Monday, July 09, 2007

Racing - New Britain Criterium

So about a week ago we realized that we lost the key to the PODS lock. Actually, I realized I lost the key. In trying to recreate our last moments with the key, the future missus pointed out the last time we entered the PODS was May 19th, the day before our fun Bloomin Metric tandem ride. It's been driving us nuts not to have the key now and I think we're ready to try and break into our own PODS.

In the meantime, there was a race over the weekend. It's called the Tour de France and it started in London...

Oh wait. That's the race I read about. And it doesn't end for a few weeks. The race I did is something a little smaller in scale.

Sunday was the second race at New Britain for 2007. The first one, the Nutmeg Classic, gave me, as a Tour pro might say, "good feelings in the legs", and a big stack up during the sprint distracted me so much I stopped pedaling for the last bit of the race.

And still got 11th.

It seemed natural that if I pedaled to the line I might improve that 11th. And it wouldn't hurt I rode just a little more than a day a week like I had leading up to that race. Properly motivated, I started doing a lot of training sessions, sacrificing quantity for any amount of riding time. Typical daily sessions were 20-30 minutes long - so even riding four or five days a week only netted me an extra hour or two of training.

A couple 1.5 to 2 hour sessions meant I managed to get some quantity in as well - and since they were rides out to my sprint course and back, I got quality in there too. Things seemed to be on an upswing.

However, the biggest thing I did was to finally get my spin bike set up. I'd bought cranks and a bottom bracket a while ago, really in prep for the Nutmeg Classic, but I never had time to install them. I finally did, and I had some extra pedals to boot, so I got the set up together.

And last Tuesday I rode a fateful twelve minute training session.

It completely annihilated my legs. The fixed gear flywheel made me use muscles I haven't used since, well, the last time I rode the thing, probably over a year ago. Back then it had a bent crank so my knee bothered me enough that I cut my session short after a couple sprints. I didn't get too sore and I decided not to ride it until it had proper cranks.

Well, it's early Monday morning now, almost six days after my twelve minute session, and I am still gingerly protecting my sore and about-to-cramp-whenever-I-sit-down hamstrings. Although I thought I was recovering nicely for Sunday, my easy spins (max wattage typically 200-230 watts) were too easy to properly gauge my recovery.

My race day warm-up, subdued by high temperatures in the low 90's, ended up an all too easy spin, again camouflaging my sore legs. I also experienced a surprising shortage of water. I thought I brought enough but was short perhaps a half gallon of dump water and another half gallon of bottle water. Prior to the race I drank a quart of Gatorade, over a quart of water, and some Rockstar, literally emptying my cooler of all the water I had brought. We even bought the Gatorade and soda on the way to the race. I realized after the race I should have brought at least one more bottle in a jersey pocket, perhaps a second dump bottle for pouring on my head, and it would have helped immensely to douse myself at the start with an additional bottle of water.

These are all things I've done in the past and simply forgot to do Sunday. It's disappointing not to do well in a race that I enter with high expectations. It's frustrating when I forget to do things that I've been doing for umpteen years.

The first lap of the race put me in deep trouble. I couldn't move up, I realized I was already hot, and my legs felt like they were encased in cement. No fluid spin, no snap, no eagerness to jump around. Instead it was an effort simply to keep pedaling.

Not good.

I never really moved up and hung out at the back of the field. After about 10 laps I was counting laps. The race was only 20 laps, not the 30 of the Nutmeg Classic, and although I initially thought the race was too short, I realized I was in trouble halfway through.

The death knell was an unusual wind pattern - a relatively strong cross headwind on the main straight coming at you from the left front. This meant it was easy to pull on the right side of the race and prevent others from getting a lot of shelter. It also meant having to move around on the backstretch hill - it was better to be on the left at the bottom, right at the top.

I managed to do that for a number of laps but simply forgot to do that for others. My power chart tells the painful story - it's those laps that put me into the red. Other wind mistakes meant my normally (wind) sheltered racing life, spoiled as a trust fund baby, ended up the racing equivalent of being thrown into the streets with only the clothes on my back.

Predictably, I faltered.

The cumulative errors, starting with a badly timed sprint workout, compounded by a lack of (and therefore some rationing of) water, and finally topped off by some poor riding (in the wind) on my part, put me over the edge.

About 13 laps in, I dumped a bit of water on my head. I wanted to save it for the finish but I wasn't going to make the finish at the rate I was going - and I started to sacrifice reserves in order to get to the end of the race. It felt good but I only had another squirt like that left and I wasn't even at 5 to go.

By then not only was I hanging out at the back of the field, I was literally the last guy in the race. I had a hard time closing gaps. And I didn't move up when things slowed. I just stayed at the back.

And when the guy in front of me had a moment of inattentiveness and closed a gap he opened up in front of himself, I had nothing to give. I watched him ride about 30 feet away from me and my legs simply would not respond.

Somehow, I'd managed to remove any semblance of speed out of my legs. A max speed of 33 mph tells the story - and I hit that in the first lap of the race. I also hit about 900 watts in the first and second laps of the race - and never went that high again. In fact I rarely broke 425 watts for much of the race.

Gapped and unable to jump across the gap, I had to churn along at about 28-30 mph, catching the group as they slowed on the backstretch hill. As soon as they accelerated over the top, my diesel legs refused to accelerate.

The field gently rolled away. I popped. Sat up. And that was that.

My race schedule really winds down now. A couple Prospects. And not much else. Perhaps a Gimbles. The CT Coast Crit August 26th.

I should look on the positive side. First, I had a couple Carpe Diem Racing teammates show up. They were good enough that they were in the race longer than me - and both offered to give me a hand if they could. I'm used to racing on my own now, having weaned myself off of racing on a relatively big team, but it's always nice to see friends in matching kits in a race. So thanks to Bill and Sean for making an effort even if I couldn't make it to the finish.

Another good thing is the PowerTap wheel I built works fine. It's reasonably light, the wheel didn't collapse after I built it, the tire stayed on, and miracle of miracles, the tire is even very straight. I haven't forgotten how to build a wheel.

I raced without the helmet cam for the first time (in good weather anyway) and so have a great excuse not to put up a clip of me excruciatingly detailed video of me crumbling in a race. This saves me time to do things like edit other helmet cam clips I haven't edited.

My racing focal points are done - Bethel and New Britain. I manage decent rides at Prospect but I don't like the sprint that much. The CT Coast Crit ought to be interesting - not only because I'll be helping promote it but also because it's Bethel one last time for 2007.

Now to look for that PODS key...


hobgoblin said...

That headwind on the finishing stretch was ugly. I'm used to riding in the wind, though, since I'm too tall to get much of a draft from shorter riders. Even so, it was hard to come around that final corner and feel like I was hitting a wall of wind.

suitcaseofcourage said...

Sounds like a tough race - especially with the distraction of the PODS key gone missing. We're in the middle of moving too and paranoid we're gonna misplace something(!) Hope you guys find the key soon!