Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Training - Half Wheeling

One of the mythical stories I've heard in the IT world is how two guys, bored at that moment, managed to bring down one of the world's largest bank's mail systems. One guy kept writing emails to the other, pestering him over something relatively innocuous. It got to be annoying so the second guy set up an auto response if he received mail from that particular first guy.

The first guy escalated a bit - he set it so it would send 5 emails back for every auto response.

The second guy escalated too - he did the same thing - something like 5 emails for every auto response.

So instead of just doubling the mail load every couple milliseconds, their little double edged sword was demanding five times as much mail for each response.

1, 5, 25, 125, 625, 3125, 15625... you get the idea.

In 15 minutes the mail servers, inundated with billions of emails, bogged down so much that email essentially stopped working. A denial of service attack, if you will. Suffice it to say that the bank was not happy.

Half wheeling is to bike racing what those auto respond emails were to IT.

Half wheeling is what they call it when two riders, side by side, are subconsciously trying to beat the other rider. One will inch forward just enough that his wheel is a half wheel in front of the other's, who, in response, does the same thing. A typical addendum is that both riders start off after agreeing to go for an "easy ride". So they start out at, say, 16 mph.

Then one guy slides forward just a bit, edging up to maybe 16.5 mph.

The other guy responds likewise, maybe upping the ante to 17 mph.

And, in 15 minutes, suddenly they're furiously time trialing at 30 mph, trying to get half a wheel ahead of the other guy.

That's half wheeling.

I normally negative half wheel - I sit so my front tire is even with the other guy's front skewer. On one ride in California my ride companion asked if I was feeling okay because the other rider felt like they were waiting for me all the time. Later, when I did a smooth pull up a long hill buffeted by gusty winds, I inadvertently dropped my ride partner. Afterwards I was asked if, rather than feeling bad, if I had been waiting for the other rider.

And although I swore a long time ago I'd never half wheel, I broke my vow, at least in a certain way, on a recent ride. Although I half wheeled only psychologically, the result was the same - an inevitable increase of speed, right up to my absolute threshold. A fellow blogger SOC had his bike, some time, and works nearby, so we decided to meet up and do a ride together. We'd only seen each other at races (even racing together in one) but never in "civilian" gear, so to speak.

So he dashed over after work, kitted up, and off we went.

Now if you compare us two, you get an interesting "compare and contrast". On one hand, I've been racing about 10 times longer than he has. This means I tend to ride in a more economical way. On the other hand, he is way more fit than me. And he's more willing to work in a race than I could ever afford to be, due to his fitness. Since he's fit, he can make slight errors (say sitting an extra few inches off a wheel) without necessarily paying for them. Or, as the case may be, he can alter his effort to match that of those around him.

We do have some similarities. We both have Cannondales. We both think of cycling as a hobby, not as a "life" thing. We're both enthusiastic about racing, in different ways perhaps, but in the end, enthusiastic. On our particular ride we both ended up very considerate of the other's pace and ride "wants" and tried to accommodate each other as the ride went on.

Except for one thing.


We started off on a standard loop I do, one that goes over Mountain Road in Granby. My normal time is about 30 minutes to the bottom of the road, 7-8 minutes to the upper part of the steep bit, then another 20 minutes (so about 30 minutes total) to the end of the road. Then it's a quick 30 minutes back to the apartment.

We started out in a unbelievably furious wind, one of these weather features that, on my own, probably would have kept me off the bike. Heck, it was strong enough that I'd think twice before venturing outside to get to the basement. But with the effort SOC made to do the ride I didn't dare chicken out. We rolled out determined to do the ride.

After a few minutes I actually thought about suggesting we stop and turn around, but the whole cognitive dissonance thing kicked in gear and I felt that since we'd gotten this far, it'd be dumb to turn around now. Gamely we plowed on, grinding little gears as we struggled north into the wind.

I went a bit harder than normal because two reasons - first off, I was feeling pretty cold, and second, this wind worried me. The temperature was supposed to be higher, so I optimistically wore very light clothing, even ditching the jacket for a long sleeve jersey and a wind vest. This was a critical error as the wind tore right through my sleeves and robbed my core of a lot of heat energy. I guess this is why the weather site has the actual temperature as well as a "feels like" temperature.

The other thing was a bit more safety oriented. Wind isn't my best friend, but I was more worried about the effect the wind would have on our pace. The late hour meant we needed to do the ride "on schedule", i.e. at a pace I expected to maintain through the ride. With this extremely gusty wind we weren't going very fast. On one section I normally cruise through at 25-28 mph, we were struggling to maintain 15-18 mph. Yes, the wind should become favorable on the way back, but if we lost 20 minutes going north and gained 5 minutes come back, it'd be kind of dark before we climbed off our bikes.

After a few minutes I started to die. I mean, I was doing almost 230 watts average until I pulled off, my heart rate was at race pace, and I used an upcoming light that just turned red as an excuse to ease up and pull off. SOC, a bit puzzled at my pace, asked, a little winded, if we were going straight. I grunted in response - I simply couldn't talk at that point.

Like a trooper he maintained the pace and I used every bit of my quarter century of wheel sucking experience to get on his wheel.

It was a lot easier sitting on than in the wind, and when he pulled off I maintained our pace. The wind blew us around a bit, and although he commented on how hard we were going, I think I couldn't focus on anything except not getting caught out in the dark. The fact that my hands were sort of numb never left my thoughts, but because that didn't affect SOC, it wasn't my primary concern. That was the oncoming darkness because such a thing would affect him.

And that just wouldn't be right.

Incredibly we came to the base of Mountain road in well under 30 minutes. I have to admit that I asked SOC to ease up about 100 meters from the hill - hitting the base of the climb with my heart rate already at my threshold would have been a bad thing. He politely eased, waited for me, and turned left. He went quite hard and after a brief stint at an unsustainable 400 watts, I dropped back to an extremely painful 300 watt pace.

SOC didn't seem to mind the pace too much since he got so far ahead he actually turned around, rode back a bit, and then rejoined me. Politely he rode behind me, letting me set the pace. I simply went as hard as I could go, the late hour always at the front of my mind. We passed by my first marker in under 7 minutes, about 10 seconds off my fastest time. Incredible - and he'd turned around a third of the way up, ridden down a bit, and then simply followed me. Based on that I figured he could do it in under 6 minutes. Jeepers.

He accidentally distanced me again at some point on this forever climbing road. Finally we rode a bit side by side, not half wheeling, but really so we could keep an eye on the other's tempo and adjust accordingly.

In other words SOC slowed down when I started gasping.

At some point I big ringed it on a tiny descent, then, as the road ascended again, dropped the chain back down to the small ring. This was pre-Nokons and the front derailleur was sticking (due to some damaged cable housing), and when I forced the chain down, it dropped off and dislodged my SRM pickup.

Although I can ride without wattage, contrary to popular belief, I was afraid the expensive ($90?) mount would get chewed up by the chain. So I stopped to fiddle with this, my numb-ish fingers no help.

SOC came back, asked if he could help (he couldn't - as it was I could barely get my fingers at the sensor), and finally I resorted to using some emergency electrical tape I wrapped around my chainstay. Electrical tape wraps and unwraps a few times before it goes bad - and I got in the habit of leaving a few inches of the stuff wrapped around something on the bike, "just in case". I took what I had and wrapped it around the sensor - it worked well enough to get me home. I have to admit that I lost all power data after a few minutes, probably during the bumpy descents.

We finished up the climbing at the end of Mountain Road. Normally it takes something like 57 or 58 minutes. That night, after stopping for about 5 minutes to fix the sensor, we hit it in 53 minutes.

It would seem like that would be enough to ease my mind about the daylight left but it didn't. The sky seemed ominously dark and we started heading back. I revel in descents, my compact size and higher weight (remember, I'm dense) lending themselves to accelerating me down slopes faster than my better-climbing colleagues.

I forgot about one hill on the way back, really just a 90 second effort, but in the midst of all the high speed and high gear bursts of high effort, the hill promised to hurt. Going along my "need to set the pace" tactic - a survival tactic, because if I let SOC set the pace, I'd get dropped - I went to the front and put in a mammoth effort, big ringing it, doing something like 600+ watts for the first 30 or 40 seconds. I slowly died, slowly eased, and let SOC to the front.

When I finally got my head out of "we're late" mode, I looked around a bit.


We were about 10 minutes away from the apartment. 15 minutes ahead of schedule. Something like 30 minutes before a hint of sunset hit the sky.

Without a sense of impending doom looming over my head, my legs suddenly lost their impetus. Exhausted, fatigued, I actually lost SOC when he went tearing off after a minivan or something. When I finally got back to him and pulled through I went much, much easier, changing the tone of the ride. He quickly understood and we rolled back to the apartment. I had started to apologize already for my high tempo, but he was all grins. No problems.

It was after I checked my SRM data that I realized just how hard I'd pushed. Until I lost my power data (due to that wiggly pick up), I'd essentially done a full out time trial - 234 watts average over 20 minutes. I did a 20 minute test sometime later and could managed exactly one more watt of power over the test. With this knowledge I repeated my apologies for my increased tempo, but SOC seemed seriously unperturbed. I only realized why a bit later.

234 watts is not that hard for most racers, and many of them would easily beat this number.

So, for me it was an insanely hard ride. For SOC? Probably a "decent tempo" ride.

The only half wheeling I did that day was to myself.

End Break Time

Back to a somewhat normal schedule. Sort of.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Break Time

Break time for a trip without any bike stuff. Be back in early May.

Story - Cornell Stage Race

In 1987 the acme of the collegiate scene, at least on the East Coast, was the Eastern Collegiate Championships. The prior year's winning team typically has the responsibility of holding the next one. Apparently Cornell won it in 1986 because that's where we headed the following year.

We trained hard for this race, doing a day of Team Time Trial work each week, using a relatively flat section of wide road near school as our TTT road. We experimented with aero set ups, cow horns, things like that, but settled on using our regular bikes. I made my bike as light as possible, even putting on these light Aero Gran Compe brakes. Their lack of leverage and bark-like shoes made stopping a bit of a challenge, but, hey, you can't win a race by stopping better, right? When I wasn't training I was putting stickers on my bike, painting components different colors, basically creating a unique machine reflecting the times - music, phrases, people, brands, they all made it onto my bike.

Finally it came time to go to the race. We left late Friday night, four of the team guys packed into a tiny red Ford Festiva. Loaded with two tall rouleurs (each over 6 feet tall), a mid sized all rounder, me, our four bikes on the roof, four extra sets of wheel strewn around everywhere, as well as both our bike gear and street clothing, the car struggled just to get out of the parking lot. We eventually met up with some other guys and set out in a nice convoy of three fully loaded cars.

I curled up in the back seat, leaning on many of the extra sets of wheels, and promptly fell asleep, a few 2 millimeter spokes acting as a soft cushiony pillow.

Some time later I woke up and sat up. We headed up through some pretty desolate upstate New York roads, taking pee stops after a couple tolls. I saw some odd looking fields, shiny under whatever lights were in the dark sky. I finally realized that I was looking at flooded areas, tops of houses or barns or something poking up from the depths of the water. Mile after mile we drove past these sudden reservoirs of water.

At some point we got into the biggest traffic jam possible, an improbable thing way up here. An hour or two into this agonizing inching forward, we finally saw a state trooper keeping an eye on the increasingly frustrated drivers. One of us rolled down our window.

"What happened up there?", we asked.
"Truck accident. Fatalities. Highway's closed. Be open soon."


Flooded areas. Fatal accidents. Could this be a portent of the disasters to come?

We finally got to campus at about 1 or 2 in the morning. I guess people were out drinking, wandering around with plastic cups full of, well, not soda. We stopped to ask a few people where this dorm was, the place we were supposed to stay tonight. Our efforts came to naught, most people just screaming stuff in the window or offering us a drink.

Finally a helpful looking (albeit a bit tipsy) guy waved us down. He had a big grin on his face, but he seemed insistent on helping us.

"Where you guys going?"

Our driver blurted out the dorm.

"Oh, okay. Well you head up there," he looked and pointed - and we all looked too, "and turn right up by there. Then you go this way and that way."

I forget the exact directions but I do remember the back of the car suddenly dropping down about 6 more inches.

His buddy had jumped on the bumper and grabbed onto the rack. More specifically he grabbed onto the bikes on the rack.

Our driver was not amused.

Mustering all of the car's 60 horsepower, he floored it, chirping the tires. Then slammed on the brakes.

The temporary passenger's beer cup went flying as he grabbed on with both hands, his face buried in the bikes.

We hollered at him to get off, but he started bouncing the back bumper up and down instead.

Our driver floored it again.

And kept going.

The driver stopped every now and then but the guy wouldn't jump off. After each stop we went faster and faster. We ended up screeching around a few turns at 30 miles an hour, reaching as much as 40 on one stretch, our passenger swearing the whole time (or maybe just hooting in delight).

Finally, on a sharp curve with some bump in it, at about 30 mph, our passenger went flying, tumbling on the road just like the movies. We stopped, leaned out the windows, swore at him, he swore at us, then he asked us for a ride back.

We took off to his redoubled swearing.

"Stupid drunk college kids."

We started laughing. He must have had a mile walk back to his buddies.

Our assigned dorm was already full of racers so we got stuck sleeping in the lounge area on the first floor. We finally got to sleep at about 2 or 3 AM, our bikes carefully stowed in a corner, our bodies blocking access to them by any drunk or rowdy kids.

We started out doing the Team Time Trial, a total disaster for us on the B team (me and three Cat 4s). All our training and practice did nothing as we collectively blew up. We did horribly. The A team did terrible, a bunch of strong 3s and a couple weak 2s (technically they'd downgraded to 3s) no match for the National level riders on other teams. Thinking about it now, we should have fielded all the big ego 3s in the B race and moved any iffy 4s into the Cs. We would have had more fun, a better chance, and I think it would have worked out better.

The crit was in the afternoon on that first day. We got lost on the way there, and, after a bit of panicked "race day navigation" (i.e. follow any car that has bikes on the roof), we got to this expansive parking lot. Laid out over some slightly tilted terrain, the course had a slight uphill finish stretch and an opposing slight downhill "back" stretch.

I lined up so far back that I couldn't hear the instructions. I killed myself to move up, took me like 4 laps to get into the top 20 or so (130 starters give or take), and I had no idea what was going on. The course (you could see all of it because of the way the parking lot was laid out) was looking mighty sparse so I knew they were pulling riders left and right.

I jumped a couple times, the officials furiously blowing their whistles, so I kept going as hard as I could, over and over, catching guys, recovering a bit, then jumping past them as soon as they slowed. I didn't want to get pulled, I'd gone through so much to get to the race. In the past, when I'm about to get lapped, I'll ignore a whistle blowing official so I could do just one more lap. I'd pull out only when they step in front of me, waving their hands. They weren't doing that so I kept going.

I ended up dumping a full bottle of Coke on my head because I was totally dehydrated and overheating, I had no idea what was going on around me, just tried to get up to and in front of the guy in front of me. I just didn't want to get pulled. The officials kept blowing the whistle but I never got pulled, I never got waved off, so I figured they'd let me go one more lap.

After the race a bunch of racers came up to me and called me all sorts of names, really really pissed off, extremely mean. I went from being relieved I finished to almost crying because they were so mean. I had no idea what happened. I got some normal place, like 12th or 13th or something, nothing impressive. Couldn't sprint, dead, whatever.

Then I got called over to the officials. Great, I thought, now I'll find out why they were blowing the whistle at me. I hope they don't DQ me for something, I mean they were blowing whistles till their faces were bright red.

I walk up to the clump of officials and the promoter. Promoter holds out his hand. Wad of cash.

"Congrats, you took all the primes! Great job out there!"
"Yeah, good job. And good job with the finish too."

I took the money, walked away. Lots of dirty looks from mean racers. Asked my teammates what exactly was happening.

Apparently the officials forgot their bell. So they announced they'd blow whistles for primes. I didn't know this. Since every time I heard the whistle I thought we were about to get pulled, I'd jump after the inevitable solo suicide prime attacker, sit on his wheel for 3/4 of a lap, then go when he started getting frustrated with me. I'd motor past the start finish, desperate not to get pulled, and finally blow up and a few guys would come back to me. Then they'd blow the whistle again, again I'd go after whoever was up the road, trying to use them to leapfrog into "Not Being Pulled".

So I won all the cash primes. And, man, were the other students livid. One one prime I rode by the guy right before the line - I probably went about 50 feet before the line. He thought I was giving it to him so he eased, I thought he was blowing so I jumped past him. I distinctly remember that because he swore, so I eased up so he could "catch my wheel". He sat up though, swearing. He must have thought I was the ultimate a**hole.

After another restless night in the dorm lounge, we headed out for the road race. I felt some anxiety, my performance in the crit indicative that maybe, just maybe, I could do something in the road race.

We lined up in the staging area, a long one lane dirt driveway. The As took off first, our guys in there fine. We were up next. We took off, a big clump of guys at the front, followed by the rest of the less-tightly-packed field. I was in the second part, not worried about maintaining a front position on a mainly downhill start.

Shortly after the start we rode past a few riders on the road, an ambulance parked on the shoulder, but I didn't see anything else. Then we hit the first long descent. I eased back a bit, my Aero Grand Compe brakes not ideal for this situation. We maintained a steady 45 mph, nothing unusual, not too fast.

Then I heard a loud "Ka-Pow!".

Crap. Someone flatted.

A hand way at the front of the field went up. Left hand.

Hey, I thought, they know how to signal a flat. A front flat no less.

Then the hand got sucked down and I started hearing metal screeching on the ground. Some screams, some yells.

Someone in front of me yelled, "Crash up!"

I grabbed a handful of brake and tried to slow the bike down. The bark brakes didn't do much and I watched as I got closer and closer to the guy in front of me. Suddenly he flipped over the bars. He'd just run into a pile of guys literally 5 or 6 feet tall, stretching from one side of the pavement to the other. He ended up on his back and looked up just in time to see me running into him at some semi-reduced speed. His eyes opened wide just as I hit him, then suddenly I was tumbling up the pile of riders.

I tumbled back down, ended up on my feet, and everyone else was crashing into the ditches on either side of the road. I grabbed my bike, yanked it off of the pile, and ran around the stack of riders on the road and in the ditch. I saw the front of the field taking a right at the bottom of the descent, maybe 30 or so riders still together.

A chance, I thought, a slim chance.

I jumped on the bike, swore as I realized the chain was off, jumped off, got the chain on (dirtying my best gloves and my new tape in the process), and jumped back on again. I sprinted down the hill, took the turn way too fast, and started doing a mad pursuit down the next road. I was doing some insane speed, 32-33 mph, something completely unsustainable for any length of time.

And, as expected, after a minute or so of chasing, with the field somewhere in sight, I totally exploded. After a few guys rode by I sat up, completely demoralized. I don't remember how the rest of my "race" went, but I do remember finishing and learning that one of the A team riders had fallen in that early crash, breaking his wrist.

He'd fallen with a few other guys but he was the only one really hurt. The EMT was working on his wrist when suddenly he radio crackled to life. Something about "Everyone just crashed!". The EMT looked at his ambulance, then at my friend, and said, "Look, you're stable. Do you mind just waiting while I check out the crash?"

My friend laughed. "No problem. I'm not going anywhere." The EMT took off down the road.

I guess 30 or 40 B riders went down hard enough that they weren't trying to chase, but I'm pretty sure that ultimately no one was seriously hurt.

Tired, battered, and bruised, we packed up the cars for the long drive home.

I went to Cornell and suffered over three days and all I got was this stupid t-shirt.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Racing - Plainville April 19 recap

With a series of extremely warm (I didn't hear record so I won't say "record high") temperatures, touching the high 70s and probably the low 80s, I managed to get a couple rides in towards the end of the week. With my "flexible" schedule, I chose the warmest part of the day to ride. The result? I got sunburned on only a few hours of pedaling.

Saturday promised to be cooler, 60s allegedly, and I looked forward to some relief from the sun, some cool air for my perpetually hot skin. In the meantime I was extremely uncomfortable with my itchy skin and my spring allergies (they started just this last week). Ends up I lost a lot of sleep, waking up at 2 AM one day, 4 or 5 AM another.

In fact, before Plainville, I was up at something like 4 AM, exhausted but unable to sleep. I hung out downstairs, played with the cat, read and posted to Bike Forums, and after a bit of time, I tried to go back to sleep. I forgot the food I'd nuked in the microwave - I'd woken up both hungry and itchy and was so uncomfortable with my allergies that I forgot about the hungry part.

After a short nap the missus and I left for the race. We literally drive down our road (route), take a right after 25-30 minutes, and we're at the race.

The alleged 50 degree temps in the morning were quickly giving way to warmer than anticipated readings. When we got to the race it felt warm to be in jeans but there were guys racing in arm warmers and tights. By the time my race started (in 30 minutes) it had to be close to 80 degrees.

I normally warm up with a bottle of sugar stuff and a bottle of water, and if it's cool, I ditch the water. If it's warm I keep both. I started warming up intending to leave the water with the missus, but after my warm up I decided to keep both bottles with me.

For the first time this year, if you don't count when I do two races in a day, I got a good warm up. I realized that getting my heart rate uncomfortably high (160 or so) and then recovering lets me feel a lot better the next time I ride hard. So, accordingly, after a bit of twiddling around, I did a somewhat hard effort to try and get my heart rate up. I did a little jump, sustained a bit of an effort, and ran out of breath after about 30 seconds.

Reviewing the data later, I'd done a 750+ watt 30 seconds. Hm.

Properly warmed up, I tooled around for a bit more, totaling an incredible 29 minutes of pedaling around.

I lined up for the start with my teammate Mike. He's very strong, and with a small field, I figured he'd be the go-to guy. I sensed a lot of splits, a lot of single file stuff, sharp attacks, and lots of stuff that I generally don't enjoy. We decided to play it by ear, neither of us willing to commit to a single plan.

The leading team (who I'll call "Team", with the Leader, Captain, and about 7 or 8 henchmen) dominated the field, launching attacks from the gun. I didn't check the overall standings before the race so I had no idea if there was anything left to race for in the overall, but they appeared in force to defend or take whatever they were trying to defend or take.

A second team (I'll call them "Chase"), with four guys, did a boatload of work. At the beginning they immediately went to the front to bring back the leading team's first attack, and when a counter attack went, they gamely plugged away. I thought it unusual for 3 of their guys to do so much work so I asked the fourth guy, a taller sort who seemed to ride a bit more conservatively, if he was defending an overall position (or trying to take one). It would make sense to have your guys chase everything down so you could mark your targets more selectively.

He looked at me and shook his head.

Oh. So... they were just chasing.

Mike and I sat in about 8 or 10 guys back, behind the train at the front - the 1-3 Chase boys, 2-4 Team guys (usually the Leader or Captain in the mix, along with 1-2 henchmen), and one or two miscellaneous guys.

The race evolved into a pattern. We watched at the Team guys launched attack after attack. The Chase team would drive the pace to bring them back. As soon as one of their moves came back, the Captain would bark out a name. The selected rider would typically look back with a "Who, me?" look, shift up, and attack furiously. Then one to three Chase guys would go to the front, pull like mad for a lap or so, and bring back the attacker. Captain would bark another command and another Team rider would go up the road.

I split the Team into two groups - those who were out to break legs and those who were out to do well in the race. The BreakLegs boys would attack, get caught, and immediately move up to the front, ready to do it again. The Placers, on the other hand, would only sometimes attack, usually to bridge to a BreakLeg guy, and when they got caught, they'd sit in a bit to recover. By default I placed the Captain and the Leader in the Placers group, a mistake that would eventually be my undoing.

As expected, the BreakLegs constantly attacked, and after a good 20 minutes or so, it became apparent that the only way to stop this constant flurry of attacks was to follow along with the attacks.

With that in mind, I moved into a prime "response" position, 3 or 4 back from the Chase team guys (who literally almost never left the front spot). When the Leader went, I followed, but he quickly shut down his effort. When a BreakLeg guy went, I followed. This guy went for a bit before he looked around, and after he moved over a few times and I didn't pull through, he sat up.

My goal was to try and make the Team members earn their dominance by splitting up the BreakLegs and the Placers - if a break of BreakLegs guys got away, the rest of the Team would be forced to chase, using up precious counter-attack energy in the process. Better yet, if a break went that contained a number of third party team guys, then the Team would have to go retrieve them.

At one point, after I made a few efforts, the Captain and a potential Placer went off the front. I was a bit cooked but Mike recognized the threat and did a big effort to bring them back. The Chase team took a short break, and when everything came back together, Mike kept going, toodling off the front.

This type of attack can be extremely effective, even if it's unintentional. It's like when Mike McCarthy, horsing around for the cameras at the Tour du Pont, ended up in the escape of the day. Everyone watched him pedal up the road, and when he realized they weren't going to respond, he started to ride.

I was hoping Mike would get clear, get one or two Placers to go with him, and then voila, end of race.

Instead, the Chasers launched a furious chase, probably more aggressive than any chase up to that point. Two hard laps later and Mike was back in the fold. The Team, properly rested, launched a flurry of counter attacks, ones that the Chasers kept chasing.

One LegBreaker went on a move, with a Chaser guy in pursuit (the tall guy I originally asked if he was in the overall hunt). It looked promising - a Team guy and a Chaser guy, both in the same break, with teammates numbering 2/3 of the remaining field. If Mike could get up there it'd be game over. I figured in a lap or two it might be time to launch Mike, get him clear, trust him to get to the break, and with three teams up the road, three teams unwilling to chase, the race would be over.

Instead the Chasers went to the front and dropped the hammer. A couple hard laps later and they'd managed to bring back their own guy. Incredible. I can't imagine being the Chaser guy up front - to look back and see all your guys chasing you down. It's like being a quarterback, getting hiked the ball, and then all your offensive guys turning around and tackling you.

I guess that would be pretty obvious though, tackling someone who's wearing the same colors. But chasing one down, that's not so obvious. Nevertheless, they managed to shut down the only move of the day that contained one of their own guys, and literally the only move of the day they didn't need to chase.

I started getting a bit demoralized here. Not only was this one team Chasers chasing everything down, the other team "Team" was doing everything right. And, with no recovery terrain (no downhill, no slight uphill into the wind, nothing), my heartrate was pegged as soon as I started making any kind of effort.

I started leaving gaps, some intentional, some not, and my riding started to deteriorate. I noticed myself going way off line, turning in late, and even forgetting to bend with the road's curves. And finally, with Mike up towards the front and the tiny field of 12 or 15 splintering a bit, I let a gap go. The Leader was behind me and I was hoping for a bit of respite as he went by - I could catch his wheel. But he never came around me and when he finally did, it was at a soft pedaling, easy pace. I looked back and saw just one guy behind me.


I sat on for a while, thinking that the Leader, who I'd labeled a Placer, would try and get back up to the group. Instead, probably thinking he was taking a sprinter out of contention, he pedaled softly around the course. After a few laps of recovery, I fantasized about doing a bit bridge effort. What came out were some paltry attempts to do some work, but it was obvious my body wasn't very happy. The heat, the higher level of work required in a smaller field, and probably some lack of race level fitness put done to my chances.

With a couple laps to go, my legs cramping, my head swimming with heat, I pulled off the course. I watched the Team sweep the first three or four spots, Mike got fifth, and apparently the Leader remained the Leader. His Team had done an excellent job controlling the field, aided inadvertently by the extremely strong but extremely misguided efforts of the Chasers team, and they'd earned the appropriate results.

Now, for a couple weeks, I'll be sporadically around. With a trip to Vegas courtesy the missus's employers as well as some catching up to do with friends and family, I may not be around too much, at least on the bike. But I hope to be back on schedule with my next race sometime in mid to late May. Until then I'll try and get on the training bandwagon. My fitness deteriorated significantly during the Bethel Series and my goal is to undo some of that damage before the June and July races roll around.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Racing - How to Get Out of the Wind

One of the great mysteries of cycling is the whole draft thing. When I tell the uninitiated that drafting is important, they look at me like I sprouted a third eye or something. An easy "proof" is to point out that racing cyclists tend to group together. I also point out that although the speeds are different, NASCAR racers group together for the same reason - drafting.

I then point out that about three quarters of a rider's energy goes into overcoming wind resistance. A long time ago someone calculated that on the moon, with 1/6 the gravity and no wind resistance, a cyclist could theoretically go over 2000 mph. I haven't confirmed that but it doesn't seem unreasonable, and the article had all the math in it. Of course there's no mention of what a slightly unbalanced wheel will feel like at 2000 mph but, remember, it was all theoretical.

Cyclists, when riding, are by default moving forward. This causes an immediate headwind relative to the rider. If you are riding 10 mph, you have a 10 mph headwind to overcome.

Since the air is rarely still, the rider needs to factor in the current wind direction and speed. You can do a lot of force vector analysis to calculate exactly how hard the wind will hit you and from what direction, but by the time you have done the calculations, something would have changed - your speed, the wind speed, or direction of travel.

There's a much quicker, easier, and more adaptable way to calculate perceived wind direction. I favor this type of calculation, the intuitive type, versus the "proof and theorems" type.

For me, intuition is easier and better than proofs. I lack some of the expert knowledge to prove things, but I can observe and deduce behavior through intuition.

For example, I had a long discussion with a physics type person at work one day about the benefits of deep profile rims (he noticed my wheels when I brought my bike in). I explained to him that, at 30 mph, the tire on the ground, unless you're skidding, is going 0 mph. The hub is traveling at 30 mph. And finally the top of the tire is going 60 mph.

Since air resistance increases exponentially, the lower part of the wheel (going 0-30 mph) is relatively insignificant. However the upper portion (30-60 mph) is quite important. A deep profile rim removes spokes from the ~55 mph speed wind and drops them into the 40-45 mph speed winds.

This is extremely significant for a vehicle that puts out, say, 200 watts on average, and peaks at 1000-1500 watts (two horsepower since each HP is 746 watts).

But I had no "proof" about my wheel thing. It was all intuitive. Being one that needs proof, the physics type person went home, did all the vector analysis, and announced, the next day, that indeed this was the case.

I could do an "Intuition > Proof" but it's not always true so I can't. I believe, for example, that thunder is caused by clouds kissing - it's easily observed during a thunderstorm. But I have no proof.

Anyway, finding shelter behind another rider is not always easy. Just ride behind the other guy, right?


This only works if you're riding into a direct headwind or no wind at all. But if there's just a touch of crosswind, you really should be to one side or the other. Even at insanely high speeds (200+ mph), NASCAR drivers stagger their line just a bit. Cyclists, with their lower self-induced 20-30 mph headwinds, will usually sit offset to the next rider. But how far?

Ah, now we get into the temple's secrets.

I told the following to the guy who'd eventually be one of my groomsmen, obviously a very good friend of mine. At the time he was 15 or so, all distracted with girls, and couldn't focus on some of the things I told him about bike racing. So I tried to relate everything to girls so that he would both focus and remember.

He, too, had a difficult time figuring out where the wind came from. Since it's relative to your speed (i.e. a 20 mph wind perpendicular to your direction of movement when you're going 20 mph feels like it's coming from a 45 degree angle, not 90), you need to figure out wind relative to you at the speed at which you're riding/racing.

Easiest way to do this is to look forward and turn your head left and right. You'll hear the wind change as the air hits your ears at a different angle.

Now here's the key, this is what I told him. You'll never forget, and in fact I get some of the guys telling me, at random windy races, "I never forgot what you said about how to tell where the wind is coming from".

When you feel a gentle, perpendicular breath into (not across) one ear, just like your girlfriend does when she's playing naughty, then that ear is facing the wind. Therefore you know that's where you want to put something to block the wind, probably another rider.

The confirmation is that there is no girl at the other ear. If both ears are getting something, either you're really lucky or you're not facing one ear to the wind - you're probably looking into the wind, and both ears are getting a piece of it.

Since perceived wind direction (takes into account your riding speed) and actual wind direction differ, you cannot base your shelter needs just by walking around the course and saying "Okay, wind is from the right here, then the left after we turn". However, if you guess at how fast you're going to race and how hard the wind is blowing, you can make a pretty good guess at where to sit relative to the other racers.

Keep in mind that shelter at one point of the course may result in being in the wind on a different part. You'll need to decide where shelter is most important and work backwards from there. So say the worst wind at on course (I'm thinking of Plainville, CT) is a crosswind from the right on the backstretch once the tall reed stuff goes away. You want to be on the left then. But that means that unless you do some fancy wheel work, you'll need to be on the left going into the backstretch, and maybe the wind hits you from the left on the main stretch. So is the wind worse on the main stretch? Do you have time to move over so you have protection in both spots? How comfortable are you at moving from one side of the group (or a rider) to the other without making anyone leery of what you're doing?

Here's the key. If you move around correctly, no one will notice you doing it. I did it all race long at Plainville the last time I was there and no one really realized what I was doing. Maybe one or two did but they don't read my blog or BikeForums.

My race consisted of being more right at the start/finish, turning, moving to the left for that short straight, right as we beared right (and there are those tall reeds to the right), then moving to the left for the back stretch once the lawns start (since the reality is that in a crosswind you draft just one rider, I'm really on the left of one rider, but perhaps 2 from the right side of the field). Then I went to the right before the last turn, then got into the middle for the first part of the main stretch. I moved right to set up for the first turn. On maybe one lap I experimented by going to different spots to see if the wind had changed and it hadn't.

When you're sheltered, it's harder to use the girlfriend method. So you'll need to figure out your shelter pattern before you get sheltered.

Best would be looking around while you do a few warmup laps - no one in the way, easy to get into the wind if you want. Your speeds are artificially low but you can adjust for this as long as you understand the prevalent wind directions. In other words, if your ear tells you to shelter at 8 o'clock (left rear of someone) at 20 mph, at 30 mph it'll be further back (maybe 7 o'clock).

Second best is sitting up and turning your head while you're racing - your head end up above everyone. Well I don't do this too often because I'm too short, but most others can use this method.

Third best is to do it while at the back. You can move from side to side at the back, figure out which side is harder, and avoid it at that part of the course. I do this most frequently, especially since, if I'm at the back, I'm a bit tired. And looking for every bit of shelter possible.

Worst is to get on the wind side of the pack and realize that your side to the outside of the pack is being pummeled with wind. No one wants to let you in so you're stuck out there. Best thing to do is wait for someone to move over on you or to slow down until you find an open spot (i.e. someone not paying attention and leaving a gap).

The latter can be fatal to a race. Unless you have an excellent reason for being in the wind, it's better to sacrifice position to get shelter. I've sacrificed position to gain shelter with 500 meters to go and then gone on to win the race.

Moving up on the outside (i.e. in the wind) is usually a sign of a combination of things:
1. Rider is uncomfortable riding through the middle of a field (#1 reason, in my opinion, and extremely unfortunate since this is a key racing bit of knowledge to have)
2. Rider made an error in scheduling when to move up, and is a bit panicked. Decides prodigal use of energy is worth moving up. Can lead to premature detonation.
3. Rider is so fit that using that much excess energy is really nothing. Kind of like someone who has millions and millions of dollars debating whether to get the $200 shorts or the $205 shorts. Not an issue in that particular race but at some point the racer will end up in faster races and then fall under reason #1 or #2.

Now if in the race this weekend I see a bunch of heads popping up like meerkats and looking around then I know that people have been reading this post.

(Picture stolen from since I couldn't link to it through Blogger)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Racing - Licenses Through The Ages

So someone commented on the color on the licenses, and I had just been poking through some of my "Bike Memoribilia" stuff. In there somewhere was a precious Campagnolo plastic bag (maybe cables came in it - it's big enough for a sheet of paper to sit in it) with a bunch of my licenses in it.

So, in the spirit of things, I pulled out a bunch of them. I skipped some boring ones. And it seems like my very first one is too precious for my bike memoribilia box - it might be (i.e. I hope it is) in my main "memoribilia" box. I found a slew of training diaries but I figure pictures of daily planners wouldn't be too thrilling.

Excerpts, though, might be interesting. I'll post them at some other time.

Back to licenses. So, starting at the beginning...

First off, since I always carried my license, and they were printed for a long, long time on regular (well, slightly thicker) paper, they became my scrap paper when I needed to write something down. So as not to intrude on some long forgotten people's lives, I've taken the liberty of using a primitive program to black out my scribbles.

By the way, if you click on the picture, you get a much, much bigger version. You can actually read things on the license.

So, to start things off, my oldest license not in my main memorabilia box - 1985. They came in a standard license/credit card size thing but they folded over. Inevitably the two halves separated unless you were very, very careful.

I was very, very careful with this one. And it's in two pieces.

The outside:

The right side is the "front", the left side the "rear"

The inside - the meat of the license.

Note I'm a Cat 4. Yep, me. A 4.

At first my number, 25664, was pretty high. I mean, numbers were issued in order, so I was the 25, 664th person to get a license after the American Bicycle League became the United States Cycling Federation. I may be old but I didn't even know about the ABL until someone told me that's what the USCF used to be. Low numbers were in the 4 digits, and the guy who got me racing was like 10,000-something.

Back then there were no 5s. Just "Citizen" racers. Then someone sued someone and bingo, you had to buy a One Day License to race. But this was in the primitive days. In fact we had virtually no helmet rule. You had to wear a "helmet" but nothing defined what a helmet was, other than something more than a cycling cap. I never wore a hairnet (like the Italians in Breaking Away) but I did wear a Brancale helmet (which I'll dig up) which was absolutely useless except to keep my hair in place.

By the way you can see that I wrote my address on the license. My address in the Fall of 1985. Until then I had lived in the same place in Connecticut for about 7 years, so I wrote down my first new address in forever.

Fast forward 5 years to 1990. Some of you were born by then :)

The outside looks the same:

This is still in one piece, barely. Upgrade blanks on the back now. Note they are still blank.

Here's why - I was already a 3. More miscellaneous notes and such, all blacked out to protect the names of the innocent. Note I wrote some things down - Cat 1 is national level, Cat 4 is beginner - I think I was explaining it to someone, using the only scrap paper I had - my license.

The reason I wanted to fast forward 5 years is the time between them was a disasterous time for the USCF (eventually to become USA Cycling).

First off, they went to stupid big license. Hard to tell in the picture but I'll do a "compare and contrast" picture below. Suffice it to say that they were too big to fit in your wallet. I guess too many people were washing their small licenses.

Enormous license. Upgrade sticker. Yeah!

I want to boast about the upgrade sticker so please bear with me. I was a first year Senior, had three years of racing under my belt. I'd won my last race as a Junior (collegiate, but, hey, it was a win). The training series back then were at New Britain, a points race format, one that favors those in shape.

And in college, I was in shape.

I was on academic probation by the fall of 1986, but, hey, there's a price to pay.

Anyway, on that race. I won the first sprint, by accident, because the UCONN cycling team's coach told me not to go for the first sprint, just follow the guys in case someone took off after the sprint. I followed wheels, did a little jump, and passed everyone.


So then, to be fair, I decided to actually go for the next one.

And won it.

So the next time, so as not to be totally unfair, I took off at the bell, trying to blow myself up before the line.

But I got to the line first anyway.

Finally two guys took off right after that sprint, and although we let them dangle for a while, I caught them 10 feet after the line. I didn't win the sprint.

One more sprint, a teammate led me out, and I notched up another sprint win. In fact, he returned to racing about 5 or 6 years ago in the area. I don't think he remembers leading me out though, but I'll have to ask him.

The final sprint was coming up and my coach was yelling exactly who to watch, how many points he had, and I didn't know what he was saying. I mean, come on, what could I comprehend in the tenth of a second I had to hear what he was yelling? I figured I'd do as well as I could and that would be my race.

I won that final sprint.

I stopped immediately, turned around, and asked the officials.

"Did I win the race???"

One of them laughed.

"You won all but one sprint and you don't think you won?"

Well, I wasn't sure, to be honest. But it seemed illogical when he put it that way.

The same official said he was upgrading me that day, got out his stickers, and stuck one on my license.

I never dominated a race like that ever in my life again. In my eternal optimism I made a list like Greg Lemond, modestly peaking at doing Corestates in Philly. I never got past "Win State Road Race".

Let's get back to the licenses, shall we?

Here's the "compare and contrast" shot:

Three years of enormous licenses. There are four licenses, yes, but the right two are the same year. I misplaced the bottom right one and got the top right one as a replacement. Then found the original one.

To give you an idea of the scale of these suckers, I put my 2007 license on top. Even if you folded the big ones over, you couldn't stick it in your wallet.

Some of the things that happened in those days that didn't seem to make sense include...

First, helmets that passed ANSI became mandatory (in 1986). You'll note that the green license has a Monarch sticker on it. I took it off my helmet and stuck it on my license. You had to bring your helmet to registration to prove you weren't going to race in a hairnet. I guess checking at the line didn't count (?).

Second, you had to prove you belonged to a club. So I stapled my club membership card to my license. Coincidentally they were green so it matched.

Third, unattached fees were insane. So I got my license fixed so I wouldn't have to pay these huge unattached fees.

Fourth, if you belonged to a club (they didn't differentiate between clubs and teams) and the club didn't hold a race, you could still be a club. You just couldn't race in any kind of "kit". So in 1988 (?) I raced in a plain blue jersey because we didn't hold a race in 1987. Bummer.

I wish they did that now. We'd have a lot more races.

So anyway, sometime after 1990 they returned to small licenses. Everyone said, "Well it's about time, whose dumb idea were the large licenses anyway?" I'm sure people started washing their licenses by accident too.

In their infinite wisdom, the USCF issued plastic cards, sort of like what you have now. Here's one (and I'm pretty sure I washed it a few times):

Look carefully at my Category

But with mountain bike racing such a hot thing, and no categories in mountain biking, the USCF decided to follow mountain bike naming protocols.

In other words, Beginner, Intermediate, Sport, and Expert. Yeah, take a look at that license.

Suddenly, instead of a Cat 3, I was an Intermediate. Or was I a Sport? I never remembered.

I felt this was terrible. I still wanted to be a Cat 2, and now, if I got upgraded, I'd be, what, an Expert? It seemed to devalue Cat 2s because in NORBA upgrades were on (lack of) honor. In other words, if you wanted, you could be an Expert mountain bike racer. Or a Beginner. No biggie. You could change from one race to another, on a whim, be whatever you wanted.

Lots of grumbling again. And finally the licenses became a bit more normal. In 1995:

There was one thing though.

At some point the licenses became 12 month deals. So if you got your license in March, it was good until next March.

But say you got it March 31. Shouldn't you be okay until April 1? So, just to be sure, the USCF gave you an extra month. So a March license would be good until the following April.

I got my first license with this 13 month thing in a January. My license would be good until February. The following year, I got my license in February, and it expired in March.

Since I think long term sometimes, I decided that when my license expired in August or September, I'd think about whether or not I wanted to race between then and next March, and if not, I'd skip renewing a year.

You know, one of these long term benefits of racing with the USCF. Buy 8 years, get one free.

Yeah, so I did that. And I got inundated with a bunch of "You didn't renew this year, we miss you" kind of things. I was thinking, "Hey, I'm just taking a short break. Lay off me."

So I didn't renew until the following year.

And that was the year that they went to the "B" license numbers. And I didn't get a low number because I was trying to save, what, like $36? The long term "Buy 8, get 1 free" license deal. And I lost my low, low number.


In fact, my license number now, 31337, is higher than my old one, 25664. So I'm more of a noob than I was before, sort of. I guess it's always good to have some humility. So now there are guys out there who say, "Oh, I must have started racing before him - he has a higher number than me."


Monday, April 14, 2008

Bethel Spring Series - Circuit de Francis J Clarke recap

So Sunday was the last of the Bethel Spring Series for 2008. It's always a good day for a bunch of reasons.

First off, and this is especially true this year, the weekends come back to me. Although it's always been a two day thing, Saturdays for me were much busier than in previous years, mainly because I don't live in the area anymore.

Second, I get to give away a lot of stuff. I don't get very involved with a lot of the organizational stuff anymore, but somehow I'm still the guy actually presenting things to people. I feel like a politician, smiling, shaking hands, but it's a good thing. I said this a few times yesterday but I love giving stuff away, I love giving prizes and such to people. You can't help but feel good doing it.

Third, I get my yearly monkey off my back. Bethel has always been a huge focus for me racing-wise. For many, many years, given the choice of literally peaking for Bethel or trying to peak for some other event, I've always chosen Bethel. Obviously the finish there works for me.

But it's more than that.

The way my vacation days used to work, I had to use whatever I was going to use by the end of March. So I'd find myself with my annual allotment of days pretty much unused in January and February (since I can't take days while Bethel is going on). This is perfect for peaking in March and April, and therefore I'd spend 3 or 4 weeks in the first two months of the year doing massive training camps, riding myself into whatever fitness I could find out on the roads of Florida and California.

And, of course, I had long ago promised my mom that I'd win a Series for her. I did, in 2005, but I've always wanted to back up that overall with another one. I haven't been able to do it.

The day was a lot busier than normal. The last Bethel always has more chatting with the racers, more friends, and oftentimes my family visiting. Plus, with awards presentations done after each race, I had to track down guys before they left.

Because of this, even though I wanted to warm up for a decent amount of time (in my head I realized my promoting responsibilities would preclude me from starting the P123 race), I got my standard fare. Change, get on bike, ride maybe a lap or two.

For once I was nervous. I spoke with a long time racer and I told him I was nervous. He smiled.

"Good to feel nervous after all these years, right?"

He should know. When I met him in the late 80s he was already a well established and powerful racer. I'm sure it's hard for him to get nervous for a race, just like me, but when you feel good and you really want something, you get nervous.

The race started off pretty easy since I was near the front, but after 10 or so laps, the pace started hotting up a bit, the wind picked up, and suddenly we started getting hit by a chilling rain. I'd pumped up my tires a lot and they were slipping significantly on the hill when I stood. I started imagining sprinting up the hill then suddenly taking myself out with a lurid power slide.

Not good.

My Atomic Balm'ed legs turned bright red, my core dumping heat energy into them to keep them warm. My muscles were starting to twinge a bit and my mind started playing tricks on me. Then, as I started thinking this was a "situation" (like problems are called "issues"), the rain stopped, the sun came out, and everything worked again.

Of course this meant the same for everyone else and so guys were launching attack after attack. I moved up to try and see what was going on, a bunch of guys launched, and my teammate Mike, who had just done a huge turn, went off after them. I couldn't go any faster and slid backwards in the field.

Eventually one of these efforts took Mike off the front, tagging along in a group containing a GC threat, and it seemed that they'd stay away to the finish. What I didn't realize is that they were fifteen seconds ahead, not fifty, and all sorts of guys were trying to bridge up to them. I just thought the front of the field was splintering, not that we were about to catch the break.

One of the guys was the Leader, and my goal today was to win and beat him. With a break (I thought) fifty seconds up the road, and at least 8-10 guys splintering off the front of the field led by the hard working Leader, I was getting nothing.

Nonetheless I followed the front end of what I thought was the remainder of the field, waited for a lane to open up (right side), and launched my sprint. Dry roads, no tire slip, and I went scurrying up the hill. I managed to jump past a little group of racers veering left to the left-side apex as I went a bit more right. Then, to follow the curving road, I went along my traditional yellow line sprint lane. I started coming around two guys side by side on the left curb when one of them suddenly turned into me, hitting my back wheel. I felt that zzzzzzzp! as his front tire hit my rear tire, then silence as the bike fell away, and then the sickening crunch of bike and pavement.

I soft pedaled the rest of the way to the line (about 20 feet), took some unimportant pack fodder spot, stopped on the curb, and after catching my breath, turned around to see if the guy was okay. He was except for the fact that he was sitting on the ground.

So my race was down the tubes, no placing, and gobs and gobs of guys finishing in front of me, maybe 20 guys.

Then a glimmer of hope.

The guy tied with me in points said I finished in front of him. The Leader, it seemed, didn't score points. So if they didn't score, who did?

Well, ends up the long time racer, the one who thought it was good to be nervous after all these years, made the break, hung around a bit, then took off and won on his own.

The front of the group, splintering off the front? That was the break almost getting reeled in by the field. In fact there are shots of me in the same bit of real estate as the break guys at the finish.

I got 7th. That meant one point.

More hope.

Then it was all dashed. The day's winner had already scored a couple points earlier in the Series and he knocked me off the podium.

Ah well. To win the 3-4s at Bethel I've always thought you can only miss a high score on one week. I didn't score for two, scored poorly in two, and so to try and be in the overall wasn't meant to be.

When I was adding up team points though, a weird thing happened. Our team tied the Leader (he was the only one on his team to score points, and in fact I believe he did all his racing with no teammates) in points, but because we scored six points on the last race, our team took the prize.

Hey now.

I watched the Pro-1-2-3 race. A couple guys from Calyon-Credite Agricole showed up, including a very long time Bethel Spring Series racer, the ever friendly and powerful Mike Norton (the pro, not the Cat 3 promoter or the Masters racer - there are three Mike Nortons who have raced here, once in the same year, even the same day). He popped up suddenly, said hi, I noticed his Calyon team "apres wear" (or was it before wear?), and we chatted a bit.

I favored him to win of course. He won one year by literally leading the field for the last lap, riding everyone off his wheel, and crossing the line on his own. And he brought with him a silent, smiling pro, the kind of guy that then proceeds to rip your legs off one muscle group at a time with the same benevolent smile on his face.

The finale looked like Mike (Norton, not my teammate) started to dish out some serious softening up. Ends up, speaking with Mike Fraysee, that smiling silent pro was something of a sprinter. So Norton tried to pummel the field, simulating 80k of racing in 5 or 6 minutes, so that the sprinter could finish the job.

But before they got there, with a couple laps left, there was the sound of a gunshot.

Calyon rider, smile erased off his face, walked his bike back from the first stretch. His tire bead had failed, kevlar threads everywhere, and his tire had blow off his rim.

So, with the pro ringer threat eliminated from the race, the field settled back into its normal battle lines. And when it came down to the sprint, it was, incredibly, a dead heat. A bunch of people looked at the finish line tape and they all agreed.

Dead heat.

After some debate we decided to award equal points to the the two riders, and the third place rider was third overall too, so the finish seemed appropriate.

We did some final awards presentations, I handed out as many envelopes as I could, and called it a day. I didn't help pack up very much, a bit zonked, but, to be honest, probably no more zonked than anyone else. The four of us left headed out for some food before we went our separate ways. At the burger joint Sycamore we ran into a bunch of other racers, said more hi's and bye's, and then sat down to eat.

The four of us, ends up, have all gone to UCONN. Well two of them are going right now, and the other guy and myself were there 10 and 20 years ago. We talked about the old days, the new days, and I felt lucky to have gone when I did.

After swapping vehicles (I leave the van at my dad's) and taking all the stuff I need to ride at home (and worried about forgetting something significant - two weeks ago I forgot my training kit - pump, bag, etc), I set off in my much smaller, much lighter, much lower car, stuffed to the gills with bike stuff.

On the way home I played a bunch of 80s music, my UCONN music. Music combined with situations always makes me wistful, flooding me with long lost memories, and the long drive home was no exception.

My perceived value of "stuff" determined what I unpacked. Unwilling to make more than one trip from the car, I took my bike, race wheels, laptop bag, and food. Everything else stayed in the car.

I opened the screen door, fumbled for a second for my keys. The front door opened, the missus smiling. She'd had a very, very long day, much longer than mine, but she still managed to raise that smile, to open the door when I got home.

Another year, another Bethel.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Bethel Spring Series - Circuit de Francis J Clarke

Cat 5 Race 1 Name Team
1 Mike Festa Unattached
2 Gregory Henry Unattached
3 Rishabh Phukan Wesleyan University - Cardinal Velo
4 Bart McDonough Target Training
5 Alec Bernard Staples Bike Club
6 Logan Piepmeier Wesleyan University - Cardinal Velo
7 Jeremy Weemhoff Unattached
8 Frank DeLio Unattached
9 Pierre Vittori Unattached
10 Carlos Fonseca Unattached
11 Edward Novak Yorktown Cycles
12 Geert Mol Unattached
13 Mark Underwood Yorktown Cycles
14 Gregory McCoy Unattached
15 Jerome Jousse Unattached
16 Scott Gibson Unattached
17 Pat Bisesto Bethel Cycle
18 George Jones Unattached
19 David Juneau Tokeneke / Team Mossman
20 Frank Priest Westwood Velo

Cat 5 Race 2 (Points for Overall in this race only)
1 Guido Wollmann Unattached
2 Andrew Nasca Bikeway
3 Denis Adiletti Bethel Cycle
4 Brian Amen Unattached
5 Brendan Delamere Unattached
6 Evan Thomas1 Unattached
7 Frank O'Reilly Unattached
8 Hank Osborn Unattached
9 Thomas Thornton Target Training
10 John Ercolani Cycle Fitness Cycling Club
11 Michael Colabella Connecticut Coast Cycling
12 Will Regan Unattached
13 Mark Sullivan Unattached
14 Kyle Herlihy Unattached
15 Alex Salazar H V V C
16 Esteban Sequera Unattached
17 Jim Reid Bethel Cycle
18 Herman Tola Cafeteros
19 Justin Tyberg Bethel Cycle

Cat 4 Name Team
1 Christopher Thomas Cycle Center Racing
2 eugene doherty Team DC Racing
3 Anthony Santomassimo Stage 1
4 Brian Kelley Pawling Cycle & Sport
5 Anthony Troiano Unattached
6 Lee Davis Pawling Cycle & Sport
7 Chuck Litty Bethel Cycle
8 Rick Magee Bethel Cycle
9 Eduardo Atehortua Cafeteros Cycling Club
10 John Romano Bethel Cycle
11 Patrick Dietz DKNY / Signature Cycles
12 Pedro Sanchez DC Racing / Danny's Cycles
13 Jay Vincent Cycle Center Racing
14 Carey Jackson Yonce Unattached
15 Steven Suto Bethel Cycle
16 Andrew Kalter Connecticut Coast
18 Peter Frenzilli Unattached
19 tom siano Dannys Cycles
20 Patrick Dietz DKNY / Signature Cycles

Juniors Name Team
1 Kyle Foley ACT
2 Ryan Storm Target Training
3 Max Kaplan Colavita Racing
4 Leon Lyakovetsky Connecticut Coast
5 Andy Gallagher Liberty Cycle

Women Name Team
1 Andrea Myers Team Kenda Tire
2 Ann Marie Miller Metro Sanchez
3 Maria Quiroga CRCA / Radical Media
4 Amanda Braverman Cycle Center Racing
5 Dale Malkames USI
6 Elena Leznik CRCA
7 Peta Takai CRCA / Avenue A Razorfish
8 Michelle Faurot Connecticut Coast Cycling
9 Stacey Smith CT Coast Cycling
11 Lisa Force CRAC / Comedy Central
12 Nancy Ford USI
13 Audrey Friedrichsen Scott Unattached
14 Rebecca Hussey Bethel Cycle Sport Club
15 Rebecca Koh CRAC / Comedy Central
16 Maria Vlasak Connecticut Coast Cycling
17 Catlin McVarish Connecticut Coast Cycling

Masters 40+ Name Team
1 Robert Lattanzi CRCA / Sid's Cannondale
2 Max Lippolis Target Training
3 John Funk Cycle Fitness
4 Morgan Stebbins CRCA/Sids-Cannondale
5 Abdul Kabia Target Training
6 Rich Foley Clinton Cycling Club
7 Brian Wolf Bethel Cycle Sport
8 Wayne Kirk Mystic Velo Club
9 Christopher DiMattio Bethel Cycle Sport
10 Jim Escobar Honeywell
11 #N/A #N/A #N/A
12 #N/A #N/A #N/A
13 Randy Kirk Cycle Center Racing
14 Donald LaBonte Main Line Cycling
15 Eduardo Atehortua Cafeteros Cycling Club
16 #N/A #N/A #N/A
17 Max Viega Target Training
18 Jay Vincent Cycle Center Racing
19 Rick Spear Target Training
20 Scott Loring Unattached

Cat 3/4 Name Team
1 Stephen Gray Bethel Cycle Sport
2 Joe Straub Signature Cycles/ DKNY
3 Mike Andrews Connecticut Coast Cycling
4 Christopher Chaput Affinity Cycles
5 Joseph Regan Bethel Cycle Sport
6 Kim Riseth Jonathan Adler Racing
7 Akira Sato Connecticut Coast
8 Juan Pimentel CRCA / Global Locate
9 Vinicius Tavares CRCA
10 Antony Slokar CRCA/Jonathan Adler Racing
11 John Morales cafeteros cycling club
12 Patrick Dietz DKNY / Signature Cycles
13 Brian Kelley Pawling Cycle & Sport
14 #N/A #N/A #N/A
15 Peter Hurst Connecticut Coast Cycling
16 Jeffery Ferraro Greater Hartford Cycling Club
17 Glenn Babikian Signature Cycles/ DKNY
18 Jim Escobar Honeywell
19 Salvatore Abbruzzese CRCA / Blue Ribbon
20 Andreas Runggatscher DKNY Signature Cycles

Pro/1/2/3 Name Team
1 * Jacob Hacker Unattached
1* Anthony Alessio Stage 1
3 Stephan Badger TARGETRAINING
4 Christopher Fisher Unattached
5 Chad Butts Champion Systems
6 Ernest Tautkus Exodus Road Racing
7 James Thomas Breaking Away Bicycles
8 Bret Arthurs Evolution Cycling
9 Stephen Gray Bethel Cycle Sport
10 Robert Marcinko Connecticut Coast Cycling
11 peter petrillo CVC/Subaru of New England
12 John-Paul Kaminski Connecticut Coast Cycling
13 Ron Fantano Sommerville Sports
14 Christopher Pile CRCA / Remax
15 Monte Frank Zephyr
16 Matthew Baldwin TARGETRAINING
17 Kim Riseth Jonathan Adler Racing
18 Connor Sallee CRCA JrDev/Orbea
19 Michael Norton Caylon Pro Cycling
20 Christopher Kohnle CCNS / Pdeal Power

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Bethel Spring Series - pre- Circuit de Francis J Clarke

This week seems a little more under control than last week. I feel less tired, a little more inspired. I did notice (well, the missus did) that I have a bunch of typos in some of the last few posts. One post in particular was terrible - I was typing on the laptop, my hand resting on the touch pad thing, then suddenly things went insane. I tried to undo stuff but I think I undid too much. I'll have to go back and try and reconstruct things. The problem is that once I write something it's hard for me to write it again. Like fingerprints - no two writing sessions are the same.

This week I finally got all the trophies and medals. I've been calling and calling the place, trying to get a hold of them, and kept getting busy signals and stuff. Finally, worried they were out of business, I looked them up to see if they were still around. Ends up I had the wrong number in my phone - apparently I put in the wrong number with my new phone. So I finally got to order everything.

A few years ago I went to pick up everything the day before the race and they were closed (!). No warning, no nothing, so I was stuck. Luckily this year they called me and told me they'd be closed Saturday so I made the trek down there Friday, during most of rush hour, to get the trophies. I am glad to say they are safe in my car right now.

As usual I pray for "not bad" weather, and if it looks "not bad", then I pray for good weather. I think the weather gods found favor with Plainville because they've been blessed with temperatures over 60 degrees - in contrast, at Bethel, we've barely hit the 50s. I'm thinking that next year the Series should shift about one week later, try to hit the third weekend of April. This way there might be a chance of people leaving with new or newly reinforced tan lines, not just windburnt faces and runny noses.

As for Sunday, it should be an exciting day, based on the overall standings.

For a few folks the races are simply a formality. Race, get the jersey, pictures taken, stuff like that. This includes two absolutely dominating performances by Zachary Staszak (Pawling Cycle and Sport) in the Cat 4s and Anne Marie Miller (CRCA/Sanchez Metro) in the women's race. I mentioned to Zachary that, with 21 points to the second rider's 6, he really didn't need to win the April 6th race. Obligingly he let a break go and took the field sprint for second - his fourth field sprint win here. Nice to be so strong!

I told Anne Marie that her 21 to 14 point lead meant she needed to gain some points, ideally three more than the second overall racer, to assure her of the overall. She handily took the win, sealing up that competition. As I mentioned to someone a little later, "We could have just let her keep the jersey." Same goes for Zachary too.

For the 5s it's a bit tighter. Andrew Nasca (Bikeway) leads Dennis Adiletti (Bethel Cycle) 21 to 18 - a mere 3 points. Sitting just behind at 16 points is James Rothwell (Unattached). With 10, 7, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 points for the top seven placers, the race could easily go to any of them.

The Juniors also have a bit of racing to do. Kyle Foley (Cuevas/ACT) has a 7 point margin on his competition, Paul Lynch (CL Noonan/Coast to Coast), and a 9 point lead on Leon Lyakovesky (CT Coast Cycling). A win would assure Foley of an overall, but just scoring 4 points (4th place) would still net him the leader's jersey.

In the Masters 40+ race it looks like a showdown between two teams, the incredibly powerful CRCA/Sids-Cannondale team (with overall leader Robert Lattanzi and third placed Morgan Stebbins) and Bethel Cycle (with second placed Stephen Gray). With Gray 9 points down on Lattanzi, Gray would have to win and Lattanzi place 7th or worse for Gray to win. However, Stebbins poses a serious threat to Gray's second place overall. If either of those two falter, a slew of racers from the reinforced-for-2008 CCC/Keltic Construction/Zanes Cycles could step up, as could John Funk from Cycle Fitness.

The 3-4 race looks about the same, a leader with two pursuers neck-to-neck. David Freifelder (Westwood Velo/Trade Management) has a close to unassailable lead with 18 points. Yours truly (CT Coast Cycling) and Salvatore Abbruzzese (Blue Ribbon) are tied in second with 10 points a piece, and then there are a bunch of strong riders all within shooting distance of the podium.

I think the Pro-1-2-3 race is by far the most exciting. Only 5 points separate the top 6 racers overall. Appropriately only one racer, Jacob Hacker (Unattached), has placed in three races. His tenacious points chasing has kept him in the lead with 12 points, a low points tally for a leader so late in the Series. This means a number of different racers have won or placed in the top 3 - and those spots, this Sunday, are worth 10, 7, and 5 points. In this close game, those are huge numbers. With threats from both field sprinters and break specialists, it should be a rip snorting race.

I hope that I can honor everyone with a smoothly run race.

A few notes on podiums and such.

First, I'd like to get all the top racers together after each race to verify all placings. And, if everyone agrees, we'll take podium pictures immediately after each race. I don't want to ask the 5s to wait around for 5 hours or something like that. Eventually, I promise, these will go up somewhere on the internet and you can show them to your friends and family.

Second, the overall winners will receive gift certificates from Bethel Cycle. Even if you live in Belarus, it's okay - you can go online and buy from them. Not like the gift certificates I won at races 20 years ago - they're still sitting in my bike memorabilia box.

Third, overall podium finishers will receive trophies and cash prizes and get nice pictures taken. IMPORTANT NOTE - we pay beyond the podium for the 3-4s and P-1-2-3s - so please, check with us if you are in, say, the top 5 or so. I thought it was fun to track down folks and surprise them with an envelope but I wouldn't get everyone, so I'm telling everyone now.

Finally, remember, it's just a bike race. Race hard, race fair, and smile and shake hands after the race. Keep the racing on the course because we're all in this together when we're off the course.

Good luck to all the racers that race tomorrow!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Racing - Category > Age

When I first started racing I felt totally lost. A couple enthusiastic racer types helped me find my way, getting me enough information to get a license, join a local club, and get out there and training. It's difficult to realize the magnitude of the undertaking, especially in those "postage stamp mail" days, at least until I get hit by some of the most innocuous questions.

"Do I need to bring my own number to the race?"
"Do I need a license?"

And some of the more standard and just as ubiquitous ones.

"I'm a Junior/Master and I'd like to race the Junior/Master race."
"I'm sorry, your license says you're a Cat 5. You can't enter the Junior/Master race here at Bethel. All Cat 5s have to race the Cat 5s."
"But I'm a Junior/Master!"

You, in USA Cycling's eyes, exist at three levels. Well, four. The first is whether you exist at all, i.e. you paid them money. Once you pay them money, you are broken down into the following:

Male or Female

You are a sum of all those parts. All of those parts must be taken into account when you enter a race.

Your gender rules the roost. If you are Male, you belong to an exclusive group that cannot enter other gender's bike races. In other words you cannot enter Female (Women's) races. Unless you're a he-she, but then that gets really complicated, and I still wonder how that guy entered the women's race at Fitchburg, but that's a whole different story altogether, and I'll have to think about that one at some other time.

For the sake of argument though, let's say most people are either male or female. XY or XX chromosomes.

Next is your age. If you are 18 or over, you cannot enter a Junior race. If you are under 30, you cannot enter Masters races. The latter depends on the Masters race's age range - a 40+ race allows riders 40 and over to enter, a 55+ allows 55 year olds and older, etc.

Since gender rules the roost, a woman 20 years younger than the race's range can enter a Masters race. A 35 year old woman can enter a 55+ men's race.

Finally your Category. With a gender exception (since gender rules the roost), you cannot race outside your category.

A Category 1 racer (aka "Cat 1") cannot enter a Cat 3 race. A Cat 5 cannot enter a Cat 4 race.

A mixed race allows multiple categories to enter - a Pro-1-2-3 lets Pros, Cat 1s, Cat 2s, and Cat 3s to compete together. A Cat 3-4 race allows Cat 3s and 4s to enter.

An age graded race (i.e. Juniors or Masters), unless specified otherwise, is open to all categories. However many promoters do not allow Cat 5s to enter age graded races.

Women, since gender rules the roost, can enter a race one category easier than their actual category. This means a Cat 4 Woman can enter a Cat 5 Men's race.

It seems pretty easy right? I mean my explanation was a bit complicated because I named exceptions. But think of your sex, age, and category. It's pretty clear which races you can enter.

Or perhaps not. It took me a lot of courage, as a Junior, to enter a Senior race. I was absolutely deathly afraid that all these grown men would pummel the little shrimp into the ground. Instead I won the race, taking all five or six primes as well, and suddenly I wasn't so intimidated.

Although I'd like to take credit for this performance, it's really, at that time a soon-to-be-pro, Frank McCormack who should take the bow. After racing against him in the Junior race, well, my expectations were extremely high in the Senior Men's Cat 4 race.

The Junior race, as it ends up, was a lot harder than the Cat 4 race. This was because of the following Rule of Thumb:

Category > Age

Your ability to race a bike is usually reflected in your category. Your age has nothing to do with it.

If you are a Junior, i.e. you haven't e, it doesn't matter one iota unless you're under, say, 15 or 16 years old. Gear limits, now required of Juniors regardless of the race's age, would handicap them in downhill sprints, any race with very long descents, or a massive tailwind section.

However, your Category is absolutely critical.

Are you a Junior who is a Category 5? Or a Junior who is a Category 1?

Those two creatures are miles and worlds apart.

A Junior Cat 1, if properly upgraded (i.e. actually deserves to be a Cat 1) will be able to race comfortably in a Pro-1-2 race. Maybe not for 100 miles, but definitely for a short 50 mile crit.

The same Junior, the Cat 1, can enter a 12 mile Bethel Spring Series race.

Which do you think will determine how fast the race is? The fact that he's a Junior? Or the fact that he's a Cat 1 racer?

Yeah, you got it.

It doesn't matter how old you are if you can drop the proverbial hammer on the bike.

This goes for those old guys too.

Too often I hear, "Oh, I'm too old to race."
"Really?" I reply. "How old are you?"
"40." (Or 45 or 50 or 55 or whatever.)
"Oh, that's funny. I got slaughtered by a 57 year old last year in a big race I wanted to win. And a 52 year old beat me in another one held at the same course."

Then the person, obviously having given up on living life, says "Oh, but..." and comes up with a different excuse.

Yeah, whatever.

The guys winning the Cat 3 races in the summer are often much older than you might think. Logic figures it should be some kid in college, arranges his schedule so he can train 2 hard days a week, race both weekend days, and works so he can train whenever he needs to in the summer, well, he should be winning races, right?


Okay, some do. And they rapidly go through the ranks and become a 2. But many, many top 10 Cat 3s are 40 years old or over. A bunch of them are over 50. And they still place in the money in the 3s.

This is because Category > Age.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Equipment - Atomic Balm

With Winter breathing its last gasps and temperatures rising accordingly, it's getting to that "in between" time. The time when you don't know if you should wear tights or knickers or, the best debate of all, shorts.

Debating on shorts is the best because there are two things that mark the beginning of the nice season. One is the first ride in shorts. The other is the first ride in shorts where you feel warm air rushing past your legs.

I cheated and did both of these out in California, but with the bitterly cold March temperatures (mostly anyway) I've pretty much forgotten what a nice, sunny, 75 degree day feels like, so I'm back on track. No more weather jet-lag, so to speak.

Yesterday it was 57 degrees, sunny, and not too windy. I felt a bit chilly just hanging around the apartment because I hadn't eaten my normal tons and tons of food. So when it was time to go for a spin, I started that ubiquitous debate. Tights or knickers. Knickers or shorts.

Knickers won because it seemed too warm for my super-heavy-duty tights. But when I went to put them on, I realized my bag of 55 degree weather gear (knickers, a thin baselayer, some other stuff I can't remember) was missing.

So shorts it was.

This meant I had to put on virtual knickers. The Balm.

Ah, the Balm.

I discovered the Balm in college in the late 80s. When I first used it, my legs burned so bad that I didn't use it for a long, long time. Then, at some chilly race where I didn't bring my tights, I used the Balm. And haven't stopped.

The current Balm is a weak replacement for the original stuff. The first tub I owned had red lettering, was considered Medium or Mild strength, and had 0.5% turpentine.


As I learned from my dad, turpentine is a solvent. A solvent is really good at dissolving something and letting it through permeable barriers.

In the case of the red lettered Atomic Balm, the turpentine would allow the rest of the Balm to penetrate deep into your skin, bringing all its various heating powers literally deeper into your body.

I guess at some point someone decided it wasn't good to have people rubbing turpentine into their skin so the ingredient disappeared. It didn't help that once the stuff was under your skin, you literally could not clean it off. My legs would burn for the whole day after a Balm race.

Alas my tub eventually went empty and I had to buy another one. No turpentine, to my disappointment. I actually contemplated adding in turpentine, can you believe that?

Actually, you probably can.

Anyway, no turpentine meant putting more on. I bought the Medium strength stuff, blue lettering. The Balm doesn't remove the tub's lettering like the turpentine version did.

I did buy the Hot level, but it's like jalapenos (once I eat one I lose my sense of taste) - too hot to be comfortable, no benefit. Medium Balm is like how much wasabi I use with my sushi - tons - but I can still taste other things after I eat it. Comfy hot, not painfully so.

To use the Balm, you should have the following:
1. Atomic Balm, Medium. Mild for sensitive skin folks.
2. Access to a bathroom with running water and lots of soap. Barring this, a bottle of rubbing alcohol and a couple towels. I can go through a small bottle of rubbing alcohol in 3 or 4 Balm sessions, and I use at least one towel for each one.
3. The ability to endure feeling like you just got rug burns all over your legs (this is after the ride, not before).
4. DO NOT SHAVE YOUR LEGS in the 12-24 hours prior to applying Balm, unless you are a total masochist.

The procedure for Balm usage follows below.

First, put your shorts and socks on. You don't want errant Balm ending up on sensitive parts of your body. I once made the mistake of putting on shorts, then Balm, then going outside and thinking I want knickers. I went back inside, took the shorts off, and put the knickers on.

In the process I slid the knickers along my Balmed legs. I finished dressing before the heat hit. At that moment I hated all the bib stuff I was wearing - it was like someone lit my privates on fire.

Needless to say I was late for the ride.

So, first, put your shorts on. Socks too, just in case.

Balm is like thick Vaseline that makes you hot. Note shaved legs - hairy legs and Balm don't mix. I used three servings of the above amount for my two legs. One for each, then one split between them "just in case"

Then, after you open the tub and take in the beautiful aroma, scoop some Balm out. I get two finger's worth for each leg. Since the stuff doesn't come off too easily, I try not to use both hands. My left hand, in this case, is the Balm hand. This is because I can't take pictures with my left hand.

Smear on leg. It looks like and feels like automotive axle grease. About as tenacious as well. But a lot hotter.

Next, smear the stuff on your leg. Focus on the front. You want to put as little as possible behind your knee simply because when you pedal, it naturally concentrates the Balm into the crevice created when you bend your knee. If you slather on the Balm back there it feels like someone is running a machete across that area after 15 minutes of pedaling. And feels like that until you wipe it off.

Second leg. Note rolled down socks. This is about when your eyes water a little.

Once you get some Balm on your legs, start spreading it around. I focus on getting good, even coverage. I try and get the stuff on my knees, shins, calves, thighs. I put less on my hamstrings since they're out of the wind and get kind of hot kind of quickly.

As an added benefit, Balm will moisturize dry skin nicely.

Even coverage. And an instant tan, kind of.

Once you finish putting the stuff on, roll down the top of your shorts, roll up your socks (if applicable), and make sure your legs have an even heat sensation. Any cold spots will be extremely cold later. Just skip the back of your knees - a very, very light coating there.

Wash your hands with soap and water or rub them clean with rubbing alcohol and a towel. Now you're ready to either put on the rest of your gear or, if you already have (usually I have), you can go for a ride.

In this case, I wore the following, bottom up, for a 55-57 degree sunny and not windy day:


SS jersey (base)
LS thick jersey (outer)
windvest, unzipped (my shoulders were a bit cool)
winter level head cover
vented helmet (not taped - I probably could have used the taped helmet with a cap but I wanted to cover my ears)
Long finger windproof gloves

I protect my core temperature and my head. My legs I let fend for themselves - if my core is hot, my legs will be able to draw off some of that heat energy. Instead of using my head to cool off my body, I make my legs do it. This way I have less material constricting my legs, the muscles and tendons are still warm, and, well, it looks very pro.

As soon as I started out I swapped for short finger gloves. I didn't need to conserve that much core heat.

Once you finish, you need to wipe off the Balm using rubbing alcohol or scrub the stuff off in the shower.

If you are using a shower, even luke warm water will burn like molten lava when it hits your Balm'ed legs. Work through it (because you know it's not burning you) and get the stuff off. Your legs will stay pleasantly hot but you'll lose the molten lava feeling. When your legs feel sort of clean (it'll feel a bit Vaseline-y) you're done.

Now you have to wait for 3-4 hours for your legs to suddenly cool. In my case, yesterday, it took 3 hours. Sitting at dinner, suddenly my legs cooled down, kind of like they suddenly exhaled and said "Enough is enough."

Note: this stuff smells somethin' powerful. So if you are in an area where things smell nice or should smell nice, put the Balm on somewhere else. The smell lingers for a day or so, more if it's in an enclosed place.

A final warning. Do not discuss this product in an airport. I'd refer to it as "heat rub".

"Dude, I'm at the security check point so I can't talk long. No, I checked my bike gear. I just have my shoes, Balm, laptop, and my SRM head. I can't wait until.. hey, what are you doing?? Why are you pointing a gun at me?? What do you mean shut up?? I didn't say BOMB, I said Ball-M!! Hey dude, I gotta go, I'll call you back later."

Okay, if you do, just be aware of any potential consequences.