Wednesday, October 19, 2011

My results from 2011 Race the Rail, Watonga

(ABOVE: Beat a train, win a trophy.)

Here are my results from "Race the Rail" 2011 in Watonga, Oklahoma. Click here to read a description of the race.

The wind was the huge story of this year's race. I don't think I've ever cycled on such a windy day! Cyclists were faced with a south wind of 25-40mph. And of course when you are pedaling into the wind, that makes the resulting net wind speed worse. My face was red and raw from wind burn!
(ABOVE: Sean Orta from Bartlesville led our group. I could only keep pace with him for the first 6 miles. BELOW: Race the Rail nearly became Race the Rain!)

I needed to average about 20mph over 32 miles to beat the train, and I thought I had zero chance after the half way point. My average speed was only 13mph at mile 16!

I began the race with a group of eight cyclists, but I couldn't even hold 15mph with them due to the wind. I got dropped from the group, and my speed dipped to only 11mph riding solo. I caught on with the next group which rode about 14mph.

But the same wind which killed us rewarded us on the return trip.

To have a chance to beat the train, I knew I needed to average a ridiculous pace of near 30mph for the last half.

So what happened? I averaged 30.3mph and I beat the train by only 50 yards! I was the second to last person who beat the train. I did it!

(BELOW: More pictures and results. Note: the bar graph of my average speed tells the story: 13mph going south, 30.3mph going north!)

I did it!! :)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Bicycle vs Train: Race the Rail

(ABOVE: I stole this photo from the Race the Rail page. These cyclists defeated the train last year.)

I'm signed up!

On Saturday, October 8, I will purposely race a train on my bicycle. And I'm paying $30 to do it. Sound fun?!

The second annual "Race the Rail" in Watonga, Oklahoma (taking place during their well-known "Watonga Cheese Festival") will easily be the most unique bicycle event I've entered. Cyclists will try to beat a slow-moving train in a race from Watonga to Geary then back to Watonga. While the bikes loop to Geary and back, the train travels half that distance, making one trip from Geary to Watonga.

Here's how it works: Cyclists begin in Watonga. Then ride southward for 16.5 miles to Geary. The bikes will circle Main Street in Geary then head back northward to Watonga. The total bike distance is 16.5 x 2= 33 miles.

Now the fun part: at the same time bicycles leave Watonga, a train departs Geary. The train will slowly choo-choo to Watonga along the railroad tracks which parallel the bike route. The total train distance is 16.5 miles. The train is supposed to travel 10mph.

Fourth-grade math tells me that I'll need to average a smidge over 20mph to beat the train. It's a simple win/lose race back to Watonga. You either beat the train or you don't.

(ABOVE: Cyclists ride 33 miles: from Watonga to Geary and back to Watonga. The train makes one 16.5 mile trip: from Geary to Watonga.)

A problem for me is that I may not be fast enough! I average a respectable 18mph when I ride long distances alone, but I need to pedal at least 20mph. I've never held 20mph for 33 miles.

To have a chance I'll need to ride smartly and join a peloton. (a fast moving, closely clustered group of bicyclers) Pelotons ride about 10-20% faster than solo efforts. The pace depends on the size of a group, the course and especially the wind. I'll need to hold my own so I don't get dropped from the pack.

(I rode as fast as I could. I averaged 18.6mph on this short training ride-- that's too slow to beat a train.)

Other potential issues:

-if I flat tire, I'm out of the race
-no time for a rest stop
-mechanical trouble, no chance

Two other things I'll think about: I'll first pass the train about 8 miles into the race as it choo-choos the other way toward Watonga-- I'll calculate in my head whether I need to adjust my pace. It's possible the train could be slightly slower or faster than 10mph.

And near the end of the race, I'll see the train in the distance, and I bet adrenaline will kick in and help me catch it. Should be fun!

Oh... the weather forecast is "scattered thunderstorms" for Saturday morning. Wifey and me might storm chase after the race!

(BELOW: Here's a low quality screen grab. These are railroad spike trophies for the winners. One would look good on our mantle...)