Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Marblehead Road Race

2011 Michael Schott Memorial Circuit Race - colder than any 'cross race last year...

At the front... for now. photo by Jamie Ryan-White

Oh hell it was cold out. Jumping out of the car to run the 20 meters to the registration table made me cold. I hadn't warmed up from loading the bike and gear into the car anyhow - but still. 9:00am and 26 degrees. Are you kidding? Throw in a side-ways wind, right off the ocean - and bam! It was cold. That's all I'll mention of it, and relay my billy-bad-azz "Harden the f#@& up" approach, right-quick.
The short version / back story about me and road racing is this: I got really into mountain biking. and racing out west - like from beginner to expert in two seasons, and to train for expert, I needed some road miles. A lot of them. Hard, fast, long. Then what happened? I grew to really like road riding too! Nothing sharpens the top end like fierce training rides on the road - and racing is even more decidedly evil / brutal / awesome. So there you have it. I do enough road races to know how to be careful and handle myself - but as a 40+ year old guy, I'll not ever try and contest a bunch sprint finish. Hanging with the main group is an achievement for me, and was the goal for this weekend. A guy can dream, right?

Like the Beverly and Salem downtown crits, the race promoters need to shoe-horn a lot of action into as little time as possible to keep the neighborhood happy. Who cares? Mid/Back of the pack CAT3 road racers like me! It means I race with the pro's and CAT 1/2 guys. That is borderline cruel. Last year at the two aforementioned crits I barely lasted 20 minutes before popping and being pulled for fear of being in the way / getting lapped. 20 laps at break-neck speed around Marblehead Neck sounded like a great challenge - back when it seemed FOR SURE by the end of March the weather would be balmy. Right?

Back to that spot at registration... got my bib number, promptly jumped back in the car and took my time getting dressed. With a scant 40 minutes to start time, I hopped on the stationary trainer to try and warm-up, and to warm up. It wasn't bad in the sun, out of the wind, on the stationary trainer after a while - but when I broke down camp and headed to the start, riding across the causeway out to the Neck - the 25+ mph wind blew any of he warmth right out of my kit and across the harbor. Dang!

The officials were to the point, and in no time we were rolling out for a moderate start on the first lap. Well, 106 of us were - but 3-4 CCB Racing Team guys, from the gun, punched it! They had a gap immediately and were going to try and hold us all off. Their team-mates wasted no time in getting to the front of our massive group and controlled us by slowing down and blocking as much as possible. I said "don't let them do this already!!!" and worked my way around - chasing 2 guys who also saw the 'move'. We worked together for about 10 seconds, then the massive peloton was on us. I suppose we weren't fast enough to really go get the break away, but I think conserving a little was OK at this point. We established 'the idea' anyhow, or so I thought. On the next lap the breakaway had such a gap the chase vehicle came around us and took off, never to be seen again. Oh well.

Climbing the main climb... photo by Jamie Ryan-White

The next 15 laps were fun - From where we started - heading uphill through to the start / finish area was a series of punchy little climbs. Every single lap I felt good on these, always holding or making up ground in the ebb-and-flow- of the group. Every lap we seemed to shed small groups of racers, and every lap it seemed like people would do (2) silly things. (1) - attack on the descents. This equals lame in my book. Then, (2) ease up at the apex of the hill. It ends up making an absurd amount of work slowing down and speeding up / max efforts then freewheeling 'efforts'. It got really irritating, so I'd end up near the front after the slow-downs, and would ride a sustainable pace and wait for the big slinky-effect to spring the yo-yo's back by me. This worked great until the last 2 laps - when everyone wanted to be at the front when we hit the nasty sharp right turn before the finish. On the second to last lap, I was in a good position as we swung around, and then I stood up and really kicked it for 100 meters and settled into a fast groove up the climbs in good shape. On the last lap, I was getting too nervous about all the crazy jockeying for position, so I lost some ground swinging around this tight turn - then basically sat up. In roadie-speak, that means punching out. Job done. Finito. The group of about 35-40 "survivors" zipped up the hill to contest 5th place through 50th place, I guess - and I smiled for the camera a minute later.

All in all it was a blast. I was not cold once racing - but the wind on the 'backside' prior to the sharp turn was fierce. In retrospect, I really wish I had launched an all or nothing attempt to get to the leaders that first lap. I've seen that before - and they beat the main field by 2 1/2 minutes - easily accounted for by all he yo-yo'ing we were doing pace-wise. I'd rather have TT'ed the whole race on my own. Maybe. Not. I would have liked to try and catch those guys - and to have seen if it was remotely possible to stick with them for more than a lap. In the meantime - it was great practice for the upcoming Tour of the Battenkill, in two weeks. The bonus this frigid day was putting the new KHS team bike through it's paces. Stiff, hammer-ready, and light! With my race-day wheels (ha!) that bike lept up the hills and carved clean, predictable lines through the fast descending corners. I can't wait to pilot her through 60+ miles of mayhem out in Cambridge, NY at Battenkill. Anyhow, great ride - and almost have the fit 100% dialed in.

What was a surprise is that today, 2 days after the race on a quickie workout - I destroyed my previous PR for this little 23 mile lunch-loop I do, and posted my highest 1 hour average watts output this whole season - so perhaps the race blew the carbon out of the cylinders and got the pumps primed for a real effort in a couple of weeks. The best part? Both my dad and Jamie were out there cheering - and in Jamie's case - documenting the pain. Thanks guys!

Ah, the data! Map shows ride from car, warm-up lap, 20 laps, and then
warm-down lap, and finally the return to the car.


  1. I don't know about that early flyer. The problem is this: If you make that move you work for the next hour. There's no sitting in, no yo-yo, no playing your strengths and recovering. Instead you have to play to the strengths of the strongest man in the break. This time of year the Spring Heros are moving. Every hill is a throwdown and when they smell blood they don't let up. I think you did a great ride staying up front and out of trouble. If anything maybe a bridge attempt with four to go to that second group that rolled away. The upside is if you make it you know you have more in you but if you don't so what? You were headed for the pack finish anyway. You looked good man!

  2. I know you're right Jamie - and thanks. That 2nd break was hard to read, and sort of trickled up the road before I saw it was cohesive. When Adam Myerson jumped away to join in it, I just mis-timed trying to follow. I was too impressed by those giant ear ring hoop-things, and that I was anywhere near him. Ha! Good times, no less. Dave - you had the right idea sipping coffee with two sweatshirts on at home.

  3. @"I was too impressed by those giant ear ring hoop-things" I can't believe the USCF doesn't require him to put bar end plugs in those.

  4. Sat up? You could have been 5th place!

    As usual, great report. This may be the closest I get to another road race this season.

  5. Ha - thanks Rich, but no way. Even if I held my ground, the first 10 guys apparently had a real sprint - and were seasoned vet's. At Battenkill - barring a mechanical or catastrophe - I'm pushing 100% until the end. Even if THAT effort nets a 117th place...