The last two times I raced I got shelled here, and in fact last week I got shelled so badly that I didn't even finish the post about the race. It was hot, I felt "blocked" (which is really another term for "not as in shape as I wanted to be"), and it was an exhausting outing to make it to the race.
This week seemed to be about as hot, expected temps at race time in the 93-94 degree range. I seemed to melt in the heat before so I was careful to pack some insulated bottles with lots of ice and a bit of water.
I also let myself eat some more carbs in the prior two days. With my A1C (historic blood sugar as measured on red blood cells) a bit high I've been focusing on not eating a lot of carbs. I realized that after almost 8 months of this that I lack some energy in races, the top end I need to push when it's tough. My guidelines were from my sister - 15g of carbs for breakfast, 45g for lunch, 45g for dinner, and 15g for a few snacks during the day.
So in the 24 hours prior to the race I went a bit hog wild. I didn't count every gram but realistically I had 400-500g of carbs. Ravioli. Bread (in the form of maybe six sandwiches). Sugary stuff also, like some Nutella, a serving of danish my dad had refused for two days, some left over ketchup from one of Junior's hot dogs. I hoped that this short term sugar sacrifice would pay dividends at the race.
Our tight schedule got derailled a bit by my dad with some untimely stuff out of our control but we got on the road only a little later than planned. We got to the course in decent time, not too much standing traffic, and it left me with a solid 5 minutes to get ready.
Now, back at home, I'd already done stuff like put on my bibs, pin my number, and collected everything possible for the bike. I also pumped up the tires. I know the tubes lose air hourly but if I pumped up the tires at home it'd be maybe 90 minutes before race time. That's not bad.
Oh and the pin job. Heh.
I tried not to make the number hard to read so the pins go on the perimeter or on the number.
I was feeding my dad and had a lot of time on my hands. I'd pinned the number already and decided to get Junior's "bin of pins". An unexpected side-effect of promoting races for a couple decades is that you end up with safety pins everywhere. Junior loves to put things where they belong so when Junior finds a safety pin he puts it in a little container that I designated the right place for safety pins (if only I was so organized). I checked the pins because they eventually rust or they bend, tossed any that seemed even slightly off, and net result?
I left a few pins in the bin to sort of plant the seed for newly found pins, meaning he'll look at the bin and think, "Oh, this is the right bin for safety pins."
For some reason the pin job reminds me of one of those people with lots and lots of piercings.
We headed out to the race. Although it's a short drive, about 35 minutes without traffic, with the time being about 5 PM aka rush hour when we head out it's usually a bit longer than that. We got there with maybe 10 minutes to spare.
After getting my dad situated with the Missus and Junior I signed in and put myself together for the race. I rolled out to the starting group, realized it was a Junior group doing a final "after the race review" thing, started to roll away, and then the official called us to the line. So I warmed up for about a hundred yards.
Island Rider at the start
I don't think I ever posted this but one of my five outside training rides in 2015 was with Island. He lives a town over from where I used to live, he cut his teeth racing at Bethel, he consciously went out and supported the sponsors of the Series, his teammate helped me a ton with the website, he's sort of involved in cycling discussions online, yada yada yada. He normally doesn't meander up this way for a weekday race so it was nice to see him. I don't think I've talked to him in person since our training ride a year or so ago.
I did notice that he had some nice HED wheels. The front looked awfully tall. I touched the wheel with my finger.
Me: "Is that a 9?" (Stinger 9, 90mm tall)
Island: "No, it's a 7." (Stinger 7, 75mm tall)
Me: "Oh! That's what I run!"
Island: "Where do you think I got the idea?"
I looked at his wheels again. Yes, they did look like mine, except his were newer. And it looked like he rode them more often than I did mine.
Left side wind exiting Turn 3.
Means sit to the right exiting the turn.
Taking advantage of the fact that I know Island, I'll use him as the "drafting example". The wind was moderately strong and it required decent Wind Management to save energy. The trickiest part of the course was exiting Turn 3 through to the start/finish line. The wind hit you from the left as you exited the turn, forcing you to sit to the right. In the picture above I'm behind and slightly to the right of Island. This was about where you wanted to be to get maximum shelter.
Front wind halfway to start/finish area.
Means sit directly behind the next rider.
Problem was that as you traveled along the curved bit the wind direction changed. In the picture above the wind is hitting us head on. I've adjusted my position behind Island based on the wind direction.
Right side wind at start/finish area.
Means sit to the left a bit.
On the start/finish straight the wind hit us from the right side. I've had to adjust my position relative to Island once again.
This happened every single lap. It's a bit tricky, shifting over like that. It requires vigilance on your part as well as understanding from the other riders. If everyone is reading the wind properly then everyone understands how critical it is to stay sheltered, and you naturally adjust and shuffle around to let people get into and stay in shelter.
It's when riders aren't aware of the wind that it becomes tricky. To someone like that I probably looked like a pretty ragged rider, slowly drifting from one side of the rider in front to the other.
The heat didn't help much. Every week I'd been pretty good about waving to Junior. This week I probably waved twice, maybe three times. I was absolutely smashed by the heat. I kept dumping ice cold water on myself out of my Podium Ice bottles, taking a sip, but it didn't really make a huge dent on the heat. I guess I really haven't ridden in anything like this regularly. Not only that, I've been indoors most of the time, so my ambient temperature for the last two months has probably been mostly 75-80 degrees. This mid-90 stuff was killing me.
I continued on, stamping on the pedals (more on that on a different post), my awareness constantly narrowing to just the wheel ahead of me. I checked my SRM a couple times, mainly to make sure that I wasn't in real physical difficulty, else I'd just sit up and withdraw from the race. The SRM duly reported that I was "well within parameters", at least for heart rate.
I didn't feel like it.
Over the winter I paid to do a fitting, the first fitting I ever paid for. The fitter, CP, lives in my home town. I'd hoped to see him at the races at some point, but after a few weeks of not seeing him, I sort of gave up. Fitting is a retail business and Tuesday evenings are a retail kind of time.
At some point in the haze of the heat I realized that the kit next to me was one of the Stage One kits. CP rides for Stage One - their core team members basically joined for life. CP is a big, powerful rider, reminding me in his style of Johan Capiot, and here he was, Capiot himself, next to me.
He rolled to the front, I duly took his wheel. His is a strong, steady wheel, very easy to trust. I know because I spent some significant time on that wheel in the early years of the Bethel Spring Series, on his wheel, watching his TriSpokes whirling around. He was always super strong in a sort of Cancellara kind of way. He could put down solid power for minutes at a time. I actually dreaded seeing him at the Series. I remember thinking to myself during those days, "Oh, man, CP is moving up again."
Then I'd be groveling on wheels for the next couple laps as he did this or that at the front.
CP to my left, of Body Over Bike
Then, hands still up on the hoods, butt still planted firmly on the saddle, he accelerated.
I watched him ride away.
Others rode after him, maneuvering around the mobile chicane in the road, aka me.
The moves came back, a three or so rider move went clear, and the race came down to its final laps.
With Island being a here a real treat I decided I'd try to help him out at this probably unfamiliar venue. I gave him some advice on the wind, I tried to point out some of the strongest riders willing to make moves, and, at two laps to go, I rolled up to him and told him to follow me.
Another rider I think misunderstood me and got on my wheel, Island letting him in. I started going a bit faster at the bell but someone attacked at the same time so I really only neutralized the attack. Then on the backstretch I started to open it up. I wasn't out of the saddle, I didn't want to jump (I think I really couldn't do a proper jump at that moment), I only wanted to "go faster".
Going through Turn 3 I must have done something off since the gap opened up there. I kept going, hoping the rider behind would get back on my wheel, but the reality is that in such a situation the leadout man has to ease up, wait, and try to coordinate with the sprinter getting back on the gas again.
I didn't do that so I gapped myself off the front. I sat up after pedaling a bit and watched the riders roll by me.
The field did a little sprint, behind the break. I realized after the fact that my approach to the race has been "if there's no break lead out the sprint, if there's a break then I'll sprint". I forgot that mantra in my heat-induced haze and I didn't sprint even though I probably could have done so without feeling too guilty.
At any rate I was okay with watching the rest of the group sprint for the line.
I picked up a fresh bottle of ice water from the Missus, told Junior I'd be right back, and got out to roll around for a minute or four. I needed to cool off a bit and I needed that constant slight breeze from being in motion on the bike.
As a bonus Island was rolling around as well. We rehashed bits of the race, I clarified some tactical stuff, we talked briefly about life, and then we called it a day.
I rolled back to our base camp, Junior waiting for me.
Junior after the race.
Xander, behind him, had just given him a high 5, hence the big grin
One of the Juniors, Xander, was walking by and gave him a high five. This absolutely made his day. Another rider played with Junior for a bit, doing stuff with Legos. I know it made Junior's day because the first thing he told me was that, "Kevin played Legos with me!" He was so happy.
(On an aside calling Junior Junior gets confusing with Junior racers around.)
Junior, the Missus, and Pops
We had to get going as I didn't want Pops to be in the heat too much. I even patted his face, neck, and arms down with some ice-water dampened towels. But before I could do that Junior wanted to play with the pedals and cranks on my bike.
Junior with my bike
He was super disappointed that "Mr Esteban" wasn't around. My teammate had made a Craigslist purchase for me, some Thomas the Engine blue train track, and Junior went absolutely nuts over all the extra track and the drawbridge and the stations and stuff we got. I had told him Mr Esteban was giving us some Thomas track. It's simpler than saying he got it for me, plus it dilutes the "Daddy buys me everything" deal - I want to pass around the credit. So his new best friend is Mr Esteban, who, unfortunately for us, couldn't make it this week.
Once he understood that Mr Esteban wasn't around he wiped away his disappointment and went back to telling me about the race and such. We walked back to the car together with him helping me steer my bike.
At times he looks so big, like when we're messing around on the couch or on the bed. His legs go from here to there, if I hold him across my arms he sticks out everywhere, feet out that side, head out the other, arms dangling to the sides. At other times, like when he plays with my bike, he looks so, so tiny.
At the car he started to melt down a bit. Doing even the earlier B race pushes his sleep schedule pretty hard, making the trip home tough on him sometimes.
No race next week as the venue isn't available. Two more after that and then I think it's done for the year.
And that'll be my 2016 racing season. I know I'll be able to race a bit more in the future, I just don't know when. It'll happen when it happens and that's good enough for me.
Ah, life. It's a cycle.