After my less than stellar performance at the UCLA road race three weeks ago, I was determined to regain at least some endurance. Combined with being healthy, riding lots, and doing Swami's the two weekends between races has brought me a bit of form, I think. I'm at least encouraged by this weekends results.
It was an inauspicious beginning to my weekend when I missed the start for my Mens Bs criterium on Saturday morning. It's not completely my fault - the UCSB announcer said that the races were starting 10 minutes late during the first race. However, subsequent races, including mine, were brought back on schedule. No one bothered to let the people know in the parking lot that was out of ear- and eye-shot of the course. But I should know better than to believe what someone unofficial says.
Anyway, I rolled up to the start line about 10 seconds late, saw the pack sprint off, and did my best to chase them down. I looked at my heart rate monitor, and I did about four laps chasing at about 187 b.p.m., which is not a pace I can hold for very long. I never caught the pack and I was pulled. What I should have done was concede defeat and entered the pack on the backside - away from where the officials could pull me. So many rookie mistakes in such a short period!
Redemption for the day would have to be in the 4/5 UCSF crit, which I quickly signed up for after I left the Mens Bs race. Between races I ate lunch and took a bunch of pictures, some of which came out nicely. I still need to learn how to take good photographs of a moving subject with a telephoto lens.
It's interesting that my tracks are offset slightly to the west. I think it's Google Earth's mistake, not my GPS. The track in red is mainly triangles because the GPS only stores positions every few seconds, and so straight lines are drawn across the course. I also think that trees affected my GPS differentially around the course. Click to see a larger version of this image, or this activity on Motionbased.
The 4/5 crit was my first USCF race in about three years. In that time I've become a much better racer in terms of fitness and skill. I was definitely sketched out by other riders during this race, but perhaps the velodrome has spoiled me. I started in the far back, a bad place to be, so I spent the first few laps moving up as aggressively as possible. I spent most of the rest of race in the top twenty, staying out of trouble. A few times a couple of the local teams tried to get a break off - and they all were brought back. I thought I saw one I liked with about 8 minutes to go (the race was timed) so I chased it down. I liked it because it had five guys in it, two of which from the same team (some local team). That team also had two guys at the front ready to do some blocking. When I got to the group I yelled "Hey you guys. There are two of you. You need to work. You've got blocking in the peleton, work!" They spent about 1/2 a lap with their thumbs up their rears while I jabbered at them. We almost got a rotation going, but the pack caught us.
The remainder of the race I just basically tried to keep too many people from passing me, and managed to stay up near the front pretty well. Jon Lim, also of UCSD, made an ill-advised attack with one lap to go, but besides that it was a straight shot into the final laps. I sprinted for the line on the inside, which had some unfortunate bumps in the pavement from tree roots. I think the bumps disrupted me enough that I fell from lofty 7th place to 8th place. It's a decent result considering the pack size was over 60, and I managed to stay away from the three or so crashes.
The highlight from the rest of day was my experience in the Jack in the Box on Main St. in Santa Maria, down the block from our hotel. We got to the hotel too early for dinner, but I was hungry, so I wanted a milkshake. While I waited for it to be brought out, I surveyed the makeup of customers in the restaurant. Besides the largely harmless Latino families, there were three mangy white men. The first was a homeless man, who seemed a bit drunk, who haggled with the cashier seeing what he could get for two bucks. The second guy was dead-on for Richard Kiel (except in height), the guy in Happy Gilmore with the shirt that says, "Guns don't kill people, I kill people." And the third white guy had two baseball caps on, one on top of the other with both hats on forwards. The top one said "Jesus Bless You." I guess he didn't want his head to touch his holy hat, or something.
That night at the hotel, we learned what sourdine means. Just ask Zack. We also watched Smokey and the Bandit on the Country Music Channel. That was probably the most time I've ever spent watching that channel. Breaker one, breaker one has entered my vocabulary.
Sunday was the Santa Maria road race. On Friday before I got in the car, I spent some time looking at the race course using Google Earth, tracing the altitudes at various points along the course. I wanted to have a good idea of the course before I rode it. I didn't realize until about 10 minutes into the race that I had already done this race course before, four years earlier.
There were five of us from UCSD starting the road race, Chris Nekarda, Dickson Fong, Byron Ho, myself and, new to the team but not collegiate racing, Brian Clement. We didn't really have a plan other than to go the first three or four laps (of a total six) and see where we stood. Each lap was eleven miles long, with a headwind section up a false flat, a two-minute climb, a fast descent with long sight lines, and a drop-your-chain dip and rise.
The first few laps were fairly unremarkable except for the breaks that tried to get off. I mostly ignored them, guessing (correctly) that they would be brought back in due time. There was one break I decided to chase down steady enough to bring the whole pack with me, because I didn't want a break to go off then. If it did go I would have to be in it, and I didn't want to be in a break. It was also the best time to chase a break down, on the main hill, where effort and speed are more linearly related.
On lap three or so, as I was going up the climb I saw Brian slipping backwards through the pack. I said casually "how's it going?" and he replied "horribly." It seems his crash from the day before hurt his back enough that he couldn't put out enough power to get up the hill. On lap four, I think, Chris Nekarda crossed wheels and crashed, not badly, but badly enough to not make it back into the pack. Byron and Dickson had simply fallen off the pace along the way, leaving me all by my lonesome, the sole UCSD survivor. So much for the two laps to go UCSD team strategy meeting.
The last lap and a half before the climb were pretty darned lazy, as everyone had figured out that the last climb would be the place where the fireworks went off. In fact, lap four took only 28 minutes, while lap five took 35 minutes. The average lap took a little under 31 minutes.
I made the mistake of being at the back of the pack going into the main climb. This meant that during the main climb, while I was weaving my way between riders going backwards, two riders snuck off the front, from Cal Tech and Stanford. By the time I got to the front group, I didn't realize there were riders away until it was too late to chase them down. Rob Dahl (from Berkeley) and I gave it a shot and got a gap on the field, but it was clear we wouldn't be able to chase down the pair. Going into the finish line I stayed at the back of the small pack (about 12 guys) and recovered for the sprint. I knew that the finish line was at a left turn lane, so if I stayed on the left side of the road, new space would open up for me to go through during the sprint.
The sprint was very fast, almost 70 kph, because it was at the bottom of a descent. I managed to weave my way up and got third in the field sprint, for fifth overall. This is a much better result than three weeks ago. Of course, the two courses are very different, but I felt completely different in these two races. Before I just simply got dropped. This race, I was going by people getting dropped and I had more to give. Yay me!
The main thing about this course is it offers ample recovery time, if you're in the pack. Looking at my HR data below (my HR monitior didn't mess up once during this race! Huzzah!), even as late as the sixth lap, I was dropping below zone 1, which I consider a great recovery HR. Also, all my forays into the pain box were short, meaning my legs were relatively fresh for the final climb & sprint at the end.
See full size graph.
The highlight of the trip back was a stop in a Ventura sandwich and burger joint that Zack directed us to. There really is something they put in the water in Ventura, at least for the waitresses there.