Racing tales from the great Pacific Northwest

Monday, May 11, 2009

2009 Ravensdale Road Race - 2

Recounts from Mitch, Dave C, Dave M. and Mike B.

It was great weather and we had a good group of 5 guys in the masters division. I knew the course was rolling hills with no monster climbs thanks to intelligence from Sean and Dave Mezera. It was a 5 lap race with the start/finish line up hill. As we rolled out onto the course to begin, I got my first look at the 1.5 mile, 500 vertical foot climb to the start/finish line. It had two sections of 7 to 8% grade with a 4% short stretch in the middle. It was easy the first time but proved more difficult each lap.

Just like Mason Lake, the whole group went out fast burning off of the pent up anxiety, adrenaline, and testosterone. Keeping up required climbing the hills at 18 to 20 miles per hour, which pushed my heart rate into zone 5 at 165 beats per minute or more. Approaching the right hand turn at mile 5 of the 9 mile loop was a welcome change of direction because it looked like the up grade might be over. I was feeling strong sitting in a good position at about position 25 out of the field of 75. My goal was to stay in the top 30, lead only if I felt great, and save as much for the finish. If I could help break Sean or Dave loose for a finishing sprint, I’d do it if I could.

The turn at 5 miles did mark the start of a long set of rolling down grade hills. Good news. It was time to chase the draft, enjoy the sunshine, soak up the energy of the stampeding peloton, and marvel at the humanity of it all.

On the back half of the coarse things thinned out and my heart rate dropped back into zone 4 below 165; it felt great to get a reprieve. My plan was clear; this course required climbing the front half at whatever speeds matched the front 30, then draft them like a parasite down the back while recovering. Lap two shaped up nicely with a few breakaways, but the peloton always reeled in the leaders. Sean and l led one chase and caught the breakaway group. I felt strong even though my monitor was telling me to watch out. I was red-lining at times. When I caught the breakaway and then climbed a small upgrade on the back side, my heart rate hit 179. Thirty miles remaining, so I slowed and let the herd enveloped around and provide the draft that only flying wedge can produce. I was safe for the time being.

Climbing the hills on lap two the group slowed and people started showing the wobble, stand up, sit down, stand up. As we rolled through the 5-mile corner at the top of the course on the second lap the pace was taking its toll. A few miles down the road on a flat spot at speeds over 20 mph somebody in position 15 to 20 lost their concentration and crossed their front tire. Only one cyclist separated me from the guy going down hard in a slow motion twist as his front tire was ripped out from underneath him. The guy in front of me dove left and bumped into somebody which left me a narrow seam to the right with a little bit of daylight. I dove right. In a split second of slow motion shuddering, I watched two guys crash and could hear more crashes behind as people piled up. I was still on my seat and clipped in, so there was nothing to do other than take a deep breath, regain the focus, and pedal.

Lap three was fast but fine and then again in lap 4 fatigue exacted its toll. Right after the top turn another biker in approximately position 15 crossed a tire and went down. He too was a few positions in front of me. The rider immediately in front of me clamped on his brakes hard and went into fishtail skid. I followed in exactly the same form clamping the brakes and skidding. We both held the straight line true and manage the fishtail skids. The guy in front of me hit the guy lying the street. I hit the guy I was drafting and at least two guys piled into my backside. Thuds and expletives make it pretty easy to estimate how many people are piling up. The biker in front of me came to a stop and fell over still clipped in. I came to a complete stop, unclipped, and stayed up. Somebody’s pedal was jammed through my front spokes so I unclipped both feet, tipped my bike horizontal, unhitched the pedal, put the rubber side back down and hopped back on. One pedal stroke, two pedal strokes… everything seemed fine. My wheels were rolling and I felt no pain, but the peloton was gone.

As I looked around to survey the situation, I saw Dave Mezera, who apparently dove into the clear lane of oncoming traffic to avoid the whole mess. He was fine too. He slowed down to regroup with me and make sure I was fine. His experience was clear; he was cool and already calculating tactics. There were about 10 of us who had not really crashed, but had lost the front group. We immediately ramped up for the chase.
The pace line fell into place with some shouting and agreement that we’d all cooperate and bust it to see if we could catch the group. It worked well but the pace was blistering. My GPS shows us hitting 37 mph 3 times on the chase and my heart rate clocking in at 183 bpm. It was exhilarating to catch the lead group with 10+ strangers who all knew our only chance was to switch to cooperation from competition. Dave M led the group with me right on his wheel for the final push to close the gap with the group. It was huge to have a teammate.
I was feeling the pain buy the time we caught up. Instead of dropping back into heart rate zone 4, I was mostly up in zone 5. We had burned it pretty hard.
Lap 4 was fast and I was tired, but just being with the front group kept me digging. I was hanging on to see if I had anything left for the final climb on lap 5. As we turned the last corner at the bottom of the course and began to climb to the finish line the front 30 surged forward. Some riders started to drop. I stepped on the gas expecting to accelerate, but had very little left. I shifted down to see if I could spin any faster; not much better. I climbed the first step of the final hill with all muscles burning, but the first group was dropping me. I dug a little deeper but did not have the power to accelerate. I looked at my Garmin and it was showing 189 beats per minute and a 6.0 on the Zone. After almost 50 miles of racing; zone 6.0 is tough when you’re going up hill and the front group has opened up a gap. I pushed it through the finish line about number 30; declared personal victory and enjoyed the moment.
It took me about 2 hours and 3 minutes to complete the 48.14 miles and I spent over half of the time in zone 5.
Zone 3: 6 mins 40 sec
Zone 4: 50 mis 42 sec
Zone 5: 1 hour, 4 mins 11 sec

Max heart rate 191 BPM.
Average speed: 23.4 mph

Thanks Sean, Dave M, Mike B, and Dave C. It was a blast.

Dave Mezera:
Good job for you, I see 7th. The guy who won I was riding behind the wholeday (he looked like a sprinter)Tough race for me, I had one of those mornings that the Mexican food fromthe night before wanted to totally get out of my system.The first two laps where pretty hard for me but I was able to hang in andsave some energy.During the third lap we had a bad crash that I was stuck behind, I had todid deep to get back on, it took about 2 miles to get back on.Half way thru the fourth lap we had another crash, I was pushed into thegutter, I saw that Mitch was stuck right behind it and decided to wait forhim. There was a group of 10 of us that started a fast pace line, I didn'tthink we would be able to get back on but it looks like the main packslowed down and we did catch back up, this too us about 4 or 5 miles ofhard effort.One the last lap I was pretty toast but starting to feel like I might beable to get a result, as soon as I had that feeling my front tire goes.I did get to work on my tan and had a good workout.

Dave Chandler:

Racing is really really fun - so much more fun that I thought it was going to be. Sure, I was a little nervous and intimated at first, but once we got moving and settled in, it was a lot like our weekday rides – just a fast pace line. I bet many more of our team would enjoy it and would do well.
But the best part was the absolute thrill of being out in front of 70+ guys going really fast! Cannot even begin to explain what a high that was. I was buzzing from it all day yesterday. Being a bit of a thrill junkie I have done some really exhilarating things: fly co-pilot in a Lear jet, drove 120 laps in a NASCAR Chevy doing about 130 and spun it, flown in a stunt plane, flown dogfights in a fighter training plane, and I ride a Harley.
The feeling that I got from jumping out in front was every bit as thrilling as any of those. I was pretty happy to keep working my way up in the crowd, and found myself in the second row as we started down an easy hill picking up speed rapidly. I was amazed to see the group stretch out into a single or double line as we accelerated. No longer was it 5 guys across, it was more like being on a train looking out the window as we started to round a corner. Everyone just moved over into a line, going faster and faster, and there it was: a huge opening in front of me!!! I just couldn’t resist it and jumped on it and bolted to the front, hammering hard. Was SOOOOO much fun. It felt like I was in a jet plane flying. It was such a rush, I will never forget it, it was so cool!!!
The bad news was that pretty much emptied my tank so when we went around the corner and started up the biggest hill I was toast and dropped to the very back. After that I was never able to catch up. Alone on the back side of the 3rd lap I decided riding alone was not racing, so waited at the finish line.
The DNF was definitely worth the thrill of being out front! But now I have the confidence to hang with the crowd, and will save my energy for something closer to the end.

Mike Brochu:
I felt really good today and was rolling strong, holding fourth wheel with you and Mitch in front of me and Dave and David slightly behind. I could tell there would be ample opportunity to move up, as it was easy to see that many riders were not going to be able to stay with it. As I finished lap 1, I decided I would start to move up closer to the front…I saw a hole and decided to “gear up” and accelerate. As I did, I dropped my chain, I had to throw up my hand in disgust, and let the group get by, but I was able to get the chain back on fairly quickly. By this time however the group had a good hundred yards or so on me, but I thought I could bridge it. I tried…man did I try. I just about caught the group as my heart rate was blowing through the top…I had maybe fifty feet…tops…but simply ran out of gas. I kept the group in sight for the entire lap, hoping that something would happen to give me a break…nothing did…and then you guys slowly pulled away. As I encountered guys along the way with similar issues, I could not convince anyone to get back into the chase and help. It seems that when someone else had a mechanical, they would just give it up and ride back to the finish and quit. I don’t quit.

I decided to ride at “race pace” and get a workout in. The Cat 1/2’s caught me on lap four and I was able to hitch a ride on the back until I could no longer hold…but by that time I was close to the finish. They had more laps to go, but I then decided 4 out of 5 laps was enough for me and I pulled off to watch you guys finish.
All in all, a great experience and I look forward to the next one.

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