Sounds Like Now
A blog by saxophonist Brian Sacawa
Archive for April, 2009
There were four components to my Battenkill race plan:
- Be in the first 10 riders into the turn to the covered bridge leading to the first dirt section.
- Be at the front and follow the moves but don’t make any for the first 2/3 of the race.
- Set a hard tempo at the front for each and every climb (especially the longer ones).
- Wait for the final climb and have a go.
Doing each of these things (and avoiding bad luck like crashes and punctures) would hopefully guarantee a top placing. Here’s how it went.
The first thing that was on my mind was having a decent position when we staged since there were 100+ riders in my field. I didn’t want to be at the back and have to spend the first 6 miles leading up to the left hand turn to the covered bridge worrying about moving up. I solved this problem by getting to staging about 20 minutes before our race went off and tacking onto the back of the Cat 3 field set to go off right before us. I was in the first line when our field went off and had no problems protecting my spot at the front up to said turn, which I had positioned myself perfectly for in about 5th or 6th wheel. Seems as though others had seen the course beforehand and had the same idea since once we were through the bridge and took the right-hander the pace really picked up onto the dirt. First goal accomplished.
Next on my to-do list was to hit the left-hand turn onto the dirt of Juniper Swamp first since this was where the first crucial climb (a steep, steep ~400m wall) resided. Again, mission accomplished. And I was first over the Juniper Swamp climb. At this point, the race started to split up and I got an idea of who was going to be around for a while. I recognized a few guys from Fawn Grove 2 weeks ago—Jeff from CRCA/Sanchez and Mattio (a.k.a. “The Purple Bike Guy”) from Kissena—and made some new friends—Mike from Boston and William from Kissena. Jeff in particular had a huge engine, which unfortunately I think he used (in frustration) way too much during the race. But still, some serious power there. By the next long climb (can’t remember the name of the road) a selection was made and the field was down to about 20 riders.
I’ll fast forward to the lead up to the final climb at mile 56 since nothing of consequence happened for about 30 miles. With about 2 miles to go to the base of the final long dirt climb up Stage Road, people started hammering. It wasn’t all out but it was enough to get me thinking about how I was going to approach the moment. I talked to a couple guys who I thought were strong and basically said come with me if you want/can. Okay, here goes, covered bridge on the right, left turn onto Stage Road. Because of the pace up to the climb, I decided that instead of attacking right away that I’d set a hard tempo for the first 3/5 and then ratchet it up for the last 2/5. And that’s what I did.
With my 20/20 hindsight, I messed up on the last climb. I was hesitant to hit it at the bottom because I didn’t want to blow up. And even though I ramped it up for the last 1/3 of the climb and ended up having a 5 second gap with one other guy who bridged all too effortlessly up to me (the eventual winner) by waiting to apply a little more pressure, I let the 10 guys left in the field settle into a rhythm. I should have punched it at the bottom and held 400-450 watts for 2-minutes and then assessed the situation. Oh well, you learn something in every race.
Anyhow, descending into Cambridge we had a group of 13. And everyone was saving it. The pace got ridiculously slow. Knowing that I probably wasn’t going to win a straight-up sprint, I decided that I’d attack 100 meters into the last corner and try to hold the gap for the last 250m which followed that corner to the line. Unfortunately, my plan was foiled by Jeff and William who decided to take the bull by the horns (and burn themselves up) 200m before the last corner. I still had good position out of the corner and held on for a 5th place (though the photo looked like I had 4th, but who’s splitting hairs?). I had an awesome ride and it was a great course. I want to go back next year.
Friday’s race prep ride. These never feel great but they’re only supposed to get you loose for the main event the following day. Also did some practice grabbing the bag (Mom sewed a homemade musette) with my Dad. The bigger event of the day, however, was going up to Cambridge, signing in, and then driving the course, which proved to be invaluable reconnaissance (excuse me for a second, I can’t believe I spelled reconnaissance right on the first try. I did, really, just trust me…) for the race on Saturday. During the car ride, I had the cue sheet in my lap and jotted down notes as we drove. I identified what I believed to be 5 key areas of the race, the two most important being the left hand turn to the road leading to the narrow covered bridge, which eventually shot you out onto the narrow first dirt section, and the final climb. I was amazed at how vividly I recalled the course during the actual race, which will be detailed in a report coming right up…
Last blowout before Battenkill. Three days to go: rest-prep-race. Woof.
Rain today forced me to abbreviate today’s 2-hour recovery ride to a 1.5-hour trainer session. And it was every bit as exciting as the power file suggests…
This Saturday’s Tour of the Battenkill has been my targeted event for the past 8 months. A variety of awesome life occurrences last year took precedence over racing or serious training and I went all of last season without turning a competitive pedal. When things finally settled down in August and I decided it was time to get serious on the bike again, I became fixated on Battenkill as a race that I wanted to contest seriously—I loved the difficulty of the course and all the climbing—and decided that this would be the winter where training never got put on the back burner, but would remain a primary focus. And it worked. I rarely missed a workout during the off-season and also completed a serious resistance training program in addition to my work on the bike. And I’ve had some good results so far this season, including a couple close finishes.
So since this weekend’s race is such a big deal to me, I thought that each day this week I’d post about my preparation, which obviously will include relevant power files. This is a peak week so I’m going hard on Monday and Wednesday to prime the pumps and keep the intensity up. Above is yesterday’s VO2/AC step-up ride. I felt good.
I think starting this race report with a quasi-cliche novel opening would be fitting: It was a cold, rainy, and miserable day. Yeah, that about sums up the conditions. According to the weather report, the rain was supposed to cease sometime during the race, but that never happened. The plan du jour was to stay at the head of affairs for the first 2/3 of the race, while keeping the pace high for the field on the difficult sections, which on this course meant driving it up the steep climb about halfway around the loop, and then go for a break when things seemed right towards the end of the race.
From my standpoint, nothing exciting happened in the beginning of the race. Just the usual halfhearted attempts to go way, way too early. The only thing I noticed was that with each successive lap of the course, I got much, much wetter and much, much colder. Seriously, when I’d get out of the saddle it felt like my biceps were going numb. The action picked up a bit the third time up the climb, when I pushed the pace (maybe a little too much at that point in the race) and got a gap on the field. I was joined by a wily little guy who seemed to have good threshold power as we pushed the pace on the flat following the short descent. I wasn’t sure I wanted to fully commit to this move being that it was only about halfway through the race, but I put some work in as we rotated pretty good. After a bit, I looked back and saw the field charging after us. Since the guy seemed strong, I told him to shut it down and that if he wanted to have a serious go at a move like this, to be invisible on the climb the next time and then be ready to go with me on the last lap. He agreed. So I reintegrated and just started biding my time and conserving energy until that last time up the climb. (Though not before being chided by Kyle for showing my hand a little early.)
Here I am freezing and soaking wet at the end of the race.
Fast forward to the approach to the climb on the last lap. I’ve positioned myself perfectly for the pounce about 4 wheels back. We get to the climb and I hit it full gas and didn’t look back (you know, for that psychological effect) so I’m not certain how much I gapped the field with the initial burst. On the descent I pushed the watts before settling into TT mode on the twisty flat that followed. After a few minutes, I shot a glance back and didn’t see anyone. Sweet. It was still a ways to go but I was happy to time trial. I didn’t feel completely supple though probably because of the cold. Anyhow, a little more than 2K from the line, I look back and see a group of 5 charging hard at me. I gave the attempt just a little more to see if I could snap their resolve, but decided to sit up after that didn’t work. I tacked on to the back of that group and hoped that I could find something in the reserves quickly for the impending sprint. No dice. I burned out the turbo boosters with that attack on the climb and finished in 6th place at the back of the group that caught me.
If only the finish was 2K closer. If only the chasing group didn’t have so much firepower. What if I waited to attack on the shorter little rise before the turn to the finishing straight? Ah, whatever. I put in a committed effort at a part of the course that played to my strengths and ended up making the race, which was pretty sweet. And between the awful terrain last weekend at Fawn Grove and the horrible weather at this race, I feel ready for whatever’s thrown at me at Battenkill next weekend.
I dabble a bit in web design. Well, I should qualify that: I’ve become pretty good at tweaking code to make it look how I want. I’ve used my limited skills in the past to make websites for myself (SLN) and my own projects (Mobtown Modern). But I finally made my first site for an actual “client”, Sarah and Guy at the Metro Gallery. Seems as though they’ve had several incarnations of the site for the venue; all of which had their downfalls. So they asked me if I’d help them out. Here it is: the new Metro Gallery website.
I went into this race with zero expectations since I was just coming off a good five-day stretch of no training thanks to a lovely upper respiratory infection. But I finished my antibiotics a couple days ago and was feeling pretty good, especially in my race prep ride, so I decided to give it a go.
This was a hard course. I’m glad I got there early enough to drive it and scope it out. Each 13.3 mile lap had 4.2 total miles of dirt, gravel, and rocky (like loose rocks) roads. Some of the gravel sections were ultra sketchy—think: the ball room at Chuck-E-Cheese—especially this one particular descent. Needless to say, this frightened me more than a bit since I’ve never ridden on terrain quite like that but thought it was a necessary evil, and some darn good training, for Battenkill in two weeks. Actually, I first became concerned about the day’s possible outcome when I signed in and got my number: 444.
Anyway, the race started and since I knew that the first “pave” section was pretty soon after the end of the neutralized rollout, I drilled it up the climb before the downhill to the turn onto dirt/rock section #1. Probably the only thing that went in my favor all day. As I correctly assumed before we started, the race was going to splinter on this first section between the guys who could handle the dirt and those who couldn’t. It did and I was in the front group. After a short trip on some real roads, we headed into “pave” section #2, which was pretty long. About 1K into it, I flatted. I watched the entire field roll by as I waited 3 minutes for a wheel change. I seriously just wanted to turn around right then and there. But then I thought about BJ lecturing me if I did, so I decided to chase. (As it turned out, it might have been good for me to be one of the first to flat since there was a limited number of wheels in the neutral service car.)
As I began my long chase, my spirits started to lift a bit as the sides of the road were littered with guys who had flatted. I chased hard for 10 miles to the start-finish line and was definitely making headway, passing many riders. But I still hadn’t caught up to the main group. I continue to chase. At the end of the second lap, I had formed a little group with 3 other guys and we worked well together and made up some good time. Passing the start-finish for the second time, I stopped and filled up my water bottles, letting the three go. I started lap three and caught and passed all of the three guys I was work with before. That felt good. Okay, that felt really good. I caught a few more but never saw the front group again. At the end, after my little 37-mile time trial, I managed to save a 13th place. I wish I hadn’t flatted. Oh well, that’s racing, I suppose. I will exact my revenge next Saturday at Mount Joy.
Things that sucked:
- I flatted three miles into the race.
- My PowerTap rim is in bad shape.
Things that didn’t suck:
- I didn’t say, “Fuck it,” and pack it in after it took 3 minutes for a wheel change and the field was long gone.
- I caught and handily dropped many, many riders during my chase.
- I didn’t crash.
- I am really confident in my ability to ride and handle the bike on dirt/gravel/rock roads now.
- I rode a 37-mile time trial and got some great training in.
- By not throwing in the towel, I saved a 13th place, which looks way better than DNF.
American Voices got a nice little write-up in today’s Baltimore Sun. (In the print edition, no less. Did you know they still had such a thing?) Anyhow, we’re grateful to Tim Smith, Baltimore’s venerable classical music critic, for including the not-quite-so-recently-released CD in with a batch of products a little hotter off the presses. Here’s what he had to say:
I just caught up with a no-longer-new CD by Brian Sacawa, the saxophonist behind the stimulating Mobtown Modern ensemble at the Contemporary Museum. The disc makes quite a statement about his virtuosity and curiosity in repertoire by the likes of Philip Glass, Christopher Theofanidis and Erik Spangler. Sacawa approaches the wide diversity of styles with equal panache, right down to the heavy breaths and grunts called for in Keeril Makan’s Voice Within Voice.