What does not kill us, makes us stronger… so the saying goes…
After a minor pre-season peak (whoops!) and some respectable race results at Mason Lake, I was primed for the double at Sequim 1. It’s something I’ve considered in the past, but never had the endurance and confidence to really try. I know racers double up on crits, but not too often you hear of it in road races. Turns out I’m not the only one who’s given the double race day thought. Joining me in this adventure was Tim Hughes.
Why 2 Races?
I’m on a quest for Cat 3 upgrade which requires 20 points, 10 of which must now be earned in senior category. And since racing at cat 3 means both faster and longer races, the cat 4 would provide a faster race than masters and the double would be a good test of endurance.
4:45 am. I really don’t like getting up this early! Topping it off was Jean saying, “oh my, it’s pouring outside!” I was really hoping the banana belt would live up to its hype. Hah! We ate a good breakfast, mine consisted mostly of gluten free pancakes and Jean stayed with 8-grain hot cereal. I had a banana for good measure. With coffee of course! Out of the house on time, picked up Tim and we’re off; arriving in plenty of time to make use of the way-to-few porta-potties and to warm up comfortably.
Cat 4 Men’s Race
Our pre-race emails suggested it might be a small showing of OOA in cat 4 and it was – At the start line it was Bryan Torian, Tim Hughes and me. The 3 of us in a field of 76 means one thing unless you can time trial with the best… sit it and conserve. Our main strategy was to set Tim up for the best finish we could give him, ideally a win or top 3. He needs just a handful of cat 4 points for upgrade and was/is our best sprinter, and owned this race last year in the masters field with a good team. Bryan mentioned his knee had been sore the past couple weeks and would see how it felt during the race. Our strategy was to gamble and not chase a break or burn unnecessary energy, especially an early laps. Though, we also left it open that if one of us felt a move was the right thing to do, to take advantage.
We’re off! The pace felt fast from the start, but I was feeling pretty good and the three of us stayed toward the front for a lap. Guys were putting in digs all race and trying to get a break going. Nothing went much more than a few to maybe 20 seconds off the front. Eventually all attempts were either reeled in or sputtered. It was a real battle to stay in the top 15 to 20. Kudos to Tim who stayed near the front, but not on the front for the entire race. I on the other hand, slipped back for a bit between lap 2 and 3 and rode a lap near the back. Bryan said he wasn’t sure about his knee. We started moving up on lap 4, Bryan said his knee was feeling good now and we were near the front once we rounded corner 3 onto Woodcock Road. From here the race got really nervous. It was getting windier, it was wet and guys were sketchy, stealing wheels, just being stupid. It took a lot to hold position. We were trying to line up on the left side and around 3K out I got split from Bryan and Tim and ended up on the right side. I was stuck there. The pack was now approaching corner 4, Kitchen-Dick Road at 20mph, way to slow. Déjà vu, it is mayhem when a pack this large and nervous rounds that corner to slow. I felt my best move was to launch off the front to try and draw out other teams, open up the line for Bryan and Tim, hopefully give them a safer finish. This is where I am still trying to figure out racing. Should I hang tight and try to gain position, jump off the front and roll back to my mates on the left side??? Decisions, decisions. I chose to go for it. I pretty much knew it would be a suicide mission, but there is always an off chance too. When I got a clear shot at about 0.5K from the corner I went. Not so hard to blow up, but hard enough that no one would be on my wheel unless super attentive. It worked. I rounded corner 4 to see a decent gap of a few seconds. I dug hard and at about 500 meters I heard the whir from behind… game over for me. I stayed right kept what pressure I had and was passed by a frenzy of whirring pedals, wheels and nervous racers. As I sensed the main aggressors were past, I was starting to sit up, not too much and was hoping Tim and Bryan were in position. I hoped it worked. It actually had for the most part. They had great position, but in the final sprint some guy, sorry forgot team, cut Bryan off, which took them both out of position, just that quick. A sure podium went to 12th. As all of this was going down, again, I was just starting to sit up when the unnerving sight and sound of a major crash ensued. I was glad to not be in it. I was hoping my mates weren’t either – they weren’t. At the end of the race I was 41st. Just a few spots out of upgrade points! The picture below is me stuffing my face with shot blocks.
Cool Down, Warm Up, Fuel Up and Ready to Rock and Roll Again!
I took a bit too long on the cool down ride and by the time I was back at the car, I was shivering quite badly. The wind was now howling and raining sideways. Tim and I jumped in the car and began drying off, eating, drinking and changing. We pretty much just sat in the car with it running and heater on the entire time between races. I was in uncharted territory here. How much should I eat, drink? Jean asked if I wanted some cold pizza. “No, I think that’s a bad choice”, I said 🙂 “I’ll take a cold pancake with nutella please!” I ate quite a bit more too. Tim and I kept asking each other; “are you up for the masters? Yes, you?” Neither wanted to sign up without the other. I went to sign up as I had not preregistered for the second race and I was shivering so badly, even with new clothes on that I could hardly write. I asked the volunteer if it was legible enough. He said yes, I handed over $30 and voila! Next thing was to grab my bike and go to the start line. The Sequim Race Parking lot now looks like a mud wrestling pit. Arrived just in time. Whew!
Masters 40+ Cat4/5
At the start line I was looking at a smaller field of about 32 and 6 from OOA. Nice! Neither Tim, nor I were sure how the legs would respond. We didn’t ride between races, at least I didn’t. Our goal was to sit in and see how we responded. The team was up for it. The last race was fast at nearly 25mph. The masters 4/5 is usually slower. But it was obvious in the first couple K that teams/guys came to race and it was game on again. The team worked hard. John Hadden put in attack and counter attack after counter attack and would string out the pack. Guys were going of the front but not getting the gap they needed and coming back into the fold. Scotty Hile, Pat Powers, Kyle all did work. Tim too. We were racing a smart race. It was 38 to 40mph on Anderson Road and then down to 13mph for the first bit of Woodcock. I recall at one point on Anderson I coasted for about 400 meters without pedaling at 38 and was passing other racers. Talk about a sweat spot!! Scotty was leading our pack up the first riser on Woodcock on a couple laps. No one wanted the front at that point. Anyone who tried a dig there didn’t last but a few seconds. At the end of lap one my garmin gave me the low battery signal. Dang!! I spent the next half lap trying to get into the menu and get the back light turned off and attempting to shove as much food in as possible. I could tell I would need a lot of calories. Amazingly the garmin lasted the entire race. On laps 3 and 4 I never felt under serious pressure other than when I had to tighten the chain to follow digs, I could tell my legs were on the verge of cramping. Not bad, just a reminder that I had over 6 laps in me now and it was important to focus on good pedal strokes. On lap 4 we began getting the team organized. Tim, once again is a master at this. At about 2K out we were trying to stay organized. Someone locked bars with Pat and they both went down. The crash was right in front of me and all I saw was a head of a bikesale (I think) guy. I went to hop, but there was no hop. My legs completely froze in a cramp. I think the botched hop change my direction and I narrowly missed his head. I was now rolling, legs frozen and the pack was pulling away. We were about a ½K maybe less from corner 4. I was trying to will me legs to turn but they were having no part of it. I couldn’t believe it. All this and I don’t even get a pack finish. The cramp was strange, not horribly painful, just a lack of neuromuscular response. Finally, a ½ pedal stroke, then a full one and then more and hey — they’re working!!! Go, I said to myself. I chased in a pseudo sitting sprint and caught the pack at the corner. Thankfully they had slowed a bit. I took an inside line and must have moved up some positions. All I knew is I was happy to be back in the race. I figured teammates were well set as we passed the 1K, I had lost track of them. I was happy to be behind a rather large HSP rider. I decided to take the wind a bit as opposed to go on the right side of guys. The wind was howling off the left and we seemed to be riding at a 15 degree tilt. We kept accelerating and next thing I know my legs are feeling good and then there’s the 200 meter sign. Hold, hold, it’s farther than 200 and at some point I sensed guys going so I went to the wind side and did my best sitting sprint again, bike hoping all over the place and next thing I know I’ve got a clear lane and see 1, 2, 3 cross the line. Wow, I think I just got 4th.
Yes, it is cliché, we’ve heard it a thousand times. But it’s true. Never give up. You just never know what might happen in a bike race.
Pay attention to the race flyer. When you race in the ‘slow’ masters field or cat 4, prizes rarely reach past 3rd place in early races. Sequim on the other hand, offered prizes 5 deep for the Masters 4/5 field. I never even checked the final results after the race. I just wanted to be warm and on the way home. Figures, my first time in the prize and I forget to pick it up. Emailed the promoter and he said it would be there for me Saturday. Cool. There are a couple more final lessons. Seems I am only human and 96 miles of racing in one day may have allowed my cold to resurface. Not regretting any of it though. And it is also important to know beforehand how points stack up in races of various sizes. It’s different for a pack of 20, 30 or 50+. I was fortunate to nab 4 upgrade points with my fourth place.
The END. Until next race!