Irene Pang Reports in from AZ: March to May Races

Hi Everyone!

Greetings again from the now-sweltering state of Arizona! I was in
the mountainous northern portion of the state last week where it
actually snowed 3-5 inches, yet 6 days later, temperatures reached 110
degrees in Phoenix just 2 hours to the south! The northerly portions
of the state are where most races here go in the summertime, where the
7000 ft altitude cools things off just enough to hold a race. This is
all just in case anyone is curious about the races here. Good luck to
everyone during this upcoming big Memorial Day racing weekend!

Below, the placings summary is first, followed by a report on mountain
bike races (4), followed by some road races/events (2) and criteriums
(3). Although the placings below are in the single digits, often, the
number of participants in my category were of the same order of

State Finals mountain bike, Marathon
Women 3rd
State Series Championship Overall, Marathon Women 2nd
Nova National mountain bike race, Marathon Women 2nd
Gardner Canyon mountain bike race, Women Expert XC 19-39 4th
Prescott mountain bike race, Women Expert XC 19-39 3rd
Colossal Cave Road Race, 35+
Women 3rd
Tour of the Tucson Mountains,
Female 5th
AZ Championship Criterium, 35-39
Women 1st
AZ Championship Criterium, Cat 3
Women 5th

5/17/08 – State Finals mountain bike race and Series Championship
So this last weekend was the final race of the State Mountain bike
series, for which I elected to do theMarathon event once again. It
was a 30-mile course mostly through pine forest with large rocks and
roots scattered about to add plenty of challenge. Due to the 7000 –
8000 ft elevation as well as the lack of familiarity with trails in
the area, I decided to test out some altitude acclimation since this
has always puzzled me. People say that for high-altitude racing
events, it is best to either arrive at least 2 weeks ahead, or if that
proves impractical, arrive right before the event. I've often found
that arriving the night before and sleeping there seems to help, but
that may be just due to the lack of a lengthy drive (and thus
immobility and stiffness) right beforehand. So I tried to arrive a
few days ahead, which is theoretically not the greatest thing to do
due to a dehydration effect that sets in before you actually get fully
acclimated (according to some info I found on this matter). During
the middle and latter portions of the race, I did in fact feel rather
dehydrated and sluggish when out in the sun especially, but this
turned out to not affect my final placing. Folks typically stronger
than me were still ahead of me in the end, folks about the same
ability as me were somewhat stronger initially but due to other issues
(navigational and other) ended up behind me, and folks typically
slower were still slower. Much of this race was held in areas
bordering private property and/or frequented by gremlins. On race day
and the days leading up to race day the gremlins were out in force -
directional signs and trail markers indicating the correct route were
often removed, turned around, or moved to erroneous locations creating
confusion at possibly 50+ trail and road intersections along the
route. However, it was not utter confusion so long as one had the
opportunity to pre-ride the course to make one's way around it despite
a lack of signage and ignoring incorrect markers. Unfortunately, many
of the racers apparently did not have an opportunity to do that. I
would estimate that roughly 50% of the men's field and 100% of the
women's field made detour(s) along the course due to this (my detour
was minor), and all throughout the race, folks who were initially
ahead of me would pass me later following such detour(s). In the end,
I ended up 3rd female. Interestingly, 1st and 2nd came down to a
sprint after almost 3.5 hours of racing separated by a mere 0.1 second!

Afterwards, the omnium format series totals were also calculated,
which determines the State Champion in Marathon. I ended up 2nd by 1
point (out of about 350 total points) although there was an 'error'
involving the weights; i.e. - the early-season decided – upon omnium
calculation in the stated rules was not followed. If it had been
followed I would have been ahead by 5 points. Although I had mentioned
this before the race, this was not done in the presence of an official
and was rejected, and after the race, I was still debating with myself
whether to protest it or not because in reality the only reason my
total was higher was due to some 'bonus' points that most participants
earn by doing trail work. I thought I could perhaps bring it up
later if so desired (since it's only arithmetic after all!) since
everyone was so busy getting results out at the time. However, after
looking through the NORBA rulebook, I believe this falls under the
'protest to an official in writing within 15 minutes of announcement
of results' rule, so the lesson learned here is that if I think I
might want to protest, I should do it immediately after verbal
announcement of results (since results were also not posted in this
case). So as a result, my overall series finish is 2nd – although it
would have been nice to be first, I guess it was not to be had this
time around!

3/15/08, 4/4/08, 4/19/08 – 3 other mountain bike races
A few other mountain bike races prior to this included the Nova
National race 4/4 in the Phoenixarea, which is part of the National
series. Amateur age-groupers raced 2 laps for 47 miles while Pro/Open
raced 3 laps for 70 miles. Since this was a National Series event,
strong competitors from around the country and occasionally Pros from
other countries participate. Over half the course was similar to dirt
road, so there were actually 3 of us pacing together, which is a bit
unusual in a mountain bike race. On my second lap, I became ill and
slowed considerably, and had at least one inadvertent attempt to toss
my stomach contents upon the desert floor in rapid fashion. During
this second lap, I was actually lapped by 2 of the Pro men, which
means that they had completed 2.8 laps in the time that it took me to
complete 1.8 laps!! Translating roughly into road terms (via a
probably inaccurate calculation due to varying aerodynamic drag), this
would be like me going 20 mph and them going over 31 mph for 4
hours!! I ended up 2nd in my age group, but there were only 2 of us
…. I also did another 2 mountain bike races for which the finishes
were not particularly notable, but I did manage to fix a broken chain
and dismantle and reassemble my rear derailleur cage mid-race! You
see, the official NORBA rule is that you have to carry all necessary
tools with you and work on any mechanicals yourself, if you intend to
finish a race. I don't think everyone follows this entirely though
because it's only enforced if someone protests. I was not able to
complete the Cross Country series because both the Cross Country and
Marathon series required a participant to register and at least start
that particular event at the Finals.

4/6/08 – Colossal Cave Road Race
This race featured a 9-mile circuit with about 300 feet of climbing
per lap. At this event, there was a tandem category, but there were
only 2 tandems entered. I had entered the 35+ Women category (5 laps)
which also raced with the 50+ Women (4 laps) and the Cat 4 Women (5
laps). This was a mere 2 days (40 hours, to be exact) after the Nova
National Marathon race. Apparently, this was not enough time for me
to recover well-enough for a near-ideal race. I got dropped after
less than 1 lap when the pack was merely climbing up a hill at a
relatively steady pace! Fortunately, about 40% of the field had
already been dropped by then, so after being caught by a group 1 lap
later, I worked with this group from which a few others dropped off,
and a few others were caught. There were no other 35+ Women in my
finishing group, and I ended up 3rd, which surprisingly, was still in
the prize money!

4/27/08 – Tour of the Tucson Mountains
This was actually a benefit ride for scholarship(s) offered by the
University of Arizona Alumni Association, so it was a mass-start 800-
person 70-mile road ride. Some of you may be familiar with these
events held by the Perimeter Bicycling Association of America (PBAA)
since their flagship event in the Fall, El Tour de Tucson, is attended
by several thousand cyclists. The leaders of this event ride it like
a road race, so there is a cordoned-off section in the front where
those who qualified may stage themselves. Unfortunately, I was not
qualified because one usually qualifies by finishing under certain
times at some PBAA events within the past 3 years, which I simply have
not done recently since I was in the Midwest. One can also qualify by
being Category Pro, 1, or 2, by winning a local stage race such as the
Tucson Bicycle Classic or possibly the Tour of the Gila (in New
Mexico), but those do not describe me either. Thus, I was left to
fend for myself among all-comers. Due to the large number of people,
the start was slow and the lead group was long gone by the time I had
rounded the first couple corners. After chasing for about 10 miles
without getting much of anywhere and with no idea how many women were
ahead of me, my new goal was to try to finish under the time cutoff to
qualify for the condoned-off section in a future event. So for the
next 25 miles or so, I simply got with a group of perhaps 50 that had
formed. Antsy to go a bit faster after that, I somehow managed to
initiate a break of 3 from that group, which then turned into 2, but
then we caught others etc. However, unable to keep up that desired
pace, I and others were caught by the original group again after 15-20
miles and simply rode to the finish with them. Unfortunately, my
finishing time was 3 minutes longer than the desired cutoff time in
the end, at 3 hours 13 minutes (the cutoff time is 3 hours for men,
3:10 for women), but I had a good ride anyway, met and chatted with
some new people, and was the 5th female (on a single bike; there tend
to be lots of tandems in the lead group especially)

4/12/08 – AZ Criterium Championship
This was a smooth-surfaced 8-corner 0.75-mile course in Phoenix. I
had entered the Women 35-39 race and the Women 3 race. All Masters
Women categories started together, so there were a total 14 of us. I
am sometimes slow about getting clipped in which apparently becomes a
problem in tight crits when those who get in front of me (which is
everyone) get gapped rather quickly from a strong group that has
formed ahead, and when I am too uncertain about others' lines to pass
effectively on the first few corners. So within the first lap, I was
in a group of 3 behind the lead group of 3, and the lead group of 3
was simply stronger and more efficient than my group was. So we
simply continued, occasionally rotating (but with no real order) until
the lead group lapped us. Although I was already 1st in 35-39, I
jumped in anyway as they came by and finished with them.
Surprisingly, the others I was with did not jump in also. As it
turned out, this was practice for the Cat 3 race. In the Cat 3 race,
a similar thing happened, except that this time there was a lead group
of 4 and a chase group of 6 and unfortunately, the chase group was not
rotating with a nice logical order, which in my opinion threw off
efficiency. So after awhile, I simply went to the back. Once again,
we were lapped by the lead group, at which point I jumped in and no
one else did. So my placings were 1st Women 35-39, and 5th Women Cat 3.

5/3/08 – San Tan Crit
This was the first-year running of a 7-corner 1.1-mile crit in the
Phoenix area that consisted of a triangle and a square separated by a
straight stretch of road linking these two polygons. Therefore, the
straight stretch carried 2-way criterium traffic separated by vertical
traffic pylons. I was a bit dubious about this setup at first, but it
seemed to work as field sizes were not too large and people were
mostly careful about the pylons. I was late for the Women cat 3
event, so due to my own tight schedule, I entered the Men 50+ event
instead. (The officials here use the rule of thumb of adding 20 to
Master Women's racing ages and concluding that a Master Woman may
enter whatever category that age man could enter, which would mean
that next year, I could enter Men 60+, but that seems a bit overkill
to me – I think I would continue to enter no more than 50+ )
According to my Powertap, this turned out to be a good workout for me
– my average power for 40 minutes was higher than I would normally
expect if I were to, say, do a TT, but that could just be me ….

5/4/08 – Cyclo de Mayo Crit
I was rather excited to be doing my first Women's 1/2/3 crit of the
year here. All my other crits had been Masters or Cat 3 or Cat 3/4
Women. The course was a 0.5-mile almost-rectangle with several brick
corners, a speedbump (low - not bad), and a roundabout-like structure
that protruded just enough onto the course that a single paceline
going through would need to deviate their path by about 1 foot. I
actually got off to a good start this time, but unfortunately, I
flatted on the first or second lap and had no wheels in the pit. So I
promptly pulled out, disgruntled, but managed to convince the
organizers to allow me to ride in the Men Cat 3 crit (next race) after
I had fixed my flat with a spare tube. In the Cat 3 race, I seemed to
be having substantial problems over the brick sections, feeling semi-
not-in control over those sections, but after speaking with others, I
concluded that it probably had to do with the characteristics of my
bike combined with my light weight. After a while I started coasting
through the entire brick sections, only for a larger gap to form thus
necessitating a harder sprint after each brick corner. I only lasted
something like 12 laps before I became extremely tired from the
sprinting and dropped out. Despite my ride time being much shorter,
my average power was lower than the previous day, but my peak power
was much higher.

No comments: