Sunday, August 23, 2009

2009 Ontario End-of-Season Crit

Ontario End-of-Season Crit, August 23, 2009: Well, today was the end of season crit, and there was a pretty full field for the combined 55+, 60+ race. The course is wide and safe, and I didn’t feel nervous around the corners. It was warm, so I was happy with our early 8:00 am start time. Also, I remembered to use my inhaler before the race, and I didn't have any asthmatic reactions. Thank Goodness!

I stayed fairly far back most of the time. About ½ way through I cruised up on the outside left to see how difficult it was to move through the group. It turned out to be pretty easy because the pack would slow near some of the turns.

Before the race, John McKee asked if I’d try to lead out the Paramount racers with about ½ lap to go. The idea was that Monte would follow first, then John, if all worked out. So, moving up gave me a bit of practice when the time came for me to lead-out. However, as we approached the finish line for the bell-lap, I was moving up gradually so I wouldn’t be too far back when the time came to lead. But all of a sudden everyone else slowed, so that I was ahead by myself. Not really what I had planned. I probably should have slowed also, and kept my powder dry, but there I was in the front and I decided to do my best in my current position. Another Paramount rider, Howard Miller, racing 55+, was on my wheel. It turned out that Monte was behind him. By the time I got to the place I was supposed to lead out, I didn’t have much left, but gave it what I had. I pulled off after my leg and let the pack go by.

There was a group of 55+ racers off the front, who took the 55+ race. Monte took 3rd, and John was back a bit more. Loren Stephens took 2nd, behind John Rubic.

I didn’t have anything left to even stay with the pack, so I let them go, and came in a bit after the main group. All-in-all, an excellent day racing. There were no crashes, and no close calls, at least none that I could see. Glad that I managed to get through the rest of the season without any more crashes.

Now, on to preparing for the Furnace Creek 508 (Mixed 2-person 60+ relay with Isabelle Drake).

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Run-up to 2009 Furnace Creek 508

I’ve raced or crewed the Furnace Creek 508 each year since 1997, except for 2008 when I was laid-up due to a torn thumb ligament ("gamekeeper's thumb"). The race has gotten in my blood, and I look forward to it each year.

At the parade start for RAAM two years ago, I visited with Isabelle Drake as we returned from Bonsall to Oceanside on our bikes. “Dan”, she says, “in 2009, I’ll be 56 and you’ll be 64. How about doing the 508 as a 60+ mixed 2-person relay team?” I jumped at the chance, and here we are in the run-up to the race.

Jim Cook, a distance rider from San Clemente and my daughter, Danielle, will be crewing for us. Dani just graduated from UC Santa Cruz (I started in parenting late in life) and is staying with me while she looks for work and applies to grad school. I’m excited about the prospect of having her crew for me. It will give her the opportunity to see her dad doing the crazy stuff that distance riders do.

Isabelle and I had a short crew-training session with Dani on Saturday. We drove up Antonio in southern Orange County, practicing handoffs and support-car following. Isabelle was practising being cranky, whining and complaining to give us all a preview of what was to come. Should be be loads of fun!

I recently looked over some narrations of earlier 508’s. Here’s a link to my story from the 2006 race, which should provide a pretty good window into this epic event:
2006 Furnace Creek 508

Sunday, August 16, 2009

2009 Ladera Ranch Grand Prix Crit

Ladera Ranch Grand Prix Crit, Aug 16, 2009: Ladera Ranch is in southern Orange County, north-east on Crown Valley, in the residential area in the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains. There were about 30 55+ and 60+ starters. Weather was cool in the morning. Didn’t feel cold at all after the start. Amazing how that works! The course was a 4 sided 0.7 mile loop with about 40’ of climbing per lap. A couple of the corners had somewhat narrow exits, but otherwise the course was quite safe. No crashes, at least not in this race.

It wasn’t too hard for me to stay with the group. There were a few who dropped off the back however. I think there were about 23 finishers. I stayed fairly far toward the back until the last few laps. I found if I stayed on the wheel of an experienced rider around the corners, I felt much more confident. On turn #1 about mid-way through the race, I failed to check who was around me as I entered the turn. As I exited and drifted a bit wide, I heard “Dan” … “Dan” and felt someone leaning into me. It turned out to be Loren Stephens, and I was crowding him to the outside. Luckily I was able to give him plenty of room, and no damage was done. Lesson: on entering each turn, make sure to check who’s around me, so I can leave plenty of room for the other racers.

As we approached the sprint in the last lap, I moved forward a bit and came across mid-pack, rather than in the rear. As I crossed the finish line, I had another round of exercise-induced asthma, reminded me that I failed to bring my inhaler and use it before the race, same as the prior week. I need to keep it somewhere close so I'll be reminded to use it before these races. In any case, I finished 6th out of about 10 60+ starters. The other Paramount guys did great: Monte took 1st, and John 3rd.

Afterwards I went on a social ride with Bruce and Theresa Steele, up Crown Valley, then up Antonio most of the way to the top. Terrific Day!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

2009 Brentwood Grand Prix Criterium

Brentwood Grand Prix Criterium, August 9, 2009: This race was held on a boomerang shaped 1-mile course with a 180 degree turn at each end. There were about 55 or so racers, 1/3 of them in my 60+ age group. I didn’t feel at all comfortable with the U-turns, so I stayed at the back, only going forward when a gap developed. The problem with the back, of course, is that there’s more accordion effect the farther you are from the front; that is, more slowing as you approached turns and more acceleration required after the turns to stay with the field.

I tried the inside at the turns and found that it was more likely to require braking if other riders ahead of you slowed or had to touch their brakes. Also, there was some water near the inside apex of the south turn, which had caused a crash in an earlier race. Neither did the outside work very well for me, especially at the north end which was narrow at the exit. Between the slowing for the turns and the fast acceleration needed when coming out of the turns to stay with the group, I was using alot of energy and breathing pretty hard. Then on the last lap, I began developing some exercise-induced asthma. I managed to stay with the field to the end, but I was seriously wheezing by the time I crossed the finish line, 13th out of about 17 starters. Gotta remember that inhaler next time! I finished with the field, didn’t crash, so the day's got to be considered a success.

My daughter wanted to see the race, but didn't realize how far it was from Irvine, and didn't arrive until the race was over. We hung around the race a bit, met a few people, then went for a rec ride in Brentwood, up Bundy to the end and returned to the car. On the way home, we stopped at the Carson Velodrome and watched some track racing for awhile, including an 11 man scratch race. We both enjoyed watching the lead racer go up to bank after a pull, then dive back down to the back at the end of the turn to hook on the back of the paceline. The event was a qualifier for nationals. Being able to watch track racing was new for her, and recently new to me, and we both enjoyed it.

2009 Comeback from Injury and San Marcos Crit

Comeback: After a month of no riding because my hand was in a cast, I dipped my toe in the water with a recreational July 4 ride with friends. I still had my cast on, but took things easy. I wasn’t able to use my right hand at all for braking, and I shifted the rear derailleur only when absolutely necessary, and then from the inside, not outside, which I couldn’t manage.

The next weekend, on July 11, I did the Grand Tour Double Century staff ride. I finished with Rolland Hoffman, a distance rider with the ADO Gang, a group of distance riders from LA and Orange counties. Rolland and I finished in about 13:20, but slowed a lot over Grimes, Dennison and Casitas pass when the temps got up in the high 90’s. We had a great return to Malibu along the coast with a strong NW wind pushing us along.

The Friday after the GT, I got my cast off; replaced by a Velcro splint to provide some support. On Saturday, July 18, I rode Glendora Mountain Road, up 39 from Encanto Park, to Camp Andrews, up the backside to GMR, along the GRR to Baldy Village, then return GRR to GMR, down GMR, then along the foothills back to Encanto. It got hot on the return, but was otherwise a wonderful ride.

San Marcos Criterium, July 26, 2009: This was a 5 sided loop of about 1 mile with a 4-5% climb along one short leg, and a 2-3% climb on the following leg. At the end of the first long leg there was a right turn that was a bit off camber due to the slope of the concrete at the apex. It was a little chancey, and about the 3rd time around, I came upon a crash. It turned out that one racer went wide at that corner and hit a boundary cone, spinning it around. Then the next racer hit the spinning cone and went down, taking the following racer with him. Luckily by the time I came around the path was clear and the crash was no problem for me.

I stayed with the group for several laps, but there was such a short recovery period before the next climb started that I was done after 5 laps and faded off the back. I continued alone, but was never lapped by the pack. I eventually passed 2 other riders, and wound up finishing 5th out of 11 60+ starters.

After the race, a group of us (Monte, Jim, John, Bruce, Phil and me) did a rec ride to the coast and back. It was nice to chat with these wonderful competitors.

Monday, August 10, 2009

2009 Bakersfield Masters Road Race

Bakersfield Masters Road Race, June 6, 2009: Driving to the race start on Saturday evening, it rained quite a bit as we drove the Ridge Route. I hoped it wouldn’t rain the next day. In the morning, it was blustery and there was rain in the foothills. As we rolled out there was some rain, but not enough to keep us wet. There was, however, some debris on the road from the rain. There was a mild climb as we approached the hills, and a rider or two fell off the back. We then turned up a road that followed the creek canyon and the serious climbing began. I tried to conserve my energy and stayed toward the back, advancing only when an opening developed as someone ahead began to drop back. I finally saw the top, and was please to have stayed with the group. As we approached one of the first outside turns of the descent, I slipped my back wheel where some mud was in the middle of the road. I let up on my brakes, but lost braking as a result and went off the road into the dirt. Since I wasn’t able to turn in the dirt, I went straight into a deep berm which stopped me from going over the side (a good thing)! I was still upright, so I unclipped and pushed off to get back on the pavement. In the process, however, I picked up a huge amount of dirt in the shoe cleat, and wasn’t able to clip in. I banged my shoe on the pedal to try to free the cleat, but couldn’t do so. As I continued the descent, I continued to try to clip in. I was eventually able to do so, but it took at least 45 seconds. When I was finally able to clip in, I looked up to see my group 2 turns down the hill. In trying to catch up, I stomped on the pedals but it was just at the wrong time because I was approaching another outside turn. When I leaned the bike over for the turn, the front wheel hit some gravel and slipped sideways, dropping me hard on the pavement. I slid across the rough road onto the shoulder. Luckily the follow vehicle was right behind me and stopped. They helped wash my skin to get the worst of the gravel out of the road rash, but I could tell my hand was more of a problem than my skin. They put my bike in the back of the truck and me inside the vehicle and drove me to the finish.

From some locals, I got directions to urgent care, but they sent me to the emergency room, which did a terrific job on me. X-rays showed that my right thumb metacarpal was broken (Bennet’s Fracture). (In a few years, I’ve now had all the major hand injuries: Scaffoid, Gamekeeper’s, and now Bennet’s. I figure 3 times for the charm, and I now I won’t have to get any more right hand injuries!) The ER doc asked my my pain level, and I replied 2-3 out of 10. He said I’d likely have to pinned in a surgical procedure, but the Ortho Tech tried to set the bone (Owwww! … That was a 10!), and then cast it. He told me to make sure when I got hooked up with my local orthopedist that they x-rayed the injury before taking the cast off, because if the bones were close enough, I might not need to have surgery. And that’s exactly what happened. Where is that guy? I’d like to thank him! He saved my so much pain hassle, and time that I would have had to suffer if they did a surgical repair. Where is that guy? I’d like to thank him!

2009 Paramount Grand Prix Criterium

Paramount Grand Prix Criterium, May 31, 2009: This is the District Masters’ Championships and is put on by Paramount Racing, so I raced it and supported it, working the wheel pit with Mike. Before the race started, John suggested that if I felt good toward the end, say, with 2 laps to go, and if there was an opportunity, I might want to think about going forward to push the pace a bit. I thought to myself: How cool, I’ve got something to do! In the prior crit, the group slowed before the end, then the sprint finish was very crowded, and resulted in a crash, because everyone was so close together at the beginning of the sprint. The venue was Dominguez Hills, a square, 4 sided loop with very mild descent on the 2nd leg, and a very mild climb on the 4th. I hung in the middle/back trying to find the best line around the corners. I found that the inside sometimes resulted in having to use the brakes, due to someone ahead braking, so I preferred being a bit further away from the apex of the turn. At the beginning of the 3rd from last loop, the group slowed considerably, and I found an opening and slowly off the front, expecting to see some others behind me, but no one followed. In short course I was ahead by about 100 meters, and stayed there for the next 2 laps. The good part of this portion of the race was that I had anxiety going around the corners. On the 3rd leg of the last lap, the group rolled by me, and I finished off the back, 22nd of 27. Great day!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

2009 Ontario Mid-Season Criterium

Ontario Mid-Season Criterium, May 17, 2009: When I first decided I wanted to explore racing, I emailed Jim Langley, the recently-new wrench for, when I heard he just upgraded to Cat 2 at age 55. I had approached him about how to get started in racing. He suggested I contact local groups to see if there was a decent fit for me with one of them. When I started looking, I found John McKee’s blog on 55+/60+ racing. He is the president of Paramount Racing Team, and he suggested I come to the next meeting. The speakers for the meeting were a Cat 1 racer and his coach. They made the point that if you were interested in racing, you really needed to race crits, because there just weren’t enough road races to get enough experience or to be able to upgrade. Their talk was why I signed up for this crit. It was a 4 sided loop of about a mile in an industrial area. I was curious if I’d have trouble keeping up, but it turned out to not be a problem.

The masters ride early in the day, which is fine with me because you ride when it's cool, and you have the rest of the day after the race is over. The juniors ride even earlier, as early as 7:00 am. When we were on an early lap I heard a very young female (I assume a junior female racer) yell out: "Go Grandpa!" I had to smile, thinking it was probably her grandfather that was racing with my group, and he may have introduced the her to bike racing. How cool is that!

I rode in the middle of our group. With about ½ loop to go I stuck my nose out into the side of the front of peloton, but didn’t like the feel of the air slowing me down, so I ducked back in the pack. I finished in the middle, 8th out of 14.

2009 San Luis Rey Road Race

San Luis Rey Road Race, May 3, 2009: In 2009, at age 64, I figured it was about time to begin my bicycle racing career. Mostly, it was a learning experience, and boy did I learn plenty!

I rode the course the prior week to get acquainted with the terrain. It turned out they had to change the course the day prior due to lack of some sort of approvals from the authorities. They changed it to be an out-and-back with 3 repeats. This had the effect of shortening the amount of climbing, which I couldn’t argue with. As I waited at the start line, the group ahead of our 60+ group was receiving their instructions. I had a last minute urge to use the bathroom, so I rode to the porta-john while me group was waiting. When I got back on my bike after releaving myself, I attempted to shift to the big chainring, but it wouldn’t go! As my car was close, I rode to it, unlocked the car and got out a Phillips screwdriver to adjust the limit screw. I then re-locked the car and rode to the start, only to find that the racers had already left and were out of sight! I apparently missed the start by about a couple minutes. When I was about a minute from the turn-around I saw the group returning, but I was never able to catch up with them. I did finish, after overtaking 2 of the racers, so I finished 15th out of 17. Lesson: First sign-up, then show-up for the start.