Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Snake Alley Weekend... file under 'better late than never'

(Note: Today is June 12 but i actually wrote this post the day after i returned from Iowa. So the following is my immediate reaction even though this post is about 2 weeks past due. Just imagine this blog is the Delorean and we just hit 88 mph. Great scott!)

This is my 4th year or racing and i'm still not a good cat 4 racer. This is frustrating.

My weekend trip to Iowa did not go well.

I cant say it was a total bust because i did perform better than last year but i can say that after 4 years of doing this and what i consider to be considerable success in cross last season i expected a lot more.

On the brightside we had a great crew of fun loving people and we all had an awesome time hanging out. Plus, like i said, i'm stronger than at this point last year. So the sky isn't falling but it still kind of sucks.

Race # 1 - Snake Alley

Of the three races this weekend i'd say this was my best one, and it wasent good.

My mid pack starting position got even worse after the guys in front of me had trouble clipping in (that was me last year) but at least i rode the climb on the first lap instead of running it (that was me last year). I was towards the back for the first time up the snake but passed a few people on the brick climb. Then passed a few more on the next lap. Around lap 4, X told me i was in 19th. I was feeling pretty good.

i was nailing the downhill. It's a really fun, right - left - right downhill where you can really haul ass. X laughs at me but i like to say i have the cornering ability of a cat 2 but they physical ability of a cat 4. What also helped me on this downhill was that it's more about skill and less about power. I had the skill to lay off the breaks around the corners so it didn't really matter that i dont have the strength or weight to go fast down hill. If that makes sense.

Did i mention it was rediculously hot.

90 to 95 degrees with high humididty.

Around lap 6 that i started to die. climbing the snake was killing me. id get to the top and be breathing so hard that i barely had the energy to put in a few hard pedal strokes in order to bomb the downhill. Pretty soon bombing the downhill was an afterthought and i was in total recovery the whole way down. Then the next lap i was in total recovery for everything except the climb. Each lap became about conserving enought so that i could just get up the climp again, screw going fast, i just wanted to make it to the top of this damn hill. I was totally spent.

I thought about getting off and walking a few times. The heat was all around me and the legs could barely push the pedals. i wish someone had a picture of my face as i creasted the climb the last few times because i felt like s*it and am sure i looked like it too.

I finished 18th (out of 32), which surprisingly was 3 places away from the money.

i dont think i ate enough because five minutes after the race ended i unclipped and started walking up the hill to where x was sitting and i had to stop and sit down twice because i was getting dizzy / tunnel vision. Once i finally made it to x  i sat down and ingested any food i could get my hands on. Protein recover drink. pear. bananna. snow cone. bison burger. then i went and cooled down for 30 minutes.

I was disappoineted but looking forward to the rest of the weekend.

The drive to Burlington Iowa from Kansas City takes you thru some nice country roads. I think we were listening to Cass McCombs "County Line" at this point. Just so you know.

X on the snake, she's not as strong as last year but she's still out there giving it her all.

Pic taken from the snake alley program.

Thats me!.... before i started dying.

Thats me!.... dying.

Good shot looking up. I think the outside line was better, i think i kept taking the inside line. Making a mental note for next year. 

running up the snake is harder than riding up the snake.

Brian J making it look easy in the fast race.

C Rex.... with mullet... in the fast race.

The surface is bumpy.

This pic gives you a good idea of the climb before the climb, it's a bi*ch too.

Race # 2 - Melon City Criterium

In a weekend full of disappointments today's race was the biggest one.

More of a circuit race than a crit. It's basically a big oval with a long strait downhill followed by a long strait uphill and a speed hump between those two for good measure. The climb is significant but nothing like Snake Alley.

I started in the very back (once again we lined up based on registration and i registered that day) and didn't feel that hot once they said go so i was towards the back on the first lap. then on the second lap, on a course with no hard turns, there is a crash in turn 1 and three guys are on the ground talking up a lot of space. I slow up and carefully ride around them but the peleton is already off in the distance. 4 of us immediatley start chasing, and we come close, but we never catch back on.


the whole time we were chasing i kept thinking to myself 'is this really happening?'. The race was barely 5 minutes old and i'm already chasing my a** off.

i'd like to think that im strong enough to bridge a gap like this one by myself but i just didnt' feel good at the start of this race, and plus, before the crash, on the first time up the hill i already had to put in an effort to close a gap created by people in front of me going slow over the speed hump. So i was already breathing pretty hard when the crash happened.

All this because i was at the back. It sucks back there.

Of the 4 of us trying to catch back on me and another dude did most of the work, another guy just surged everytime at the bottom of the climb only to get caught and passed by us towards the top (he must consider himself a climber), and the 4th dude was just along for the ride.

i probably got a descent workout since i was riding in the wind half 1/3 of each lap but we got pulled with 1 to go, before the field could lap us. As the race went on i was feeling better and better too.

I finished 25th out of 44.


X in action

Post race lamping. That means chillin.

Fast womens race going up the hill.

Good pic of the speed bump at the bottom of the hill and the air you can get from it.

Panther rider warming up for the fast mens race, maybe it's Ryan Knapp. He seems like a neat guy, at least based on his blog he seems like a neat guy.

Out host house had a great shower, commando 8000? Kramer would be proud.

Race # 3 - Quad Cities Criterium

Flat figure 8 crit

In a nutshell: i wanted to make up for the past two days so i rode agressively from the start. I paid for this agressive riding and blew up with 4 to go, then i quit. If i had beer i would have drank a lot of it.

I started on the back row but got a great start and was sitting about 15th at the first turn. This really got me excited, plus i was feeling good, i wanted to be towards the front all race. There seemed to be a lot of shuffling plus i'm not very experienced in holding my position so i was constantly fighting to get to the front. wether that meant coming in hot on the outside of turns or sprinting past everyone on the long tailwind section or pedaling a few more times when everyone else slowed up, i was very active. Eventually i was sitting about 5th with maybe 6 laps to go, then a small group attacked off the front, i jumped hard to join them and thats when it all gets a bit fuzzy.

I caught this group but then started breathing really hard. Then i started struggling just to hold the wheel in front of me, then i remember a guy behind me saying "get on that wheel" as i let a gap open up. Then i was blowing up. I fought it for a lap, digging as deep as possible and still being passed constantly. Then i waved the white flag, sat up and watched my race go by, heading for 3 laps to go.

It all seemed to happen so fast. One minute i felt great and the next i was toast. I over extended myself big time. It sucked but it was a good learning experience.

I did learn a ton this weekend. About my own physical ability and about bike racing in general. I've spent 3 years just trying to not get dropped and now i feel like im good enough to compete, or damn close to good enough, but i dont necessarily know how. It's not rocket science but it's also not simple.

At least i went down swinging.

The more i think about it the less disappointed i am with the weekend. I know i could have done better but after my 3 day stint in Iowa i feel more knowledgable about what it's going to take to be a competative bike racer. I hope i do something with this new knowledge.

funny pic from our host house bathroom. They're good people but certainly come from a different background than me.

The host house was literally a 3 minute bike ride from the last day's course, it's always nice when you can pedal to a race instead of driving.

Trek womens team ready to take on the 2/3 race. That's a big reason why we go to these races. Most cat 2 women have to race pro 1 / 2 races because thats usually the only option. Not this weekend. Every race had a 2/3 field, thats rare around here.

X in action! This was her best race of the weekend. It was raining and the conditions were treacherous but she's pretty good in those situations plus this was the race she'd been looking for. A flat and fast crit. The front group had been reduced to about 15 and she was one of them but unfortunately she crashed on the last lap. total bummer.

Very wet women's race.

X's pedal after the race. I fixed it and she's still using it. Notice the sun is out, just in time for my race.

Me post race. Not even newly shaved legs nor X's carbon wheels could prevent me from sucking.


  1. I've been racing for a while and I've learned that, for myself, when I put expectations on racing and don't get the desired result, it makes it that much more difficult to take.

    I've done it a handful of times and have gotten kicked in the plums every finally I learned that the goal is to have fun and do your best!!

    We're not getting paid to ride or race so having a good time is next on that list. It takes a ton of pressure off that's all.

    As for tactics...the best advice I was given as a 4 was, ride at the front, no further back than 10th at the very most.

    Just a thought.

  2. Only 2 weeks until the 2013 races. I'm looking forward to it!