Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Racing - July 20, 2010 @TuesTheRent

With the end of July approaching, the end of the Tour, I feel a curious mix of Elation, Blahs, and Disappointment.

I feel Elation because I finally start feeling good just about now. I can recover from efforts reasonably quickly. I can crank out a hundred mile ride, R&R for a day, and feel like I hadn't been on a bike for the past week when I go for a ride the following day. I can make enormous efforts, blow up, wait for 15 or 20 seconds to pass, and feel, maybe not comfortable, but at least like I have something more to give.

I feel the Blahs because although I may feel like I can make effort after effort after effort on a ride, my body pays the price. I'm constantly hungry, constantly tired, and, it seems, dragging my feet more and more. I can tell this at work, at home, and even on vacation. My already significant inertia gets all that more massive.

And finally, I feel Disappointment. Disappointment that the Tour will be over soon. That my favorite races, for the most part, have already been held. I feel disappointed that my form, my fitness, can't be used much more.

Ultimately, though, I have to admit that this is the part of the season where I feel most at ease. I feel relatively comfortable that I can enter a given crit and have some reasonable expectation of doing okay. I can explore boundaries in other events, maybe a road race or two, maybe tackling a tougher group ride, even attack on a hill or two.

With all that in mind, one can understand why, after a hard Sunday race, I didn't even touch my bike on Monday. Yeah, it was nice out in the evening, yeah, I could have ridden, yeah, my gear was there next to the bike...

But, no, the Blahs won. I felt like I really wanted to take the night off. So I did.

And Tuesday the feeling continued. I felt sluggish at work, working hard simply to motivate myself. The heat of the day didn't help, nor did whatever physical work I had to do. I was hungry all day, like usual, and ended up ordering a large cheese pizza from a local favorite. I ate 9/16 of it, a lot, and drank a decent amount of Pepsi (which is what the pizza place sells).

Properly satiated, tired, I left early for the race. I got home, knowing I had to pack the bike, collect my gear, and see how my legs would respond. I was afraid I'd feel totally flat, no speed, unable to respond to the moves.

Imagine my surprise when I got home. The Missus was there, waiting, the garage door open, her new hot rod slash raceday car ready to go.

"Your bike's in the car. I didn't know which wheels you wanted so I put all of them in. Your gear bag is in the back. Your shoes are there. Your helmet isn't in the car. I have three bottles of ice water."

Oh.

Well now.

I ran in, got my helmet (with the cam on it, making sure the memory card was cleared), searched briefly for my HR strap, gave up, changed into some cooler clothes, and hopped in the car. The Missus peeled out, dumping the clutch at 4k rpm, burning rubber down the street, a cloud of blue-black haze obscuring the cats waving bye.

Okay, that last part didn't happen, but I thought the image was good.

She took an alternate route to the race, following the philosophy that if you don't even hit a certain highway, you can't possibly get stuck in traffic on said highway.

We got to the Rent in good time - curiously enough, we didn't get stuck on a certain highway like we normally do. I changed on the way, using 18 (!?) pins on my number. The more pins I use the better I seem to race, and I only had 18 pins, else I'd have used more.

18 pins.
I could add two more rows of 6 pins, to make an even 30.

I was on the bike pretty quickly after we got there, registered, and went to warm up.

I could barely turn my legs over.

I forced myself to stand up, out of the saddle, and make an "effort". I told SOC about it afterwards, and imagined that I'd done an 800 watt surge, hitting maybe 30 mph.

When I looked at my SRM data, I realized just what kind of a joke the effort really was - it was simply pitiful. I managed to almost break 400 watts, accelerated to a massive speed of 21 mph, and, after 20-odd seconds of effort, sat down, exhausted.

This didn't bode well for the race in a few minutes.

SOC and I briefly met before the race. He wanted to work on his sprinting. See, I told him I wanted to work on my sprint while we were out there on the Cape, try and find some of my lost speed. We only did one set of sprints, maybe six of them total, and, afterwards, I analyzed his sprint. I gave him some tips while we were doing them, but afterward, using the helmet cam footage, I dug into him ruthlessly.

Tonight he wanted to practice his new-found knowledge.

For me, well, my perceived 30 mph surge meant I thought I'd be okay, but my first goal was not to get dropped. After that I'd see how things went.

Now, normally, the Missus and I exchange a good luck kiss before a race. Since we hadn't, when we lined up I pursed my lips and made kissing motions. I started over to her but the race was about to begin - she didn't move.

I decided to roll over to her and as soon as I did, the race started. Committed, we got in our good luck kiss, and I set off, 20 meters behind the field.

A 900 watt (for real, according to Mister SRM) jump later and I integrated into the back of the typically compact field.

The kiss must have done it. After a lap or two I started feeling antsy. Moving up easily, I started feeling better about my legs. My fatigue melted away, and I started feeling that familiar sense of fitness, the deep reserves, the surprising resilience of the legs. Elation replaced Blah.

Although the chief legbreaker, Aidan, was missing from the group, there were a couple others in there. As the race unfolded, I realized that the ratio of legbreakers to pack fodder (like me) had skewed towards the pack fodder side. This meant, if things didn't explode, the field would probably stay together. Or if it didn't, it'd be a huge split, like 10 guys go away, 20 guys chase endlessly.

I decided that I'd be in the front split no matter what. Too often I'd find myself following wheels, sitting behind a few guys chasing half-heartedly, while rider after ride bridged to the front group. Then, suddenly, I'd realize that the front group had 15 riders while my group had 4.

And that'd be the end of my race.

I made it a point to bridge gaps, to work, to pull, to do whatever necessary to keep things together. I'd cajole my legs into one more effort, then, when someone launched a counter attack, beg my tired legs to make just one more effort, to respond to the counter.

They always responded.

I kept getting deeper and deeper into the race. Whenever I found myself with even a little bit of reserve, if someone went, I went too. (Sweat) equity-wise, I was totally committed to the race. I'd done too much work to let a gap go now.

I'd read a future gap in front of me, sometimes half a lap before it happened, and steel myself for the effort. Then, when the inevitable gap finally opened, I'd jump across it, no hesitation, no thoughts of giving up the responsibility to another rider.

I started getting a bit fuzzy mentally. My glasses were a bit cloudy with sweat and water, and I couldn't see all that clearly. My mood turned a bit sour, and my perception of things became such that I took everything literally.

Let me illustrate. On the sprint curve, the course has a left side curb that juts out just a bit. With the wind coming from the right at that point, riders hugged the left side. We'd come close to hitting that curb regularly.

One lap, I felt someone moving up on my inside. I knew he was there and left just enough room for him to clear the curb. But I never turned my head, never acknowledged his presence. It must have made him uncomfortable because, as a precaution, he tapped my hip.

Now, for me, removing a hand is less desirable than a little verbal signal. If I'm in a larger group, I'll call out grates or potholes as opposed to pointing them out. If I point something out and then lose control because I only have one hand on the bars, that's no good.

So when that guy tapped my hip, my response was automatic, although it was delayed a second while my brain processed the words.

"You can just yell, you don't have to touch me."

On the next curb I felt another tap.

This time I looked. A friendly face grinned at me. It wasn't a critical face, nor a hostile one. He went by me and took a long pull, leading the field across part of a gap to the break. He hadn't meant to do anything "negative", but my seriousness hadn't let me realize that.

I had to chill out a bit.

At another point someone bobbled in the final turn. SOC had been following a friendly wheel, but said wheel swerved as a reaction to the bobble, taking him well off the racing line. SOC eased to give him some shelter, but in the process left a big gap.

Who was next in line?

Your truly.

Mentally grumbling, I worked for about 100 meters to close the gap, an effort I really didn't want to make at that point in the race. Later I told SOC that the friendly wheel was perfectly capable of getting back on the wheels, but that leaving a gap made me close it, and it took another effort out of my legs. At the beginning of a race, fine, he could give someone some help. But towards the end of a race, he should worry first about gaps, second about helping someone who was out in the wind.

Nonetheless, as we got into the last 5 laps, I felt pretty good. Solid, like I'd been working, but I could still do more work. As I'd hoped, although guys made a lot of moves, the race had stayed together. Pruned a bit, the field bore down on an expected field sprint.

My legs were twinging though and I felt it better to lead out SOC rather than go for the win on my own. I didn't want to risk committing to going for the win and then cramping in the sprint.

When I figured it was coming up on the bell, I saw SOC move like he wanted to do some work. A couple guys dangled off the front, and they'd be a perfect stepping stone to a big solo effort.

"Let me pull," I hollered.

SOC visibly eased, and I rolled through to the front. Settling into a decent effort, I rolled towards the finish line, expecting the bell.

But no bell. I started doubting myself and checked the lapcard as a last resort.

2 to go.

Arg.

Well, only one thing to do. Keep going.

I pulled steady, my legs weakening dramatically as they threatened to cramp. My just-under-29 mph steady pull got slower and slower, until I dropped below 25 as we approached the bell. Surprisingly no one came around, and, after letting SOC know I was dead, I pulled off.

I decided to check out the sprint first hand, so I made a quick u-turn, rolled back to the finish area, took off the helmet, and aimed the cam at the field.

As they came out of the last turn, I could see a familiar kit at the front.

SOC was leading it out.

"He's leading it out," I reported.

It was kind of windy. Wind from the left initially, so he'd be giving shelter to whoever was on his wheel. He followed the fencing on the inside, and eventually the wind would be from his right. At that point he'd have the advantage.

But he strayed from the fence, leaving an enormous gap to the inside. Had someone jumped there, they'd have gotten shelter, the shorter line, and probably the race.

The field, though, was strung out, and only one guy could contest the sprint. He'd already committed to the outside. In the wind, unable to get shelter, he nonetheless gained ground on SOC.

SOC needed a boost.

"Yell at him," I told our Missuses, trying not to yell because the helmet cam was about 2 inches from my mouth.

They yelled.

He finished off the long sprint. His challenger faltered.

The Missuses to the right. SOC in the middle.

And SOC won the A race.

I was too tired to even yell right. My mouth screwed up the words. Instead of "Woohoo!", it came out more like "You... Woohoo!"

But that's okay.

What was that about Blahs and Disappointment?

Chalk this one up to Elation.

3 comments:

agilismerlin said...

Aki,

just had some dude come in the shop repping for louis garneau,

said he owns a shop near uconn, skinny, ponytail.

looks like he had the shit beaten out of him, big bike accident, road rash on face and knuckles. Looked like he got the raw end of the deal.

He knows you and jim miller well, said you used to live in his bike shop

kevin

Aki said...

That's Ron, he's a good guy. He ran the Mansfield 'cross races for forever. I ran into him locally which was kind of funny.

Anonymous said...

Great writing! Thanks for the race report and the blog! I love to read it!!