Sunday, February 06, 2011

Racing - Red Trolley Crit 2011

Today was the 2011 Red Trolley Criterium. It's the one I did last year (helmet cam too), had a blast, sat up in the last lap, but overall it was pretty fun.

Of course last year I could enter the Cat 3 race. This year I had two choices - the M35+ (Cat 1-4) or the P12 race.

I saw that some known entities had registered for the P12 race, meaning racers whose name I recognize from reading CyclingNews and VeloNews.

I didn't recognize any names in the M35+ (sorry guys) so my chicken self decided that I'd be doing the M35+.

I've been feeling under the weather for most of my trip here, only perking up on one day, but otherwise suffering through a stuffy and clogged head and lungs. On my rides I felt like I was breathing through a tube, or even through (trying anyway) a cork. As recently as Wednesday I felt horrible, totally capped, like I had a restrictor plate on my already limited lungs.

I started to feel a bit better a couple days ago, finally able to take a deep breath without wincing from a sensation of someone punching me in the gut. Combined with a clearing head, less phlegm in the morning, and I decided that I'd be a good 20% better Sunday compared to Wednesday.

This meant that I had a chance in the race.

My conservative self gave me five laps in the race, maybe ten, if things worked out my way. I had zero expectations, nothing whatsoever.

I had actually considered not going, an extremely slight chance, but I had to commit when an intraweb racer person umd asked if he could borrow my ContourHD for the Cat 3 race. He'd made a 3 or 4 hour drive down to the weekend of races but had left his trusty camera recharging on his computer.

With that I had to go.

I don't have a routine here in SoCal for going to a race. I also had a new bike that needed some mods for race day. I wanted to run the Bastognes with the Krylion tires and an 11-25 cassette. Since the rear Bastogne sat there with a tired Bontrager tire and a 12-25 cassette, I had some work to do.

It took longer than it should have to swap the tire, and I used a new tube in the rear. I had just used a long valve tube in the front tire so I swapped that tube out too. Then I swapped the cassettes between the two wheels.

After I got the wheels on the bike and removed the seat bag, I looked at the bottle cages. I knew I'd be using the RaceBak jersey for fluids so I didn't need the cages. I'd carry a bottle to drink from during my warm-up, ditching it with my hosts before the start (along with the nice but heavy watch the Missus gave me for Christmas).

I didn't need the cages. I had to make a decision. Run with them? Or commit and run without them?

I committed. I removed the bottle cages.

I have no routine for packing up two kids' bikes, two other bikes, plus assorted gear for all of the above. It took a while to get going but we made it to the race with two (!) fully loaded cars packed with all the gear.

I don't even know where to start if I have to pack two cars.

I caught up with umd (or rather, he pulled up to the car) just a few minutes before the start of his race. He quickly zip-tied the ContourHD to his stem, trimmed the zipties with another intraweb racer's knife (agoodale, or was it his teammate crash?), and handed me a bag.

His iPhone and some other stuff.

The daughter asked her mom why he gave me that stuff and she replied that it was kind of a trade, to say that he'd be giving my camera back to me.



I didn't really know him from anyone else, and if he just disappeared with my camera...

What's funny is that based on my interaction with him, I never even considered the possibility he'd abscond with the camera.

Nonetheless I had his iPhone and stuff. It actually made me feel uncomfortable having his stuff in my possession.

I went to register. A familiar looking guy stood in line in front of me. I kind of peeked around him to look at his face.

I think he used to race for Jelly Belly, when they had red jerseys and shorts. I think he was the US National Pro Champion when he raced for Chevy LA Sheriffs, the best placed US rider in Philly. I think he won the gold medal for the pursuit in the 1984 Olympics.

Number 735 looked familiar.

The registration guy looked at him.

"How can I help you?"
"I'd like to register for the 35+ race. I just did the 45+."

Oh lordy. It was Steve Hegg. He killed it in the 1984 pursuits. I read somewhere that when the USCF (predecessors to USA Cycling) studied how to optimize his pedal stroke, they found that when he started his pursuits he lifted the front wheel off the track for the first one and a half pedal revolutions.

This guy has a motor beyond belief. And he was in my race.

Properly subdued, I registered, grabbed a lot of pins (thanks - I forgot mine), and headed back to the cars to change. I struggled into the RaceBak (it's properly snug), kitted up with the jersey over it, and got ready to ride.

After umd's race (I was changing as it finished and getting ready so I didn't know how he did), I rolled up to where he had parked. I saw a rider with a similar kit, bathed in sweat.

"You looking for umd?"
"Yeah I have his phone. Can you take it for him?"

I was giving up his collateral but I felt comfortable doing that. Plus I didn't want to damage anything and I felt better if his teammate had it, not me.

Ends up the guy accepting the phone reads the blog so that was cool.

I forgot when I got the camera back but I did. Umd and I rolled around a bit, then found a nice deserted bit of road, a slight downhill followed by a slight uphill. We turned around at the top of the grade and repeated the loop.

After a couple of them, and with maybe 7 or 8 minutes before our race start, umd looked at me a bit hesitantly.

"Um, do you just roll around before races or do you do any efforts?"
"I think I'll do an effort today, maybe on the next loop."

I didn't want to say that most of my warm ups involve riding to the start and that's about it. This one was better than most, and reminded me of warming up a bit with SOC. A little more riding, a little less of nothing.

Of course there was this other thing, the whole internet thing.

There's that dichotomy between internet and reality. Things aren't always as they seem on the internet. I try and be accurate online but an honest mistake is an honest mistake. I also take some artistic liberties with conversations and such because I don't record every second of my life.

And there's the bike racing thing. There's internet strength and real life strength. That guy with the 900 horsepower lawnmower has, when you finally meet him, a regular Snapper.

And the guy that can rip legs off of other racers on the web? He's barely able to balance on a bike.

This, then, was kind of a test. Is my online persona real? Or is it just an elaborate fake?

Based on Wednesday's abysmal failure of a ride, I couldn't blame anyone for thinking that the person typing here was blowing smoke up... well you know. Jan, for one, must have had some doubts about this internet gorilla guy.

So I felt a bit of pressure to do a decent jump.

Luckily I felt okay. My legs felt okay, and, more importantly, my lungs felt normal. My bike, stripped of all non-essentials, tipped the scales at a touch over 18 pounds, a full 6 pounds less than its training weight a week ago.

I had no excuses.

Umd looked at me.

"Give me a warning and I'll try and stay with you."

He thought about it for a second.

"Or don't give me a warning, just go. I'll try and stay with you anyway. Whatever you want, it's okay by me."

I felt a bit ridiculous doing the "3, 2, 1, go" thing so I just transmitted my intent using the Force. Oh, wait, that's the son's effect on me, our 4 hour Star Wars marathon last night. I meant to say "body language".

So as umd said something, I slowly tuned him out. Regrasped the bars. Did one of those shoulder hunch breath intake. Checked my gears.

If I wasn't transmitting my intent, I don't know what else I could have done.

Then I jumped.

Not a bad one, I have to admit. I didn't want to leave my legs behind in the warm up but I also know that doing jumps with SOC really helped my races towards the end of the 2010 season.

I shifted once, when I jumped, and once again as I started to falter. I looked down as I slowed, and the SRM showed only three digits, 900 or so watts. Eh, okay. Nothing major. But good enough.

Well, it ought to have been enough, based on the numbers I saw when I downloaded the SRM data.

Just under 1100 watts for 15 seconds. 1323 watts peak.

Yikes. Okay, it wasn't a record or anything. I did a few 1400+ watt jumps before Harlem one year. But this was pretty good for me.

In fact, if I knew what I just did, I'd have been a bit worried that I left my legs behind on the warm up.

But I didn't, figured I probably hit 1100 or so peak, averaged 900, so it was all good. Umd grinned when he caught up with me. I guess my internet strength made some sense.

I lined up on the left, not really concerned with much. I was here for five laps, and if the race shelled me after five laps, I didn't want to embarrass myself by snagging a prime spot up front.

The race started out... normally. In fact, until they hit the lap cards, it seemed a lot like a Cat 3 race. I did find myself trickling backwards through the field, but that was normal for me. I wasn't sure if I could make it back to the front before the end of the race, but sitting at the back felt manageable.

I didn't realize until after the race that I was hitting 800 watts or higher on virtually every lap. Even as I got "tired" I was deep into the 700 watt range. The repeated peaks got lower and lower, indicating my pretty bad fatigue curve.

Fatigue curve evident.
Hint: I'm the one looking down.

I only had two stutters in the race. The first happened when I mistakenly thought the front would accelerate harder out of the last turn, heading up the hill. I had to brake then work hard to stay on wheels. Although this put me in the red, I thought I could recover from it. I went from a "more to the front" position to a "more to the rear" position, but otherwise I felt okay.

The second happened when someone probably panicked midfield, practically coming to a stop in the last turn. One good rider (someone pointed him out to me as a guy to watch) yelled at the braking racer, but it was too late. We all had to slam on our brakes to avoid the chaos midfield, and I started the hill overgeared and lacking any momentum.

I'm pretty sure this is the lap I broke 1000 watts accelerating up the hill, but it didn't matter. I went into the red and started to dangle precariously at the back of the field.

The officials let us know it was 6 to go, and suddenly the race changed. It seemed more like a P12 race, not a Cat 3 race. The field strung out, gaps started to open, and all my energy saving tricks went out the door - I couldn't coast into every turn, I had to close gaps right away, and, well, I couldn't do everything I needed to do. That top end, that edge, I lacked it. I couldn't rev it over and over; I had to save a bit before I revved it again, but the race didn't allow me that luxury.

I rolled by the host family just as I let go of the wheel in front of me, a ten foot gap that promised to become 1000 in just a few minutes.

I heard the kids yelling for me, cheering me on. I realized that I had the most consistent cheers of anyone here, from them and some others (probably those internet friends).

I couldn't let them down. I dug deep, closed the gap, and the pack happened to sit up just a touch.

A couple laps later the field, strung out already, went even faster.

My legs were done.

I eased, letting the field ride away. But they didn't disappear, static just 50 or 75 meters in front of me, and I thought, hey, maybe I can do the last few laps on my own. I'm normally not one for time trialing while off the back but with the family there cheering, the opportunity to train on a closed course...

A training opportunity, just before I dropped down into the Cane Creek Bars.

I put my head down. I used the Cane Creek Speed Bars on the main straight.

I exploded less than a minute later.

So much for any extra time trial training.

I called it a day and rolled up the sidewalk to the disappointed and worried kids. We watched the finish of the race together, the break barely surviving, Hegg trailing it coming up to the line. I guess he'd made a huge bridge move and must have cooked his legs doing it.

After the race I caught up with umd and met and talked with esammuli a bit. It's kind of an alternative reality, one that appears and disappears. It's like your seat neighbor on the plane. In the plane, in that isolated environment, it's a different world. Then when you land and walk away, the world reverts back to normal.

Likewise I found it odd to be talking to umd, but at the same time it seemed perfectly natural. I also won't see him for a while. Maybe I'll see him at some international race or at Interbike, but the reality is that I may not see him again for a year or three.

He does have connections back east, the town over from my dad's in fact, so it may not be quite so long. But you understand what I'm saying.

After a stop at In-N-Out Burger, a classic California burger joint, we headed back home. I told my host that I wanted to take a picture of my bike. Yes, it was stripped down. Yes, it had the Bastognes on it.

But until today it was a road bike.

Now it was a race bike.

Race bike, yo.
Photo by my host.

Tomorrow will be the last day on the bike, followed by packing for the flight home on Tuesday. The SoCal 2011 story is drawing to a close...


Jancouver said...

The hump from the underwearBak looks really freakish :)

Aki said...

Helps offset the belly :)

Brad said...

Beautiful bike Aki! Enjoy it.

Ron said...

So... you know anyone who has video of this race that they could put on YouTube?

Aki said...

Heh. I haven't done anything but download the clip. I have no "theme" in mind right now. Normally I have a theme and it drives the whole process.

Clips typically take me 20-30+ hours of editing before the 2-3-4 days where I find and correct most of the minor errors (i.e. make a 5 minute change, wait 30 min to remaster clip, review a few times so that takes 30-45 min, make a change, etc), and even then there are mistakes I've seen in virtually every clip I've put up.

I may not get to it too quickly as it's only 2 weeks until the race series I promote as well as the clinic series which is a first for me.