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ABR State Championships Race Reports

ABR State Road Race Report (Two Rivers Road Race)

End result: I won. Yay!  I first heard about the race through the team email group, and I decided to race because A) I need to race more for experience and B) I figured the Juniors field wouldn’t be very competitive and I could perhaps get my first win ever.

The course is in rural Illinois and consists of a 18-ish mile course with pretty good pavement (although a bit rough/high-frequency vibration-y) and a set of railroad tracks that absolutely suck to go over.  Unfortunately, the race wasn’t very well run.  It was ABR and registration took 30+ minutes, the finish line was 3.5 mi away from registration and parking, making it suck for my mom since she had to walk over, and there weren’t that many people.  But then again, ABR doesn’t have a lot of staff and at least they’re doing stuff, which is better than I can say.  I figured the race would end up being a split; there weren’t any course features that would split the field and, although it was all cornfields and flat farmland, the wind wasn’t very strong (maybe 5 mph), so crosswinds weren’t going to be a deciding factor (maybe in a larger group, but my field started with 10 people.

I set pace during a neutral 3mi rollout to the start/finish and then I fell into about 3rd position.  Then, the race sort of fell apart.  The other junior, 17-year-old Isaac Drew from Bike Heaven, sort of rolled off the front at maybe 26/27mph.  The first few times, the race stayed together, but after the fourth effort, I ended up in a 3-man group with Isaac, and another rider racing Cat 5s, “Steve” (quotes to mean I only know his first name).  I wasn’t having any problem holding the pace, but I didn’t want to tire myself out taking pulls.  I feel like when you’re in a breakaway, there’s a sub-competition to pull the least possible.  So, Voeckler-level facemugging, loud complaining, and innocent guttering occurred.  This race was one of the places where knowing the direction of the wind is vital.  The wind was pretty much directly West->East and on the North/South stretches, I would always “pull” along the very right side of the road, guttering my companions without a draft.  They didn’t realize this or didn’t care, and neither said anything nor pulled anywhere except in the middle of the road.  I still think I had the best sprint, but every extra watt mattes when you’re going for the win.

Anyways, the race was kind of weird.  There wasn’t really a threat from the guys chasing, who neither had the firepower to chase or the numbers (they were in small groups of 2 or 3).  In the last few miles, we literally sat up on the tops and had a chat about the race.

Skip to 1k to go and I positioned myself in last position.  I watch a lot of pro cycling and my sprinting style lends itself to being last or at least behind someone in the sprint.  For some reason, I attacked with about 400 meters to go.  I was pretty confident in my ability and thought I had the win after my initial burst.  Unfortunately, though, I heard Isaac coming up on the left.  At this point, I was afraid that I was going to lose.  Those doubts that always come when the race gets hard started to bombard my thoughts and I was scared of losing.  I tucked in on the left of Isaac, who had come around, and got ready to kick again.  I had no idea where Steve was, and was a little scared of him coming around both of us with enough speed that I wouldn’t be able to close it in 200 meters.  Thankfully, that didn’t happen; I got into Isaac’s slipstream and laid it down for the last 170 meters, finishing at least 4 bike lengths ahead of a charging Steve.  I even got to post up, which was cool.

Yes!

Yes!

Woodale Criterium Juniors Race Report

Not much to say about Woodale.  The course is super fast.  There aren’t any tight corners, there are significant downhill stretches, and the hard sections, a tough headwind on the day for about 400 meters and a small, 3% grade, did little to limit the speeds.  The field in juniors was me, another 17 year old who didn’t race a lot, Alex Timperman, a 12 year old, Carlos something, and two ten year olds.  I felt pretty confident I could pull out my second W of the year.

The race ended up evolving pretty much like the Two Rivers Road Race.  Essentially, Carlos, Alex, and I dropped the two 10 year olds and rotated at the front.  It was pretty mellow until the last lap.  I expected the final lap to go like this: I would strand Alex or Carlos on the front, or sit on in third wheel like during the race.  I figured Carlos would attack up the small incline into the last corner, and then I would follow him and sprint around him at the end.  It pretty much turned out like that, except Alex did the attack.  I covered it immediately, coming around Carlos to do so.  I expected, then, for Carlos to come around and counterattack and I kept watch for that.  Alex’s attack was good, but short, so I figured Carlos could kick around it.  I didn’t know how fast his sprint was, so in my anticipation of anything from him, I left a pretty significant gap to Alex with 200 meters to go, probably 2 or 3 bike lengths.  When I realized I needed to get going or get second, I shifted into my last tooth and fired up the pistons, coming by with a bike throw at the end and winning by a half wheel.

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Willow Springs Road Race Race Report

2014 Category 4/5 Willow Springs Road Race Race Report

The 2014 Willow Springs Road Race took place on a weekday and no one from Tower had pre-registered, so I didn’t think I would have any teammates in the field.  The course is a triangle b/w Flavin Road, 107th St, and Archer Ave.  It’s 9.5mi long and consists of all flat except on Flavin, which starts with a “kicker” and another rise about halfway down the road.  I’m hesitant to call it a hill because it’s not nearly hard enough nor long enough nor significant enough.  It starts about 6% for 5 seconds then flattens out to 2-3%.  In reality, it’s pretty much a flat race.  Here’s the segment for the course.

Strategy going into the race was to sit on as long as possible and then sprint at the end.  I was confident I could be at the front the last lap and at the finish.  The last incline to the finish is waaaaaay longer than it looks and takes at least 25 seconds from bottom to top.  A lot of people start their sprint at the bottom, but it goes on forever and if you don’t sniff the wind until about 100 meters to go, you can pull it off.

Tower was hosting the race along with the organization that runs the PSCS, so I volunteered to course marshal an apartment complex.  Races started late and I was close to the finish, so I barely had time to run back to the car, stow my backpack, and sprint into staging.  In fact, if I hadn’t had the foresight to get dressed and do a small warmup (without cooldown) at my course marshal location, I wouldn’t have made it into the race.

Anyways, when I got to the field, I saw that Tommy Will (would take 1st place Cat 5s) and Tony Kassel (club president) were both in my race.  It was too late to make a strategy so we said a couple of words, desperately tried to find out where rollout would be (much to the confusion of my non-under 18 racers), downed 4 ounces of maple syrup, and dumped water onto my brake lever after it got sticky.

I managed to get to the front of staging and in the neutral rollout I started the race in second position.  The last straight before entering the hill was a 10mph+ headwind, so it would be important to stay tucked away in that.  Also, it would be a great place to move up as everyone hunkers down and singles up in headwinds.

The race went like this: 75 people in the field (the smallest field limit, actually).  In the hill: fast at the beginning, lull, back swarms the front, if you don’t respond, you’re at the back.  Too narrow (centerline rule) to move up in either of the back stretches, and then the headwind stretch.  After the second lap, I learned this, so on the final lap, I finally secured a good position going into the end of Flavin and the turn onto 107th st.  Side note: The Flavin/107th and Flavin/Archer turns are really sketchy.  If you get a chance before a future race, check them out and look for a good line!  I felt that the safest line into the last turn (Flavin/Archer) was on the very inside and the safest line into 107th was the outside line.  Also, everyone slowed down a ton going into 107th and going into Archer so if you don’t brake into either turn, you can pass 10 people+ on the outsides.  That is, if you don’t spin out at 34mph on the downhills (spoiler alert: I did).

Anyways, before the race, I noticed someone warming up: Rick Lapinski of the Zoot Triathlon team.  He’s raced at Ironman worlds the past few years, and I’ve seen him blow past our Tower paceline at least once, so I definitely saw him as a threat.  If he got just a little separation, he could ride away from the entire field.  I talked to him before the race, and he said that, yes, he was going to attack.  I told him I’d be on his wheel.

The focus for the first lap, then, was to stick to Rick like maple syrup to my brake lever.  Unfortunately, he moved directions that I didn’t and I lost him over the hill.  I feel like I’ve gotten pretty good at moving people off of wheels, but the road was so narrow and people are so unreceptive to contact at 30 mph (I know, right?) that I could only watch him from 5 feet away and look for a way to move up in frustration.  Rick never did get away, never getting the separation he needed to lay down the watts (different fitness skillset), but I did get to the front and we traded a few pulls while everyone sat on.  While you should never pull unless it’s advantageous, I’ve found that pulling secures you a spot in the front, which is why I’ll pull at least a few times.  I don’t think it’s hurt me as of yet.

Skip to the finale; An attack into 107th sent the field into skitters.  I was at the front at the time, probably 5 meters behind the leaders, but I didn’t think anything would get away so I just sat in and saved energy.  The break consisted of a guy from Manitoba (a Canadian devo team that drives 13 hours to race weeks/weekends.  Sheesh) and someone else.  They, somehow, stayed away.  It was seriously impressive because it was into a headwind against a 73-rider peloton.  Down Archer, there was a lot of yelling, mostly from the back (OK, mini-rant: The yelling was really starting to annoy me.  There were a ton of people yelling at everyone to rotate and chase, which I’m fine with.  It’s a great tactic that often gets people working.  However, most of the people yelling were at the back!  Which actually is a good idea if you get someone to fall for it, but it kind of annoyed me at the time.  There were more than 5 instances in which I heard “pull through or get out of the way” when there was at least 2 meters of space on the sides to pass. Sigh).  People tried to get a chase going and a Spidermonkey guy on a sweet S-Works Tarmac that was orange and black (unfortunately not the new MacLaren Tarmac) got stranded on the front, but in the end the break wasn’t pulled back.  It just wasn’t organized enough.

Anyways, I wanted to save energy so I stopped fighting for position going into the final turn.  Bad idea; I don’t really know what I was thinking.  I think, now, that, in the heat of the moment, I wasn’t cognizant of my race strategy.  I should have found the Illini guy who had won the past few days, stuck to his wheel, and come around him in the end.  Or, I should have kept fighting for position and stayed at the front.  My thought at the time was that I would just catch some guy’s wheel to the front.  Which sort of ended up happening, I just caught a guy’s wheel… to the wrong side of a 4 meter split.  I finished first in that bunch, outsprinting everyone else, but was overall disappointed with my result.  I really thought I had the legs and the strategy to take first in the bunch, but unfortunately I wasn’t positioned well enough to even have that opportunity.

I got to meet a reader, though, who weighs 115 (!!!!) pounds and is, like, doing really well this season (it seems, by his results).  Hopefully racing the ABR State Championship this Sunday.  Maybe I’ll film that.

Thanks for taking the time to read these 1300 words.  As always, I would heartily recommend subscribing via email a el right-o or following me on Strava to stay up-to-date with my journey.

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Quad Cities Criterium Race Report

Category 5 Quad Cities Criterium 2014 Race Report

The old Quad Cities Criterium was a mile-long, eight-turn affair, dead flat, and almost invariably a sprint.  After crawling up the 25% grades of Snake Alley and bunny-hopping the Melon City speed-bump at 36 MPH, I was looking forward to a flat course.  Not how I said the old course was flat.  This year’s course was not.

Under the direction of a new race promoter, someone from the same company that runs ToAD and the Prairie State Cycling Series, a new course was drawn up, located in downtown East Davenport.  The course featured narrow roads, a 2-block 4% climb into a 1-block 11% climb, a screaming but straight descent into two narrow, super fast corners.  Normally, this would have been a really cool course.  After Snake Alley and Melon City, it wasn’t a race I was looking forwards too.

Luckily, my dad and I were staying overnight just outside Davenport so we headed over to the course the night before to preride and check out the climb and lines through the corners.  As soon as I saw the course, I groaned – although wide, the climb was really steep and even going up it easy was difficult.  The descent is super-fast.  I reached 38/39 mph each time down.  The best tactic, especially on junior gears, is just to tuck and fly down – spinning out your gears will only waste energy and won’t make up any ground.  The descent comes down at pretty much the same grade and spits you out of the trees onto a long straight, probably about 400m long.  Along the straight, you’ll still be going 32/33 mph so pedaling can be efficient, but still probably not worth it.  The corners are tight and over sealed brick – the kind of faux-brick pathway that turns banana-peel slippery in the rain.  If it’s a rainy day, have caution going through the corners.

After pre-riding the course and discussing with my father, I decided not to race the juniors race.  I knew it would be really fast and going down the descent and into those two corners at the end of the back straight would be dangerous and I didn’t think I would be able to be safe with such an aggressive, more advanced field.  Bike racing isn’t exactly about safety, but you have to know your limits and when you’re taking unnecessary risk.  If I had three more years of experience and Cat 2 fitness and could think clearly the entire race, I probably would have stayed in.  First year racing, it wasn’t worth it.  As it was, my first lap, I overcooked the first corner and almost locked the rear wheel up, which would have been pretty bad.  Even then, for the rest of the laps, the last corner was always super fast (b/w the two corners, it’s downhill).

Lining up for Cat 5, it was hot and muggy.  85 degrees but more humid than a dog’s breath.  I warmed up on a great bike path along the Mississippi, jersey unzipped, trying to stay cool.  Strategy going into the race was to go into the last two corners second, ideally, or first with a gap.  From the last corner to the finish was probably 350m, making it better to be second wheel, but I figured the speed coming out of the corner would be so high that any farther back and it’d be too many people to come around.  First or second into the last two corners meant some sort of attack, probably onto the climb as it was almost impossible to pass people on the descent and flat (spinning out).  I could attack into the corners, but that’s sort of a jerk move and not entirely necessary to win.

30 people lined up at the start but I sorely overestimated how competitive the field was.  After the first lap, there were only eight of us in the front group.  Huh.

Anyways, second lap, the eventual winner of the race attacked on the climb and dangled about 20 seconds off the front for 3 laps.  It turns out he had won Snake Alley and Melon City the two days before.  When he attacked, I didn’t follow because I didn’t think it would get away.  I should have known that, with a group of only seven, no one would chase him down.  After about 4 laps, the eventual second place racer got a small gap over the top of the climb inadvertently, looked back, figured it was better to be off the front than on the front and held his gap to the finish line.  By that time, there were only 4 others left and the next time up the climb, it was just me and one other racer.

I’d like to tell a story about how we went back and forth, tossing attacks at each other, each time clawing back the time advantage to the chaser.  But alas, it wasn’t to be.  I pretty much sat on his wheel while he led the remaining 5 laps.  He tried to accelerate a few times, on the 4% or the 11% grades, but he didn’t have a lot of pop and I was able to stay with him.  Also, it was hot, hard, and humid, so that probably contributed to it to.  Last lap, I tried to attack at the bottom of the climb and was giving it everything, but when I looked back, he was only a few seconds off my wheel and I knew he would catch on the descent, so I sat up.

Here’s when the race was won (for third): On the descent, he came around me.  I don’t know why.  Maybe I had conditioned him to be in front.  Regardless, I immediately got on his wheel and stayed there until about 180m to the finish.  He started the sprint and I came around him and took third by about 2/3 a bike.

I’m really happy that I finally got a good result.  Like I said on Strava, I’ve felt like I’ve had the fitness to grab a good result, but I just… haven’t.  Getting on the podium also gives me confidence for my 4 upgrade.  I’m excited to race Glencoe Cat 5s with my teammate, Tommy Will, next week and also excited to see real power numbers the week after that.

As always, thanks for reading my race report/blog.  The best way to keep up is to follow me on Strava.  Second best would be to follow this blog (in the sidebar).

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Snake Alley Criterium and Melon City Criterium Race Reports (+Extras)

This was one of two A-race weekends this year (Glencoe Grand Prix, May 31st being the other – I dropped out of Galena due to SATII Testing).  The purpose of this weekend was to get experience racing against the top juniors in the  Midwest.  As I explained, the Memorial Day Criteriums are all part of USA Cycling’s Road Development Race Series.  RDRS is meant to find talented juniors in the United States for the National Development Program.  The product of this is that juniors come from all over to race.  There were people from Kentucky (440 mi from Burlington, IA to Louisville), Ohio (440 mi to Cinci), Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, etc.  Probably the biggest news was that Hincapie Development sent four riders, David Lombardo, Richard Rainville, Simon Jones, and Gavin Haley.  I don’t know much about the others, but David Lombardo is from Crystal Lake, IL and has gone to the Junior Cyclocross World Championships.  So he’s pretty fast.  He won both days.

Snake Alley Criterium Race Report (Juniors 15-18)

Link to Strava File

The hallmark of Snake Alley is Snake Alley, a twisting street in Burlington that, according to Strava, has an average 20% grade, peaking at 26-29%.  The rest of the course is a fast, 3-corner descent, with about a half mile of flat until a short, 1-block, 10% kicker before the Snake.  Although the corners were wide and kept clean of gravel or dirt by a great team of volunteers, the corners were still super fast.  If you could corner, they were a good place to make up time or catch up to a group.  Because of the hill, I figured the race would just blow up into a brutal time trial.

That’s essentially what happened.  Racers are lined up by pre-registration order.  I was third row and came into the first corner (into the 10% kicker) in about 25th position.  I entered the Snake, first lap, in 25th as well.  The Snake, because it’s so short, ends up being just a power climb, albeit one complicated by lots of racers in a narrow road and on a steep gradient.  (Luckily, in none of the laps, I had to dismount, although it was certainly tight)  It’s sort of a climb where you just have to bear through the pain for 30 seconds and then try to recover on the descent and flat… and then do that 9 more times.

I shot up the climb and passed a few kids the first time up, exiting the alley probably in 20th.  When I got to the top, the race was already strung out, racers already descending down the backstretch.  From there, it turned into a time trial as I thought, descending, TTing on the flat, and then busting it up Snake Alley again.  One nice thing was that, because the whole thing was just a TT and the flat part was short relative to the descent and climb(s), people weren’t looking for you to take pulls.  So, if I caught up to someone, I was able to sit on their wheel on the flats and draft.

In general, each lap I would lose time on the climb and then catch up on the descent, sit on someone’s wheel trying to recover, and then repeat.  I guess I need to get better at climbing or anaerobic endurance.  It might even just be a mental thing, sticking it out when the legs are hurting a lot.  For sure in the middle of the race, I tried to take it easier, tried to limit the burn of the lactic acid accumulating in my legs.

I ended up coming in 26th out of 34 (37 starters)

Extra #1: Check your Ish before you race

I failed rollout like an idiot at Snake Alley.  I thought I was running a 44/34 in the front and a 12-25 rear cassette, making the max gear 44-12 and expected rollout of 7.67 meters (7.93 is the limit).  Ended up I was running an 11-25 in the rear and rolled out to 8.37 meters in front of everyone like an idiot and should have been DQ’d.  My fault.  Lesson: Check before the race, at home, etc.

Extra #2: Dan Hollywood Holloway is a boss

We stuck around the whole day for the pro race and got to watch Dan Holloway (Athlete Octane Cycling) break away with Alexander Ray (Hincapie Elite Development Team) and win for like the 8th time in a row.  If you don’t know, he swept Speed Week in Georgia (no one has won more than two in a row), then went to Dana Point and promptly beat UHC, SmartStop, etc.

But what’s more impressive is how good he is for his sponsors.  Every time he wins, he highlights the front of his jersey, thanks his sponsors, welcomes fans to talk to him, thanks the crowd for coming out, compliments the race organizers and volunteers, etc etc etc.

Melon City Criterium Race Report (Juniors 15-18)

Link to Strava File

Melon City was Sunday’s race, a 1-mile lap of “Weed Park” in Muscatine, Iowa.  It features a 530m climb that starts out at 8% and ends with a false flat that really sucks the legs.  The 8% part isn’t that hard because the descent goes right into the base of the climb so you can carry speed into it, despite the best efforts of the park staff: There’s the infamous speed bump at the bottom, although it’s overhyped.  It’s definitely ridable with a bit of caution, although certainly nerve-racking.  Strategy on the descent is to just tuck.  With junior gears (this time corrected by blocking out the 11t) spinning out at 33ish, it’s better to get aero to save energy.

Anyways, the pace out of the gate was really fast.  The strong teams/riders kept throwing attacks, trying to get away and, since I was at the back (what a surprise, right?  I should work on that) I was feeling the accordion a lot.  Everything got chased down by the field, although I failed to chase down the field and got dropped with 3 or 4 to go.  Sucks when the moto passes you.  Anyways, I finished strong, going all out to the finish and came in 26th again, this time out of 38 (maybe b/c there weren’t any DNFs).

Tip if you’re in contention to win: In my not-in-contention-to-win, the winning line is on the inside the entire course.  The cuts down the distance you have to pedal by at least a couple-ten meters each lap and, going into the sprint, it’s definitely the line b/c you’ll have a shorter path up the hill and you’ll come around the last corner wide and carrying speed, instead of having to break and then accelerate.  Also, you’ll have the inside of the small bend in the finish and, when sprints are won by tire widths, any advantage you can get you should take.


Overall, the results so far have been good, I think.  The competition is much higher than anything I’ve raced in and, at least according to the USAC points system (the lower number the more competitive), I’ve done the best I’ve ever done.  I’ve been beating a lot of Cat 4s and even some 3s, so that’s pretty good.  I’m certainly riding faster than last year and earlier this year and I’ll be doing power testing after Glencoe, next week.  It’s also great to be able to race in this super-competitive fields with Cat 1s and 2s.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  Next is Quad Cities Criterium which, although traditionally flat, now has a 9% hill in it.  Cool, thanks race promoter.

As always, if you’ve gotten this far, thanks a lot for reading.  If you want to connect with me, hit me up on Strava (strava.com/athletes/zachryanwong) or e-mail me.  If you do happen to see me or race with me (I’m looking at you Diego Arana – I saw your dad by the Mississippi River), come say hi or something.  That’d be cool.  Learn about me at (guess where) the About Me page.

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Monsters of the Midway Cat 4/5 and Cat 5 Race Report

The intention going into Monsters was to use it as training and for experience.  I haven’t raced much and I want as much experience racing as possible.  Also, it would be good training and would contribute to my Cat 4 license.  Also, it was close – just 40 minutes away by car, in downtown Chicago.  The race was raced on the University of Chicago Midway and was put on by the University of Chicago Velo Club.  The course consisted of a 1.8 KM rectangle with wide corners, long side running West-East.  Street conditions were pretty poor – the streets are usually used for parking so the sides of the street were cut up and there were three huge potholes in the back stretch.  It would be nice for the race promoters to mark the holes w/ spray paint or something like that as it was hard, if not impossible, to know when they were coming.  Generally, I would coast when I knew I was approaching one (using trees/buildings on the side for reference), which would put me at the back of the group.  Wind conditions were out of the West at 13 KM/H, consistent the whole time.

Since the finishing straight was about 400m to the finish line out of the last corner, the strategy was to enter the last corner in about 6th position and follow wheels to 150m, where I would jump.

Category 4/5 Monsters of the Midway Race Report:

Link to Strava File

I went in feeling really good.  I had been doing really great on the Tower rides and had been riding consistently and strongly.  I started the race in the third row but didn’t try to get up to the front immediately.  That put me in about 25th position, where I stayed for the first of 10 laps (30 mins).  The chances of a break getting away on such a simple course were very slim, especially with the crosswind sections being 140m long, each, which ended up being more of a long U-turn than two separate corners.

The main problem I had during the race was that I kept ending up at the back.  I would move up to top 10 or so in the tailwind stretch (800m), corner and maybe move up a few spaces (either people in the lower categories aren’t very good at cornering or I don’t know how much the accordion affect comes into play – although even when I was third/fourth wheel at times, I still had to brake significantly in order to stay behind the person in front of me.  As mentioned, the corners were wide – you didn’t have to brake at all) through the turn.  However, on the long headwind stretch, people would be constantly moving up on the left and right and I would find myself in the back half.  I was never tailgunning but I still had to move up every time on the tailwind stretch.  That wasted a lot of energy, I think.  I need to, in the future, make sure that I’m constantly moving up so that I don’t end up at the back.  Maybe that means being more aggressive in moving into trains.

Despite this, with 1 lap to go I was sitting 2nd wheel.  About 200m before turn 3, three XXX guys moved up to the front and I jumped on that, thinking it would be a train to the finish.  Unfortunately, the first guy blew in between turns 3 and 4 and the second guy blew going through Start/Finish.  Instead of getting stuck on the front, the last XXX guy jumped, trying to bridge up to a break of 4 up the road.  I should have been ready but wasn’t, getting caught out and having to pedal into a 3 meter gap.  I couldn’t bring the XXX rider back and was off, solo, in front of the decimated field behind.  I thought it would be smarter to sit up, try to recover, and then try to do something in the field sprint but I couldn’t recover quickly enough and limped in last of the pack, 34th overall (out of 60 or so).  Maybe I should have put my head down and TT’d, but I was already at 200bpm and I don’t think I could have summoned the watts to stay out in front.

Category 5 Monsters of the Midway Race Report:

Strategy was the same as above.  I lined up sort of out of it all b/c of the efforts of the 4/5.  That probably wasn’t the best idea because I ended up losing focus and pulling some dangerous moves in the field.  I’ll have to work on that.  Anyways, the race was definitely slower than last time and I learned from the 4/5 race by following moves up the sides in the headwind straight.  I was in the top-20 w/ 3 to go but was sort of mentally out of it.  Even if I had stayed in, I don’t think I would have had the winning mentality to pull off a pack win.  I ended up flatting out after hitting a huge pothole (RACE PROMOTERS!) and blowing the rear wheel.  Oh well.


Overall, this was definitely a good thing to have done.  I know I learned a lot about crit racing and definitely benefited from the workout (hitting 200bpm can’t be… bad for you, can it?  I mean, isn’t it healthy and natural to have your heart beat that fast?).  Takeaways from this race include:

  1. Always be in the process of moving up to the front of the race
  2. People don’t corner very fast – either be on the front and split the field in a technical course like Homewood or do something else (haven’t figured out how to approach it b/c even top 5 I had to slow down).
  3. My sprint power is pretty good.  The lifting over the winter (max back squat of 235lbs, 1 rep) has definitely made my force out of corners and in accelerations much stronger than last year.

My next race is the Quad Cities Memorial Day Weekend (Snake Alley, Melon City, Quad Cities crits).  Thanks for taking the time to read my report.  Connect with me by following this blog via WordPress (footer), subscribe via e-mail (right sidebar), e-mail me (link here), or follow me on Strava.  Thanks again!

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Polar Dash Race Report

Polar Dash 2014 Race Report and Review

Strava File, Official Results

Polar Dash 2014 took place on January 11th, 2014.  It was a 14 mile out-and-back along LSD (Lake Shore Drive).  I signed up to run because I wanted to do something with all the running (cross-training) I did during the winter.  It was about 35 degrees, which was really nice because the week previous it had been ~7 degrees Fahrenheit, pretty cold.  However, it was rainy, which I’ll talk about later.  My goal for the course was an 8:00 pace, which would be a 1:45:00 half-marathon.

I don’t have much to say on the event.  It was $60, including a fleece and a knit hat.  I would have liked to have an option not to get the geat, but they made you buy it.  It was all outdoors, which was kind of a bummer, especially b/c there were winds of 20 MPH+.  No tents, even.  Sufficient number of porta-potties (which is important).  Bagels, chocolate, water, hot chocolate, and bananas after the race.  Timing wasn’t an issue for me.  Pacers at 30 second-split intervals. (i.e. 6:30 pace, 7:00 pace, 7:30 pace, etc.)

Going into the race, my strategy was to just try to stay with the 8:00 group.  I didn’t want to or think I could go faster.  I had stopped training in the weeks prior due to super-cold weather (I know, I know) and final exams.  Mostly the weather, though.  Also, mock trial.

Anyways, race started off good.  Adrenaline was going crazy.  My HRM said 198 but I was at an RPE of maybe 9 (of 20).  Looking back at the Strava file, it shows that the first mile was 9:00 pace.  We got stuck behind a lot of people who didn’t estimate their pace well at all (although shout-out to the St. Charles West girls – was fun to run with you guys!).

Anyways, pace started to settle in after we got onto LSD.  Thanks to the pacers (didn’t get their name, although they were chatting away, sigh) for helping us.  There were two other people in my group.  A cross-country runner whose coach had signed her up and who was running her 50th mile in, like, three days.  She was hardly breathing.  And another guy who was huffing and puffing even more than me.  It’s a shame I didn’t stay with them (oops, spoiler!) b/c I should have told myself that he was suffering just as much as me and if he could, I could.

I felt good for the first 5ish miles.  I was carrying just a tube of gel (2 wet tbsp honey, 1 dry tbsp maltodextrin) and ate some before every water station (which was about every two miles).  Water stations were disappointing.  There were 3 (?) total and the volunteers were not spread out at all, which meant I could grab two cups max.  I’m a heavy drinker, so that’s disappointing.

I stuck with the group until about a mile after the turnaround.  I began to fall off the pace a few minutes after we hit the turnaround due to cramps.  I stopped and gulped air and walked for a little.  The way I recover from cramps is by bending over and taking huge breaths.  I’m pretty sure I worried a few people…

Anyways, it was hard after that.  I began to run with other people who were passing me, assuming they knew how to pace if they were pretty close to my group (8:00).  I kept falling off, though, either b/c of something mental or b/c of cramps.

About mile 9/10, it got really hard b/c there wasn’t anyone near me at all and my muscles were really hurting.  At that point, it was my muscles that made running difficult.  Every step hurt a little bit.  And my feet were hurting too.  I ran through puddles and then they kind of numbed up.  Then they felt like cinder blocks.  Dunno if that was a good idea.

I’m not one to wax on the pain and glory of it all, so let’s skip ahead to about mile 11.  At that point, I was determined to finish the half marathon ASAP.  I can’t fathom why the race was a 14-miler.  Their reasoning was “You can not only set a half-marathon PR but a 14-mile PR as well!”  Anyways, it was about 1:40 and I was trying to get as close to 1:45 as possible.  I ended up running 1:52:44.  That’s fine with me.  I hadn’t trained much, if at all in the weeks prior.

Anyways, running into the finish, I tried to latch onto the 8:30 guy, who was “a little bit off, like 5 minutes, because I fell.”  Anyways, lost his wheel/foot and ended up finishing at 2:01:32.

Overall, I’m glad I ran the half marathon.  I think it’s a good experience and I always welcome new experiences.  I would have liked to hit my goals, but I realized I didn’t put in the prep necessary.  I’m probably not going to run the Chicago marathon b/c this wasn’t very ‘fun’ and I can’t imagine how hard 26.2 miles would be, but we’ll see.

Thanks for reading the report.  I’ll leave you with this picture and its caption that I tried to use for the #stravaproveit of the day.  (And if you don’t follow me on Instagram, you totally should!)

Me w/ my medal

Proving that even in the rain, snow, and wind, even through puddles, snow banks, and ice patches, even through pain, suffering, and mental I-Can’ts, at the end of the day, WE ALL CAN. #stravaproveit #polardash2014

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