Monday, June 22, 2009

Waking the Dead (Legs): Capitol Criterium Race Report

(Warning: If much of this sounds familiar, it is just an expanded version of my race report on the team site.)

Juan, Jeff, Sam and I journeyed up to Olympia, Washington on Saturday afternoon to race the Capital Criterium. The only races on Oregon soil for the weekend were the Elkhorn Classic Stage race and Test of Endurance....yeah, right. Anything with the words "stage" and "endurance" are decidedly not on my agenda right now.

I had hoped to loosen up my sleepy legs with a ride on my new cross bike and some track racing on Friday night. However, since it is June in Oregon, and the first day of my weekend, it poured rain all afternoon. Sam, Jeff and I rode in the downpour for about 45 minutes before deciding that beers at East Bank was a saner course of action.

Racing in Washington is sort of a pain in the ass. You have to buy a USCF one-day license and pay $10 to rent a number. Its total racket. All of a sudden, a race that originally cost $25 costs $45. Lucky for Sam and I, we got to race one minute for every dollar and got $10 of it back for returning the numbers unharmed.

I liked this course. The front side was a straightaway 500 meter incline. Not really a climb, because we could big ring it, but the grade was high enough that you could use it to make people suffer. It plateaued up at the south end and the back and north sides were downhill and technical. The race was basically like doing one minute intervals at 90%, with 30 seconds recovery surrounded by bicycle roller derby--for 45 minutes. Barf-o-licious.

Jeff raced first, in the masters A/B race. Direct quote: "Those are some fast old fuckers." Unfortunately, our fearless leader was pulled early and paid around $2 a minute to race. Not a good value.

Juan went next. From where Sam and I could see the course from our trainers, it looked like he held 2nd-8th wheel the entire race and finished fourth. Here is his race report. I can attest to the fact that the Starbucks guy that he rode behind most of the race was a total monster truck.

Sam and I rode in the Cat 3 race. It was just Cat 3s...a change up from riding in Oregon. Another change was that 80% of the riders belonged to one of three teams. And those teams are coordinated and disciplined.

My best guess is that about 20 women lined up for the start. It was pretty strange to be sitting at the line and not know anyone...it's that pre-whistle gossip with my friends that usually takes the edge of of those last 5 minutes.

Since I hadn't put in a hard effort on the bike for 14 days, I spent the first 20 minutes wishing that a meteor would fly out of the sky and put me out of my misery. I watched Sam win a prime and tried to pick up on how the teams were coordinating. All while trying not to get yo-yo-ed off the back.

At about 25 minutes, everything started to feel better, both in my legs and in my head, and I was able to really start racing, instead of simply surviving. It was pretty obvious after 20 minutes the riders that two of the teams wanted to save for the end of the race. The third, I had a pretty good idea, but wasn't 100% positive. There was lots of talking in the pack and there was more than one instance where I wanted to tell someone to quit bossing me around. But I'm trying to behave myself and was likely breathing too hard to do more than squawk. (Or perhaps whip out the FT possum hiss-that is some scary shit.)

It was also obvious that, after Sam contested a few primes and I put in some good attacks on the incline, the organized teams tried to start limiting our movement. We kept getting boxed in and/or pinched out on the good cornering lines. It didn't take me long to realize that if the pack --whittled down to about 12-15 riders, about three from each team, Sam and I and two or three lonely onlies--stayed intact in the last 2 laps, Sam and I were dead meat.

What I decided to do will probably not be a surprise to those who know me...try something that looks really stupid but just might work. So with three laps to go, I took a huge flyer off of the front from the base of the climb. And I just kept hammering until the end of the race...standing up on the hill and and attacking every corner on the backside. If I had anything to say about it, no one was going to get any recovery time until the race was over. I knew that the effort wasn't going to win the race, or leave me any sprint legs for the end, but I figured that I could throw down enough hurt and shell enough people to give Sam and I some room to move at the end.

This effort was really fucking hard. There was lots of drool and I threw up in my mouth at the end of the race. That is all I have to say about that.

This time around, the "just stupid enough to be dangerous" strategy worked-probably aided by the sneak attack factor--no one up in Washington knew anything about my strengths /weaknesses. I think I managed to cut the pack of 15 women to six or seven by the last lap.

Two women passed me with 1/2 lap to go and I just willed myself to stay on their wheels until the end. Lucky for me, the finish was the steepest part of the incline, and I was able to hold on for third. Sam had room to get herself up to fifth.

So this is what I like about WA races. (1) Being the wild cards messing with the organized teams and (2) They have much better schwag for podium finishes. I got a really nice steel water bottle, $20, socks, a t-shirt and some tire levers that look like sex toys.

We stopped for milkshakes on the way home. All in all not a bad race experience. I don't have any racing pictures (but Juan found a good one located here), but here is a picture of a really weird unicorn cake Sam and I spotted at a cafe near the race course:

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