Monday, September 13, 2010

GranFondo - claim jumpers

It is apparent that a good starting position is critical for a good finish time, but also that a good starting position does not guarantee a good finish time if you are not in shape.

I was 438th across the start line, just about 1:40 after the first riders. While I managed to move up a great deal. The people who started at the very front had an open lane and took good advantage of it. This group got a nice gap and kept it throughout the race. IFF you are not in that group off the start, then you have to move forward to it. Not impossible as there are people all along to bridge too. But still more work than if you start at the front.

Out of about 30 male riders in the first big group to arrive in Squamish, 5 started in the Alta Class (pay extra for best starting position.. about 40 people) at about 6:59:45. The rest started in the the 3-4 hour chute, at about 7:00:05. They where in recorded start positions starting at 44 through 137 (male starters) with the 137 crossing only 35 seconds later. There was only ONE additional rider, starting 70 positions or an additional 18 seconds later who managed to bridge up and join this group, which had a 1:11 lead over the next group once they got to Squamish. 

I went across at 7:01:20. Another 18 seconds and a couple hundred more riders behind that rider. And was about 9 minutes behind by Squamish.

Looking at starting, the Alta Class started at 6:59:45 and the last rider (except for some late starters) rode across at 7:19:49. So it took about 20 minutes to start everyone. I was 438, and about 30% into the 3-4 hour chute. So at an estimate the 3-4 hour chute had (at least) 700 starters (counting men only) and they where all started by about 7:03. 

Of these only about 240 actually finished under 4 hours. So about 450 people didn't and their finish times ranged all the way from 4-6 hours. In fact I could find over 50 riders starting at the very front of the 3-4 hour chute (i.e. in the first 60 seconds) that finished in over 4:30.  Again this is male riders only.

Possibly a few of those had mechanicals. But its reasonably obvious that people where not seeding them selves appropriately. Finishing 5-10 minutes over 4 hours is justifiable. More than 30 minutes looks slightly bad and more than an hour is ridiculous, they never had a chance of finishing close to 4 hours.

I couldn't find anyone starting in the later chutes who finished under 4 hours. So it appears that the people who could do under 4 hours did seed them selves correctly. But there is a large contingent of people who just don't follow instructions and effectively make it more difficult for those who might otherwise.

In some respects perhaps the setup of the chutes promoted this. With five chutes (3-4 hours, 4-5, 5-6, 6-7 and +7) that where all about the same size, or say holding about 20% of 4000 people, roughly 700-800 riders in each. But only about 12 percent of the finishers actually got in under 4 hours. So a smaller 3-4 hour chute with some effort at policing the entry to it would be appropriate. Probably about half the size of this years chute.

Big Ride - aka RBC GranFondo Whistler

The first RBC GrandFondo Whistler went off without a hitch yesterday. This was an amazingly well run event that saw 4000 people (plus a few hundred in the separate Giro BC Cup race) head up to Whistler from downtown Vancouver. We had a closed lane all the way. Something like 15000 traffic cones, 110 flaggers, 45 traffic cops, six aid stations, and a nicely organized finish area. BC Premier Gordon Campbell was on hand to wish us luck and start the race and fondo and there was a helicopter overhead taking pictures.

The start was setup with seven starting chutes:

  1. Giro 
  2. Alta Class (pay a little extra)
  3. 3-4 hours
  4. 4-5 hours
  5. 5-6 hours
  6. 6-7 hours
  7. 7+
Rob McMurty drove Paul Baker and I down and we arrived on site at 6:05, early enough to get well placed in the 3-4 hour starting chute. 

Roll out after the start was 1:20 (chip timing, this gets deducted from your overall to get actual elapsed.)

I put on a bit of gas and finding openings migrated forward. I figured that the first bottleneck would be about 6km in, where we climbed up Taylor Way. Short but steep; and I wanted to be well in front of the main bulk of riders by then. By the time I was coming off the Lions Gate Bridge I had lots of room in front and back and then climbing up Taylor Way there was room to easily maneuver and climb at whatever speed was appropriate.

Once on the Upper Levels it was just a matter of finding a comfortable pace and a group riding at that speed. 

I kept trying to see where the actual front of the group was. I think at one point, going up the hill out of Furry Creek, I saw what looked like the main front group. At that point about 3-4 minutes ahead.

I arrived at the Brennan Community Center with a split time of 8:57:53. This is the half-way point. Since we have the split information we can also see the state of the race here:
  • Tete de le course - Samuel Devlin - 8:34
  • Owen Hrrison - 8:44
  • Powered by Chocolate Milk Group - 8:47
  • Front group - 8:48 - 8:56
  • Second group - 8:58 - 9:02
  • Third group - 9:06 - 9:38
So I was just about up to the tail end of the first main group. But had not quite joined on. That group of about 295 riders was at that point spread out across 8 minutes. The second group was about 196 riders. The third group was the bulk of the field, there was a continuous stream of riders (30-40 per minute) for another 32 minutes. At that point I was behind 231 or 10.4% of the mens field. NP to this point was 256 Watts.

From a power perspective, at this point I was at about 155 TSS points. Or roughly equivalent to most of the training and racing I have doing this year.. And at about that point I started to get the twinging calf muscles and shortly after going through the split point I actually had a fairly bad cramp in the right leg. So I stopped and took of my knee warmers and gave the calf a quick massage... then back on the bike. 

At this point we where leaving Brackendale and starting the longest climbs of the day, 350m over 9km then after some short descents another 150m over 4km. I brought the power numbers down a bit allowing people to get by me, just finding a pace that let my legs recover a bit. The next split was just before the summit. At that point I had slowed enough that 327 riders or 14.7% of the mens field was in front of me. NP for this section (1:12, about 30 minutes past the second split) was 218 Watts. Very easy to see in the WKO chart.

Once we got to about Daisy Lake I was behind a fairly strong rider who brought the pace up quite nicely. The legs felt a bit better and I was able to get to the front and start pulling as well. From here to the end of the race I managed to get the power levels back up. Although by the end the twinging was back. But I found that with a bit of standing up and looking for a comfortable cadence I was able to start catching people and move forward quite nicely. I had dropped 96 positions from Squamish to Daisy Lake. I managed to pull back 53. It helped that by this section people where slowing down. I was also looking at the average speed, 31.5kmh, doing the math and trying to see if I could stay under 4:00..

Assuming 120km, 31.5kmh meant for sure... but 120km came went just past Creekside... about halfway (from memory) to the Village. And then how much of a climb through the village to which parking lot... with an estimated margin (at that point) of about 1-2 minutes when I hit the turn into the village and a sign saying 1km! 

Squeaked through with an elasped time of 3:59:02! Total TSS for the day was exactly 287. 

The distribution at the finish:
  • Winner - Samuel Devlin - 3:24:46
  • 2nd - Owen Harrison - 3:27:01
  • 3rd - Hunter Lowden - 3:30:17
From that point there was a steady stream of finishers. At a rough guess, IFF i had managed to maintain my pace through the middle section, I would have been about 5 minutes faster, say about 3:54.

Looking only at my age category, 50-59. I was 37th out of 613 riders. The fastest rider in this group, David Taylor finishing in 3:31:54. So he was only 7 minutes behind the fastest rider,  in the first group (1-2 minutes behind first in his group) and 13th overall in the mens field. 

So I need to reduce my time by 25+ minutes overall to be in the front group. 

My apparent problem this year is twofold. First not enough training hours or more correctly a too low CTL. I should be higher than 80 and close to 90. Currently a dismal 60. 

Secondly, I need to have longer harder rides. This year my typical hard training rides (and races) have all been about 150 TSS max. And the common point with the leg cramping seems to be hard rides AND rides that go long. I thought it might be hydration or heat. But yesterday was cool and I don't think I was dehydrated. So whats left is riding past the built-in limits from training.

Both of these are in fact mostly due to my shoulder issues. The impingements (both sides since May 2009) led to very poor muscle tone in the shoulders (above and behind) and that lead to a ride limit of about two hours. At that point it was simply too painful to continue. I have managed to get some strength back over the last two-three months. And only since about July have actually been able to do longer rides. 

So I need to ramp that up. Get out and get longer rides in. Move up to 3-4 hours hard rides at least once per week in addition to the current regime. That would move CTL (over time) to about 80-90 and get my legs used to doing longer rides without cramping (hopefully.)