this past year really impacted me & affected how I looked at & approached life.  It was a reminder everytime I visited her how important it is to grab the moments of life and really live them.  Find the important things & people – enjoy and embrace them.  Those paths may not come your way again.

Gonna miss ya Grandma – thanks for everything, you really grew on us over the years, you earned your rest.  May you now be in peace….

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Recent races–UP Championship & MN Series Mill City Cross..

…lot’s of stuff to “tangentize” about.  It’s sounds like one of those words like “positivity” except according to my spell checker only one of the two is made up.. I’ll let you guess which one.

If I stick to race talking I probably have a mix of two or three races behind in recapping. 

The U.P. State Championship was a short 10 days ago held back on Nov 12th.  The coin flip that morning landed the right way pointing me East 3hrs over to Marquette MI.  So packed up, remember the time zone change and got there a solid 45minutes before the race despite the doubters and disbelievers. 

I came over pretty pumped to do the race, the lighter side of me was looking forward to seeing all the racers & friends I’ve made in the UP racing over the years.  The competitive side was looking for a good duel to thrown down some hard core ‘cross racing and work on taking home what slipped by me in last years finale there. 

The drive over was worrying me as I saw loads of snow piled up across the U.P. from earlier in the week, but I kept telling myself that once you drop into Marquette it’s usually gone and sure enough that was the case.  Prepping and registering I was looking around to see what to expect of the course and the competition.  Awesome designed course – it had a “spiral” section that should be the envy of any cross race.  It rounded racers counterclockwise into the center of a circle and then spit them out in a clockwise direction without intersecting… It was a mind twister at first.  It looked like it should dead end in the center but the well engineered design had an exiting circles that existed between the entering circles.   I liked it so much I think should be a mandatory ‘cross race course design.  The rest of the course had a nice blend of on/off road, cornering, hills & barriers. 

Knowing the UPCross series from last year and taking a peak at this year looked like it should be competitive regardless.  Despite rumors to the contrary I fully expected a very capable T. Gauth, who jumped me early in last years race for the win, to show up.  How would he pass up a race in his back yard.  As time passed it appeared he would be a no show.  I’d been feeling real strong & was looking forward to the rematch.  (Note to TG, next time I drive my butt 3hrs over there, have the decency to drive 3 miles, show up & give it a go….. J/K.)  It would’ve taken a darn good day on my part as he’s come a long way and made some good strides in his bike racing.

The rest of the guys aren’t slouches and everything before the starter says “Go!” is talk & hot air that quickly needs to be backed up by lungs, legs & some crazy mad skillz.  Ultimately I determined I could get by racing my wide tired Superfly MTB with the rear powertap wheel and use the brand new day old Trek Cronus ‘cross bike in emergency or backup.

I started 2nd row & alittle back at the start & the only guy on a MTB but comfortably worked into 4th place for a good share of the first lap.  Somewhere towards the end of that lap Ryan Tervo & myself separated ourselves from the other guys.  I told him to hang on as I went to the front,  he may have rolled his eyes or given me that “Oh brother!  here we go!” look.  As it was, Ryan stayed within a few bike lengths initially.  There was a first lap prime/prize which I happily took in from Jesse Bell as I crossed ahead of Ryan in the start finish area. 

From that point and laps that ensued I worked on building breathing room to the chasers.  Initially it was Colby Lash & Ryan Tervo – those stubborn guys didn’t give me a break in letting up for several laps.  I’d gotten a 10-15 second lead, backed off just alittle but they’d be holding it, so I’d have to push harder & finally after 4 laps or so the gap started to grow again into the 20+ seconds range & grew from there.  That’s the unknown about ‘cross racing.  You don’t know who’d going be having a good day and safe distances aren’t always as safe as they seem. 

With 3 laps to go, my most excellent last minute pit crew of Tom Carpenter & co.  told me it was about time I used a ‘cross bike, in a ‘cross race.  I’d also had enough laps with the powertap recording output so I gave up the Superfly & got on the barely fitted & dialed in Trek Cronus Pro I’d picked up in Duluth at The Ski Hut the night before.  It went surprisingly well, in fact Tom C. commented on how much more time I put into the chasers as a result in the final laps.  Not sure if they were getting tired, or riding the ‘cross bike was faster.  I just knew it was working. 

The dynamics behind me were changing a bit however as Andy Steven (who had a heck of good Ore to Shore MTB race this year) pulled up to Ryan T. who’d been chasing me solo after dropping Colby L. 

I road in the final lap steady but safe to win.  It was pretty nice to get this years U.P. State Championship, after winning the UP Series last year.  The guys behind had a exciting finish with Andy finishing 2nd, Steve Kuhl pulling up to get 3rd, followed by Colby who had an “altercation” with Ryan (5th) in the final turn.  Probably not fun in the moment but I think they reasonably kissed and made up after.  Who says bike racing ain’t a contact sport?

A good post race party & afterwards onto the Series Title sponsor BlackRocks Brewery.  That itself could have been the high lite of the day/night alone.  The U.P. has such a great atmosphere & culture for cycling and endurance sports, regardless of how a race goes it’s great to partake in the festivities afterwards and the evening at Blackrocks was no exception.  Thanks out to Tom C. & Marie for acting as hosts for me & not letting a good time escape me… probably a few too many brews to pull off a good double header of racing the next day in the Minnesota series but…. ah, if one has to make sacrifices make it for a race and not good times with friends!!!  Thanks guys!!!

Headed out of Marquette about 9 and was back home just past midnight.  Hoping I could get just enough good sleep to make a solid effort at the Mill City Cyclocross races in Bayport/Stillwater, MN the next morning. 

Woke up with less than 6hrs of sleep but no hangover so what’s there to complain about?  By 10am I was on the road another 3hr venture West this time.   Had never been to this race previously and quickly upon arrival knew it was one of those higher speed ‘cross race venues.  Skinny tires & a cross bike was in order.  Except still not having riding time on the Trek Cronus I opted to skinny up the tires on the Superfly & give that a go instead. 

But to make a long ‘cross story short… it wouldn’t have mattered either way.  Warm up went well, but the cumulative 12 hours of driving in the previous 36hrs put my back in bad shape and I was displaying a 2010 version of Todd McFadden riding.  Despite a decent start & getting into 4th position, my back locked up on me a few laps in and had to put it in cruise control.  Wasn’t too fun when you can’t be in there competing and doing your best.  I wound up in 8th on the day well out of contention.  Even so it was good to see what that MN course had to offer in terms of competition and the style of racing that went on.

I thought it would come in handy for the  following weekend MN State Championship races.  Did I make that planned race?  Well, that’s another story for another day… in case I don’t post for awhile… Happy Thanksgiving!!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Catching up…Eau Claire ’Cross racing & more

…this time of year I train less than any other but time seems to fly even faster.

Started the ‘cross season late with the broken ribs, but the R&R was the perfect prescription. The two days of Ashland BayCross couldn’t have gone much better, so the following weekend (Halloween) I decided to opt for the Eau Claire Carson Park Cyclo-cross race, it was the closest thing going on that weekend, had heard good things about it from Paul Belknap & Nick Robertson who attended the previous year. I’m always up for something new so wanted to give it a whirl.

Hadn’t picked up a ‘cross bike yet, the weather was looking to be wet if not also cold (ended up being both), so I packed up the old reliable Gary Fisher Superfly 29er with 1.75” Bontrager Dry X tires and decided to give it a go. If the course was anything but super fast I should be able to hold my own reasonably.

Had a good drive done, somehow convinced a friend to show up to see what this cyclo-cross racing thing was all about. The race had a pretty small field in the A race, likely due to the weather, the newness of the event (it’s 2nd year), etc. Didn’t mean it wasn’t going to still make for a good battle though!

At the start the organizers convinced us to reduce it to a 50min race (can’t blame ‘em, for the turnout and having to freeze their tails off – at least we’d be riding and staying warm). When it was time to start, I road in 2nd or 3rd place initially until I got a crack at winding things up. I had left my powertap wheel on the bike, which if I was going to win or lose in this event because of it, I could live with it. Getting the data was more important to me.

When I turned on the proverbial jets in the first lap, only Trevor Koss grabbed on, though I wasn’t going to make it easy on him. Trevor was riding a Trek XO ‘cross bike and I figured it was best to find out in the first lap if he had the power to stick around.

The course winds nicely thru Carson Park, had a muddy climb and some slick corners. It was really interesting to observe as the race went on what sections favored the different bikes. Strangely enough, in the first lap on the long pavement section I gapped Trevor, fully expecting him to reel me back in. The dude’s on skinny tires, my are marginally fat at 1.75”, right? Well, wasn’t happening. I kept looking back to see if I had to ease up if he got in my draft but it didn’t. Most likely case study of size & overall power. As Trevor told me after the race he kinda thought he might be in trouble after the first lap when he couldn’t close the gap after on pavement given our bike choices. I probably have 20+lbs on Trevor if my guess is right and with similar frontal surface profiles equally fighting the wind. The tires & bike difference were minimalized.

However once we got back in the park and swooped around a few corners and barriers he was back on. We’d do the barrier about the same but he could ride the sand pit smoother and get gaps. I’d close it down on the straights.

I eased off on the second lap, for as hard as I’d thrown down on the first. It was determined we had 8 more laps to go of a lot of the same thing happening lap after lap. He’d take the mud hill climb we could almost climb (he did once) just in front of me and put up a huge gap in a short period by 20 or 30 yards on me and I’d close it down in the cornering sections that followed. I’d try to get an advantage on riding a stair climb but an awkward dismount would occur almost every time before hitting the top. I’d slip on the steps and really lose momentum only to ramp it back up on the black top and close it down.

It was fun but killing me too, as something was off on my day. I couldn’t really put a finger on it. Just didn’t feel like my A game was there. Later my powertap file would be revealing of that fact. I also made the rookie mistake I almost never do of eating too close to the race start. As a Subway philly steak and cheese started arguing with me about 5 laps in as my guts started to cramp up.

That takes nothing away from some great riding by Trevor though. He stayed steady and road hard where he needed too. At the start of the 3 laps to go is where my cramps and riding forced me to back off and not close a gap that occurred. I had to hold back to what I could managed, but I was hoping the whole time it’d turn around quickly so I could get back and chase Trevor down before the end. He soon had 10 seconds, then 14 seconds & growing. This wasn’t going to be easy. Just sucks when your body betrays you and you can’t do anything about it.

I managed to bring back some distance in the final lap but I still wound up 21 seconds back for 2nd place on the day. Helmets off to Trevor for some great riding. I think some folks there were perhaps surprised by my riding the semi fat tired 29er & powertap hub and holding my own in there, but again different courses and conditions don’t always give the ‘cross specific bike the advantage 100% of the time.

The powertap story was interesting to review later.

Lap 1: 300 watt avg; pedaling watts was 353 watts;

Lap 2: 241 watt avg; pedaling watts was 275 watts:

Lap 3: 239 watt avg: pedaling watts was 280 watts;

Lap 4: 251 watt avg; pedaling watts was 297 watts;

to skip more of the details the middle laps were like that and the final ones despite what I thought was back off a lot ended up being
246 watt avg with pedaling watts of 284 watts;

Again for good bad or otherwise I only had a 251 watt average for the day, and a pedaling watt average of 291, that was a full 10% off in both regards to my Day 2 effort at BayCross. So though it wasn’t fun to see those numbers lower it was at least nice confirmation that it wasn’t in my mind only and that I was having an off day (the next week I had a head cold so must have been taking hold already before I raced).

The nice thing about quantifiable numbers is you can get an idea of what a possible difference the day could have made – using some previous data it safe to say an “off” day in reduced power cost at least 5-6 seconds per laps given the course distance and more likely close to 12-15 seconds if it was a true 30 watts difference.

That’s maybe shows a view into why other ‘cross racers can have some great days and other days they aren’t even competitive in larger fields. Those 5-10 seconds per lap add up to as much as a 1 to 2 minutes off the lead.

Not saying Trevor couldn’t have matched me in later laps but I’ll be looking forward to a rematch the next time….

Thanks to the Chippewa Valley Cycling club for putting the race together, stick to it guys. You’ll have a winner! Trevor & the other guys for throwing down a good one and keeping it fun. My friend for sticking around & freezing… but being there!

Looking forward to a second helping of Eau Claire Cross racing -- post Thanksgiving on Sun Nov 29th – at Princeton Valley Cyclo-cross race, details at Hope to see you there!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

UP State ‘Cross Champ….

…Good day in Marquette Saturday, tossed a coin in the morning and opted to pay respects to UPCross and head over to Marquette  versus driving the opposite direction to Bayport, MN for the first day of a weekend double header at the MN ‘cross series.

Great group of guys there.  If you ever get a taste for the endurance/cycling scene or culture of it over that direction it’s hard to not want to move there.

More on the race & festivities later as I’m rushing around cleaning and repacking for a trip to Bayport for a 2nd day of racing.  Fortunately things went off without too much of a hitch at the UP State Championships, had some guys gunning pretty hard, Ryan Tervo, Colby Lash & Andy Stevens to name a few -- not allowing me to let up much.  Gotta give thanks out to my last minute addition of a pit crew in Tom Carpenter, who filled in quite nicely for Kate.  He got the bike swaps right on target….though may have missed on the beer handups but made up for that at the post race party at Blackrocks Brewery quite nicely. Thanks Tom!  (Must have been that $50 he won on the race wagers). 

Anyways, after an initial break away in the first lap, it held the same for awhile til later in the race I was able to put some gaps were going to stick and let me cruise in for the “W” in UP State Cross Championship.

More thanks out to new co-sponsor The Ski Hut who hooked me up with a new racing steed, tires & wheelset.  Plus got to flash their nice new apparel.

I’m outta here… there’s a race calling…

Thursday, November 10, 2011

BayCross Day 2…. riding on the ‘tap… the Powertap

…Not an entirely new idea, as I’ve  road my Saris Cycleops Powertap in MTB  races.  I’ve trained with one for 7 years now going back to 2004.  Most people are familiar with what they are these days.  For those that might not be -- it’s a rear wheel hub that’s able to measure the force being applied (in watts) as you pedal the bike.  Some would say (myself included) it’s enormously helpful in training at specific levels depending on what part of your endurance energy system you are trying to improve.  It keeps you on target from going too hard or too easy for a given workout a bit more specific than heart rate alone.

Why not use it all the time, even when racing?  Well, add all those complicated internal workings to a rear bike hub and to a degree it’s gonna be a heavier wheel.  Is a heavier wheel a bad thing?  Well, think of it in exaggerated terms.  Try rolling a 20lb rock, then try rolling a 20olb boulder – or we’ve all made snow man, right?  Pretty easy to roll the snowman’s head, but the snowman’s body can be another story once it gets to the proper mass.  In either case, it ties in with the law of inertia (as best as I can articulate it) – body at rest stays at rest,  body in motion stays in motion.  Once you get either the rock/boulder or snowman body part rolling & up to speed it’s about the same effort.  It’s the getting started or acceleration part that makes the difference. 

Fortunately with bike wheels it’s only fractionally different – moving something that weights 1.5lbs vs. something just under 2lbs.  It matters on some level – but what that amounts to on a cumulative basis over a 60minute ‘cross race in terms of added effort, lost acceleration or seconds per lap is subject to debate.  And I don’t have that answer but I do have some other interesting data below.

Nonetheless, after having such a good race the day before, I didn’t feel riding the powertap wheel on was going too detrimental to the outcome not to use it.  As it turned out, it provide some really insightful numbers and stats to see how real time racing and targets for training intervals collide.

Day 2 of Baycross was alittle more low key, but a closer race than Day 1 – despite Nikoli not showing up (story was he did something we all dread going to an out of town race – forget a race necessary piece of equipment, apparently he forgot his cycling shoes & didn’t realize it til he was half way there – and not enough time to run back and forth).  Mason balked on coming for Day 2 as well, whether he was busy, or still a bit upset about the misunderstanding of no “mechanical lap” I’m not sure.  He’s a good kid though and getting to be a tough rider so it would have been nice to be there.  Even so single speeding Dave Schuneman showed and local MTB strong guys Kelly McKnight and Matt Hudson passed on the bird hunting and whiskey and came for a round of ‘cross. 

Not exactly desiring another 75 minute ‘cross race day repeat of Saturday, I opted to take it mellow on the first lap so the laps might be fewer.  Dave S. & Scott Nesvold led things out.  With Dave setting the first lap pace.  I moved up to ride next to Dave in lap 2, trading pulls.  He was working pretty hard & looking determined so I offered to help him build up a gap to a chasing Kelly McKnight, followed further back by Scott Nesvold.

By the end of three lap, Kelly was finally warmed up & closing in.  Dave was looking winded but kept grinding away shortly behind me.  I was about ready to push it to see what kind of numbers I could get on the powertap for the remaining laps of the race.  Kelly missed getting Dave’s wheel shortly before I took off and their gap remained throughout the race until Scott Nesvold pulled past Kelly later in the race to settle in for 3rd, Dave rode strong the remainder of the race and took 2nd.  I pushed it at the front and came in with just under a 3minute & 1/2 lap lead at the finish.

The interesting part for me was the power tap numbers, heartrate(HR), & lap times of the 11 lap race.  The initial 2 laps were at a comfortable cruising speed, my HR was 165-166 beats per minute (BPM) and the average watts were 253 watts and the laps were 5:22.  Lap three I picked it up at the end, HR stayed at 166, power was 263 watts & lap time dropped to 5:12.

When I started to drill it on the final 8 laps things changed quite a bit – Lap 4: dropped to 4:48, 309 watts & my HR went towards it’s ceiling 174bpm; Lap 5: 4:54, 298 watts & HR stayed in the mid 170’s the remainder of the race. 

After pushing it so hard for those two laps (10 minutes) I was hurting and my power  dropped some & lap times went up alittle for the final 6 laps.  Hovering around 280 watts and 5min to 5:05 lap times. 

Here again is the interesting thing – looking at the power numbers & lap times, you can get a sense of what the different levels of power mean for how much faster or slower a lap will be. 

Essentially for a guy my weight/size – a 50+ watt/lap difference is going to create a 35 second difference (when laps are approximately 5minutes long – course length was 1.3miles – however the faster the speed the less difference the power makes due to increased wind resistance)

- a 3owatt difference is 12-17 seconds

- a 15 watt difference is 5-6 seconds

That’s all good assuming smooth riding, no spills, mishaps.  As a guy with lower power but a smoother riding could make up those differences - application of power is as important as the raw power itself.  Even so, the ability to push out a lot of power is key to racing well.  There’s always the contention that it’s actually a Power produced to Weight of a rider that matters most – which is true to a point.  It’s most apparent in climbing hills -- but on flats or downhills absolute power matters much more and is only detracted by frontal surface area of a rider – smaller, thinner is better but it’s nominal at ‘cross & MTB racing speeds compared to a road races.

Those two above factors (skill/application of power & weight) play a bigger roll in MTB than in ‘cross.  Perhaps that’s why I like the pure simplicity of ‘cross racing.  Don’t so much have to worry about dropping weight, it’s only slightly technical (for a MTB’er) and you can just crank on those pedals as hard as you’d like for 60minutes.

The numbers above are interesting but can also paint only part of a picture.  What a person is capable of can be very different than what shows up in a race – if a person is overtrained, or sick, or raced the day before vs. being well rested can cause significant differences in power output.  My power output Day 1 at Baycross was probably notable better having gapped the same riders (Dave & Scott) by double the time as Day 2, even though I felt I was trying equally hard each day.  My body just wasn’t capable of producing the same power. 

The following week I raced at Eau Claire in the Carson Park ‘cross race & the same held true there -- only going there I was slightly under the weather and put in more training than rest that week.  My power #’s were off even further, an average of 15-20 watts lower than Baycross Day 2.  So I guess with high intensity racing never disregard the effect it may have on you.  A drop of 3% to 10% of your power output can cost you 5-10 seconds per lap or more.  That’s can be a 60-90seconds in a ‘cross race.  

Oh well, sorry to bore in case the quantifying side of cycling isn’t up your alley.  I just think it’s cool to understand in numbers why the fast guys go so fast and why, well, the many others of us don’t go as fast.  I’ll try to do a power to weight posting at some point – as I think that’s even more interesting.  You take a small guy with lower absolute power and he’ll still beat larger bigger guys with higher absolute power.  I’d love to get somebody like Big Mike Weispfenning on a power tap to see how crazy huge his numbers would have to be – he’d make the numbers put out by pro cyclists Alberto Contedor or the Schleck brothers put out look pretty puny I’d bet…. too bad they only weigh the amount of one of Big Mike’s legs... damn power to weight ratios!

Up next, Carson Park ‘Cross recap and sorry UPCross I might not make it over for the Championship Sat as I’m probably doing a double header in MN this weekend and to see how Faulkner, Reints, Fisher, Lemiux, among others turn up the pain.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

BayCross recap, power #’s….

..Finally getting around to down to outlaying a better rundown of how things went down for the Ashland Baycross race weekend.

Day 1:

I really didn’t know what to expect for race fitness going into the race.

-I’d hadn’t race in 3 weeks (only one time since the Chequamegon 40). 

-Outside of a week & half of ‘cross specific training drills I hadn’t even put much training in on my bike and I’d really had a big drop in any kind of training since the end of August due to the broken ribs.

Well, I can’t say the human body never ceases to amaze me in it’s complexity and functioning.  This time around, the extended drop in all the training volume & intensity did wonders.

Felt decent that Saturday morning going into the race, good, not great.  Wasn’t sure what the competition was going to look like this year as you never know who might show up be it from Duluth, the U.P. or elsewhere.  But I figured it was a safe bet more than a few solid racers would be there to put on a challenge. Cruising the parking lot as I got there revealed guys like Shawn Gort, Nik0li Anikin, Matt Zak, Mason Basco, Dave Schuneman among the local guys.  Guessing from my MTB racing experiences this summer Nikoli would definitely give me a solid run and Mason who pushed me at the Duluth MTB race this summer and handed it to me at the Chequamegon Fat Tire Crit Cross

Didn’t get in that long of a warm-up as I was on baby patrol with Aaron Cooper til Sara Hudson leaded a hand (thanks Sara!!) as Kate was doing the women’s race.  Guess I was still pre-riding alittle too close to the start, as the blow horn announcer started say “Alright, Aaron Swanson… would you please already get to the start line!”  Thank goodness ‘cross race course are small enough to hear stuff like that within a couple hundred yards. 

I was wrapping up that second pre-ride lap in on the new course layout designed by Mike Weispfenning – didn’t think changes needed to be made from the previous years but Mike had some great new ideas and the changes were very positive.   And when I got to the line I don’t think I barely took off my jacket by the time the 10,9,8, 7…. go countdown began. 

Was thinking before hand to change my strategy this year, follow someone else’s lead for the first few laps if possible before trying to push the effort. Surprisingly enough, Jeremy Ames of the Twin Cities happened to be up visiting family, and without question I could gather he was used to Twin Cities ‘cross racing and went for the lead right off the bat.  Followed by Nikoli and within a short distance I went into 3rd place.  We followed Jeremy thru the first sandpit and into the looping chicanes before gradually heading up & out of the Prentice park area.  It was at that point, something unconscious triggered in me (I swear!) and I made a short jump to the front and began to push it hard.  In moments I had a gap over Nikoli, Jeremy & Mason and another 5 guys.  I put my head down for the next couple hundred yards to see what more distance I could get before looking back.   Fortunately, it was a good sized break and probably close to 50-75 yards when I looked again. 

Ok, so much for sticking with the plan, now it would be a solo time trial for the next 60+ minutes against guys who may be working together.  Just brilliant Swanson… WTH was I thinking?

Fortunately, though my heart rate was redlining at an unheard of 188 bpm (at least for me – how does a 38yr old guy even get a HR that high?  At least while racing a bike?)  Anyways I held that for the first lap and though it hurt bad, it also hurt good!  If this race didn’t go too long I felt like I was going to have a good day. 

So lap after lap I pushed it, on lap 2 (of 10) – I no longer saw Nikoli, Mason or anyone else where the course loop back on themselves (a good 1minute + lead.  Each lap was just about 7 minutes.

Outside of amateur hour I displayed by wiping out on a asphalt & grass corner, ripping up my elbow and twisting my handlebars.  Can’t say there was a lot of exciting details past that for awhile, except for the occassional skidding in the mud and bombing the “Pit of Despair”.  I saw Mason on the sidelines at one point with a flat tire which was a real bummer, wish he would have been able to stay in the race.  He also assume a ‘free lap” mechanical at this race, which has never been the case – I know they happen in road racing ‘crits but I’d never heard of them in ‘cross, too bad there was a misunderstanding.

At one point or another I wanted to let up because we’d be racing again the next day, but outside of doing that briefly when I came upon Big Mike W. I kept the throttle fully twisted most of the day. 

Approaching 3 laps to go though, my internal go-go juice was running out and I was starting to lose power & struggle.  I kept asking Dennis Liphart, how much of a gap I had – Damn guy kept bullshitting me!!  Lap after lap, “oh, hey Aaron – you got 90 seconds, keep pushing it!” 

Nearing the finishing area, I’d just pulled up short of lapping everyone outside of Shawn, Nikoli – (why should I rob them the opportunity of another lap – the evil dude that I am!  Why should I take away their self inflicted pain -- remember in ‘cross if you’re lapped you finish on the same lap as the leader.  Anyways Nikoli and Shawn didn’t cross the line for another 4 minutes & 5 minutes respectfully.  (there’s a hell of big difference between 90 seconds and 4 minutes! – would have loved to jump off the bike and fixed the twisted handle bars, rather than riding them crooked for 75% of the race.

Just one of those days when everything came together.  Would have loved to have the Cycleops Power Tap, to see what kind of numbers I was registering as it’s pretty damn tough to beat Nikoli by that kind of margin in any length race.  With the comfort of having the Day 1 – 1st place points I would feel comfortable using the PowerTap on the second day of BayCross. 

More on that later… along with the Eau Claire ‘cross race at Carson Park and what’s up lately…