Greg competed in the 2011 Sea Otter Classic road race this year. He’s done it in the past and specifically signed up this year to get his “race legs” ready for Wildflower on April 30. Argus and I went along for the ride, enjoying a sunny Friday along the coast. The race is held at Laguna Seca Recreational Area just outside of Monterey. It was a little windy at race time (Greg’s race started at 3:35 PM), but otherwise a nice day.
The expo area was set up a little differently this year than in the past. Greg said you used to be able to drive right in the main gates and do a quick packet pick-up. That’s what we had intended to do, then I was going to leave there and find a good vantage point to watch the race. The course consisted of a short prologue out of the expo area and then six laps through the hills of Monterey County before an uphill finish back at Laguna Seca. This year, they re-routed us to a back entrance where we had to park and walk to the packet pick-up area, all of which was up the hill from the expo.
Argus made himself at home on a nice sandy spot in the parking lot while Greg got ready. He usually parks himself right in the middle of the lane, so I was glad he was mostly out of the way. He was about 5 cars down from us, exercising his independence.
We said our farewells to Greg as he made his way down to the start and went in search of a good vantage point. For all the other races I have been to, this usually requires a fair amount of jockeying to park and then walking … and then requires standing in a big crowd of people trying to see your guy as they all whiz by.
I had scouted the map of the area and knew right where I wanted to be. I drove right to it, only to find one other car and a Monterey County Sherriff’s car. I figured the area must be closed to spectators since there was no one there, but I thought I’d ask the policeman if he knew of an alternate spot to spectate. He said that I could park right in front of him and watch from right here. Score!
The only down-side to this was that I had intended to enjoy a glass of wine or two while waiting ~30 minutes between each of the six laps… but that wasn’t happening with it pretty much being me and the cop hanging out there. Oh well! We had a great spot in the sun and out of the wind — and we were right between two curves so the guys had to slow down each time coming around this bend.
There were a few age groups racing at the same time, but not many guys in each group so it wasn’t that hard to pick out Greg the first time they came through. He was riding around the middle of the pack that first time and he estimated it would be about 30 minutes between laps. His peloton ended up averaging 25-26 minutes each time and I was able to get a couple of good shots with my point-and-shoot camera since I had an idea of when to be ready.
By the second lap Greg was at the front of the pack and he stayed there for the next three laps that we watched. We left after the fifth lap to get back to the finish line. I was hoping that Greg was dropping back on the other side of the loop, letting other guys do the work while he drafted. The side of the course that we were on was heading into the wind and right between two hills. He was doing a lot of the pulling!
In the end, Greg finished 9th out of 21 riders. To me, the ranking feels really disappointing, especially considering he was in front the whole way. Of note, the time difference between the #1 guy and Greg was about 30 seconds. He said it was an interesting race this year, where none of the guys stepped up to take on the job of pulling. Most waited until the end, having drafted off of him (and others) for ~45 miles, and made their push right at the uphill finish. He also said his average speed was a full mile per hour slower this year than it was last year. Just a different group of guys, I guess. The “nice” thing is that several guys did thank him for doing a lot of the work, so I guess that’s sportsman-like.
The reason that Greg isn’t disappointed with his ranking is that he wasn’t going after a win. He was going out to use his race legs. If he’d wanted to win, he would have dropped back into the peloton for several laps and let other guys do the work — regardless of what that did to overall speed. His goal was to work hard and that’s what he did. He felt good about his performance and his endurance throughout the race; his nutrition plan was appropriate. The bike race during a triathlon is not draft-legal, so he won’t have the benefit of letting someone else pull him around for 56 miles next week. He will have to do the work then, so he went out at Sea Otter knowing he would do it now.
This illustrates the importance of setting your race goals ahead of race day. These goals are the things that are entirely within your control — not things like weather or a flat tire or a crash ahead of you that slows the field down. Set your personal goals and train for them, then do your best to perform well and meet them. In Greg’s Sea Otter example, if he had wanted to win, his race strategy would have been entirely different. His time would have been slower, he would have worked less hard, and he wouldn’t be as prepared for his first Half Ironman triathlon next weekend. Mission accomplished!
After the race, Argus tested Greg’s legs and squeezed a little more work out of them just for the fun of it: