Saturday, March 29, 2014

SSAP Race Simulation for Early Muni Start

The mountain bike races I've been to space out the different categories of riders by starting them from fastest to slowest.  This avoids a lot of passing.  At last year's Singlespeed-a-Palooza race, the unicycles started after everyone else, which made sense.  Unfortunately because the unicyclists are slower, we (Claude, the only muni to finish) finished after the awards ceremony.  Unlike last year, this year there is an actual unicycle class, and so the top three unicyclists are to receive rewards.  Logically, the race coordinator wants the unicyclists to finish at a reasonable time so awards for all categories can be given together.  So the plan this year is to start the muni riders one hour early.

This makes sense to help us finish on time, but it has a negative side.  Even with a one hour head start, at some point during the race nearly every one of the 250+ mountain bikers will pass us!

To see how this might play out, I created an application to loop the riders through.  I had actually used this app way back before doing my first races.  This time I used the 2013 SSAP results but started Claude an hour early.  I also put a GPS track of the race from RideWithGPS right next to help show where passing will happen.  I find it a bit overwhelming.  I'm not sure it really changes anything for me, but at least I have a guess of when people will start passing, and that it will basically last the whole race.

Here's a video showing my simulation:

I've been to a fair number of races that had laps and although I start behind the mountain bikers, I do end up getting lapped in these races.  It has always worked out and I've been assured I wasn't a bother.  But many times there isn't room for them to pass.  I listen for approaching riders and dismount and step to the side when I'd be in their way.  This takes time.  And very often before I can remount there's another rider approaching, and another, so I wait.  And then I see another a bit further back in the woods so I ride some more before dismounting again.  And it repeats.  Sometimes there's room for passing, and sometimes I can just pull over and hold a tree.  A few times I've idled off to the side.

If on average a passing rider costs me 5 seconds, and there were 250 riders passing, that would slow me down by more than 20 minutes!

Last year Claude finished in 4 hours. I don't think I can ride as fast as Claude.  This year muni riders start at 8am and awards start at 12:30.  So maybe I CAN do it in 4.5 hours?  But what about the delays from passing?  The race coordinator says, "If we have favorable conditions there will be a 12 noon cutoff limit at the 21 mile mark...if you get there after 12 noon you are welcome to finish but will receive a dnf."  That's only a 5.25 mph pace, so it generally seems doable.  But this course isn't so easy.

I'm at least comforted a bit by "if we have favorable conditions".  That's been another worry of mine.  I expect the trails around here will still be a muddy mess in two weeks.  That can slow a unicycle down to walking and the race will absolutely suck.  If there is mud, I think the last half of the race will be much different than the first.  First we'll have nearly untouched trails and then we'll have a trail churned up by 250+ bikers.  I'm not sure which will be better.

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