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...)

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like fun! I've never raced a train before...not like that anyway. I ride my bike to the train station every day - I ride there, take the bike on the train, and then ride to work at the other end (it's a folding bike) and sometimes if I'm running a little late, it feels like I'm racing the train into the station, but not really the same thing.