Monday, March 21, 2011

Outdoor Sports Center Bethel Spring Series - 2011 Tour de Kirche Report

I thought for sure I'd have very little to look forward to on Sunday the 20th. Yes, it's the third race of the Outdoor Sports Center Bethel Spring Series. That means it's the half way point, after Sunday half the Series will be done.

The stress and pressure I've felt for the past two weeks has been tremendous, even resulting in an all day chest ache last week.

I'd written off being competitive in the races as early as April of 2010, when the Series ended last year. I wanted to head into 2011 with no pressure to perform on the bike, just whatever sense of honor I had within me to uphold my end of the bargain when I asked to be upgraded.

I wanted to use my 2010 form to upgrade to Cat 2 so that I'd enter 2011 as a newly minted 2 with no expectations. In the Bethel Spring Series, that meant that I could only enter the P123 race. I don't qualify for the Masters race if I kept them at 45+, and I kept it there for very selfish reasons - I didn't want to get tempted to enter that race. The P123s, with some very good racers, felt out of reach for me. I wouldn't be gunning for the Jersey, not even for a placing, so I could just race "however" and be okay with it.

Of course, at the time, that seemed relatively insignificant. I could race "however". I just had to put on the races. Honor, duty, whatever, right?

The winter didn't help. I didn't lose weight like I thought I wanted. I say it like that because if I really wanted to, I'd have lost it. I didn't lose weight (I gained about 10 lbs), so I didn't necessarily want it that badly. I didn't train much either, with time spent doing all the thing I didn't do during the summer. Finally I got sick at very inopportune times, the times where I had free blocks of time to train.

It really hurt that I got sick in California, unable to really train hard for most of the trip. Then I got sick when I got back, so that didn't help my pathetic lack of form.

Therefore I headed into the Series poorly prepared as a rider.

Unfortunately, to me, I also went in poorly prepared as a promoter. I always have dreams for the races, little baby steps. I'm not looking to make the race huge; lots of people have asked me if I'd thought about "big race stuff" like PA systems, finish line banners, stuff like that.

And I always think, "It's a Spring Series. Not a July 4th crit."

But that doesn't stop me from thinking of cool things I want to do. I'll openly talk about them if it's something I think I'll be pulling off that year, where I have realistic plans and such. But if it's possible it may not work, well, I shut up about it.

Better to under-promise and over-deliver than to over-promise and under-deliver, right?


My big goal this year was to have better race numbers. With Outdoor Sports Center stepping up in a huge way, I wanted to honor our first cash sponsor in memory (I couldn't believe that's accurate either until I thought about it for a while). In the past I've gotten merchandise and sometimes a lot of it, but the cash that the race spends, that comes from the racers and the promoter. For a long time it came just from the racers, but recently someone else has been footing part of the bill.

Since it's not the racers, you can guess who it might be.

I also wanted to have more prizes, primes mainly. But it's hard for me to buy them (the race historically tried to pay for all the prizes it gave away, minus the watches and wheels and frames early on), and hard for me to ask for them. Usually I just give out money. Everyone can use money, and I don't have to buy it - I just give out money racers have given the race.

But with help from others... Outdoor Sports Center is a pretty big operation and has a lot of buying power. This means they could ask for some goodies from their various reps. It takes time, effort, and a certain level of fiscal commitment (i.e. "We're gonna buy a whole lotta your product, can you donate some of your goodies to this race we're sponsoring?"). OSC came through in a huge way, accumulating a lot of stuff.

You prime winners know this. It's cool stuff, good stuff, stuff a bike racer wants or likes. So I may not go out and buy myself a particular item (like a Michelin shirt or Garmin cap) but if I won one, I'd wear it proudly. It's this kind of stuff I wanted to give away, stuff that I'd want to win myself, and it's stuff like that that OSC got for the race.

There's more coming up too, with one week which I'll "sub-name" Thule Week, with halfway primes from Thule and a nice big prize which anyone who raced that day can win (I'm still working out exactly when that prize will go).

Of course some of you have bumped your head on the CAAD10 frame hanging over registration. That's another prize that got donated to the race, courtesy the efforts of OSC, although technically the folks whose office sits just beyond Turn Two (i.e. Cannondale) actually gave us the frame. That one will be given away on the last day of the Series, along with yet another Thule item sure to be high on people's wishlists.

But I digress.

We can give away all that cool stuff because of Outdoor Sports Center and their commitment to helping the race. I didn't do all that schwag collecting - they did it.

On their own.

Without me asking.

Now, if you ask me, that's a sponsor that rocks.

So, at the very least, I wanted to have the coolest numbers out there. It wasn't just a promise now, it was something I felt compelled to do.

A duty, if you will.

And now it wasn't so casual, this feeling of duty. I had to repay their efforts.

I thought that a nice full color logo on custom printed numbers would be awesome; I also wanted them to be different from what's out there. I spent some time with Frank of Navone Studios trying to figure out the best way to print up these numbers; you guys saw them on the first and second week of the race.

First batch of numbers.

The P123s got the better numbers, but they were much more expensive.

Expensive number in action. It's fine, normal, but with much better print quality.
Not good enough though.

But Frank, a guy with very high standards for himself, was actually embarrassed by the initial batch of numbers. He wanted to raise his game another notch. Another five notches, really.

In our talks after Ris, he had an epiphany. While I typed up some stuff like race reports and such at the end of the day, he came over with three test numbers for me to check. We did some initial tests. We knew they were waterproof but we needed to check ripstop (i.e. pin resistance). They failed miserably but Frank pointed out that with a sticky back, the numbers would be stronger.

Not only that, I realized, if it's a sticky back, the pins would be there just to keep it from peeling. The sticky back would do the rest.

Plus, it's soooo Pro. So Pro. Oh so Pro.

I decided to go ahead with these numbers. Because, you know, if it worked they'd be so Pro. It was a huge risk - if they didn't work, we'd be scrambling for numbers on race day because, honestly, I barely had enough extras to handle one day of racers. Frank and I were committed to making the Sticky Back Numbers work.

Of course then I got a cold.

I spent a lot of time doing nothing, less than 2.5 hours riding my bike, and on the warmest day of the year (Friday) I rode 10.77 miles outside. Yeah, I was wearing just shorts on my legs, but, come on, I rode 38 minutes or something. 16.8 mph.

I was coughing a lot. I couldn't think straight. I spent a lot of time in bed when I wasn't at work. Saturday (which I take unpaid from work since I use it to prep for the race), I didn't even try to get down to Bethel early. The week prior Frank said he'd be there from noon to 5; in reality he was there till past 6 or so. I know because I was there too.

This week I decided that I'd be good if I got there by 3. I gave up racing Sunday; I'd sacrifice my reserves to get the course in raceable condition. If the course needed touching up, I'd use up whatever I had left handling that, and I promised myself to do the inside registration work before I went out to do course maintenance.

So it wasn't until almost 2 that I left. I checked my oil as my car was running a bit sluggish. To my horror I saw some brown pudding under the oil cap.


Blown head gasket or a cracked head or a cracked block. My trusty red car would need a heart transplant soon. But Bethel called. So I headed down, knowing I'd be using up the car in these last few weeks of the Series.

I pulled onto the course and my spirits lifted.

The Bethel Street Sweep Elves had been here recently. The course was clean.

That there is some clean pavement, full of traction.

Dusty, yes. But no grains and such.

One fast lap with a leaf blower and it'd be good. I decided to ask the helpers to do that tomorrow. Today I'd stay indoors, stay warm, and work on registration.

I went inside. I saw the stack of numbers from last week. No new numbers.

I wandered in back.

"Frank, you have the numbers for this week?"

"You wanted numbers for this week?"

My heart stopped. I mean, it probably didn't, but I'm pretty sure it stuttered.

Then I realized he was grinning.

He had them stacked up, some finish work necessary.

I went and set up registration, my mind wandering a bit due to I don't know, fatigue and lightheadedness and whatever else.

Frank came over with the numbers. They looked awesome. My spirits lifted. And things were good.

I stay at my dad's a couple towns over, in the town where I grew up, in the house where I grew up, and, for the last two weeks, in the actual room that was my room when I was a kid. Which is pretty cool if you consider that it was 25 years ago that I lived there. Doing the Series is a lot more than doing a race. It's about family and catching up and talking and being brothers (my sister lives out West) and stuff.

So I talked with my brother, my sister-in-law, listened to the young nephews' breathless stories before they had to go to bed, and gave my dad a big hug. Last week we brothers and sis-in-law talked about the tsunami. Not my bike, no, we talked about the wave thing that hit Japan like a ProTour rider scything through a Cat 5 field. My dad's sister had been out of touch, and she lives (or lived) in Sendai. We eventually got in touch with her and she's okay, but we didn't know that last week. You can imagine the mood last week. I'm sure it didn't help my stress level any.

This week the discussion was a bit more positive - how to help Japan. It's not a poor country. It's not broke. They're busy printing money to pay for all the recovery costs. It's a country populated by people who feel an extremely strong sense of duty, of honor, of doing what they need to do.

It's a country where people pick up litter and put it in the trash. Where if someone driving cuts off a cyclist, apparently the driver gets out, bows an apology, and feels shame for failing as a citizen.

There's no looting. I read an article where a Times reporter finally found a store owner who saw looters. Three of them. The reporter asked if it was that desperate that people resorted to looting. The store owner looked at him.

"They were foreigners."

Duty and honor. So how do you help the Japanese?

By buying their products. Because Japan needs business to survive and thrive, so that businesses can pay their employees, so that businesses can pay their taxes.

And trust me, they pay their taxes. They pay enough that companies are rated by how much tax they pay (at least when I saw some stats on Japan). They dutifully pay what they're supposed to pay. They may complain, but they pay.

And in that way, through taxes paid to the government, the government paying for the recovery, they'll finance the recovery.

With that, I went to bed. Not sleep, bed. I read a bit of William Gibson, Count Zero, a real kick-butt book that gets better every time I read it. Gibson's other big book (to me) is Neuromancer, with Wintermute a main character of sorts in there; the trilogy ends with Mona Lisa Overdrive. At midnight I went to sleep. Woke up at about 4:30, startled myself awake, thought I overslept. At 5:15 the alarm went off - by then I was tired again, and I let it snooze once before I showered and set off to the races.

Unlike last week, the races (from a promoter point of view) went well. No one yelled at me (and I'm not saying that people that yell at me can't yell at me, I just feel like I've failed my duties as a promoter if that happens). No one complained.

And slowly, unsurely, we handed out the Sticky Back Numbers.

The racers loved them.

I didn't have my own Sticky Back Number experience until 20 or so minutes before the P123 race, when I started to kit up. I got the backing off the number, marveled at the number's thinness, and stuck it on my jersey.

Sticky Back Number

StickyBackNumber after the race.
Note four USAC mandatory pins.
They're mandatory for our numbers too because they could peel off otherwise.

Holy smokes! This totally rocked. Totally, totally rocked.

I could barely contain my glee. Okay, fine, I admit I couldn't contain my glee, and the registration girls made fun of my unbridled enthusiasm over the numbers.

When I lined up my enthusiasm got sidelined a bit during a chat with the guy winning the Cat 3-4 Series overall, Bryan H. He asked me if I remembered a guy that I initially knew as Lee Wintermute.

As in the "character" name in Neuromancer.

Of course I remembered him. With a William Gibson character name, especially as arcane as "Wintermute", how could I forget?

But just before we set off on the race, I couldn't help myself from doing an informal poll, right then, right there.

"Hey, a quick question," I hollered. "How do you guys like the Sticker Numbers?!"

The group cheered their approval.

Duty fulfilled.

The race for me was anticlimactic. Okay, that doesn't say much so I'll describe my race. I sat in, realized I wasn't going to finish after about 8 laps, attacked at lap 27 or so as a last hurrah, then crawled up the hill so pitifully slow that a friend ran over and pushed me up the hill so I could finish my 28th lap - like I said, anticlimactic.

No, for me, my race wasn't as important as everyone else's race (if you will). I define my success at the Series in terms of how the race gets held. If it's good, if racers like it, I'm happy. I've fulfilled my duty as a promoter, to provide a good race (whatever that may be).

If racers complain, if they don't feel like they got what they should have gotten, then I feel bad. I've failed. Even unreasonable people (in hindsight) can temporarily ruin my day.

And all the tension and stress from the first two weeks of the race, the stress before the race, the snow, the ice, all the emails I answer during the week, that all went away when the P123s cheered their approval.

The racers were happy.

I fulfilled the promoter's obligations.

Duty and honor.

I was happy.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Outdoor Sports Center Bethel Spring Series - 2011 Tour de Kirche

Results and stuff here... I have to go to sleep but it was a good day.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Outdoor Sports Center Bethel Spring Series - Ris Van Bethel

(Official site stuff here.)

My hamstring is hamstrung, an appropriate way to end a grueling day. It feels sore from a last minute contraction that luckily resulted in only some temporary pain for "moi" and probably a lot of "what the heck?" looks and thoughts from others.

That's starting at the end, so let me start a little earlier than the last paragraph of the day. And, as a warning, it starts much earlier than that hamstring thing.

It really started the day before, when I tried to gather everything that I needed for the races today. I'd been accumulating stuff throughout the week, trying to fix stuff that went wrong at Ronde de Bethel. Transparent to the racers, sort of, but still stuff that made me feel pretty down on myself.

Actually, I'd been so involved in fixing that stuff between the Ronde and the Ris that I never wrote a post on it. I'll eventually write one and stick it in the time appropriate spot. If I remember I'll even link it from here.

But I digress.

I headed over to my dad's place, which is really my dad's and brother's place. It's a full house, pleasantly so, with my dad (who is grandpa in the household), my brother and his wife (daddy and mommy), and three kids.

A somber topic of discussion - the tsunami that swept through Sendai, my late mom's home city. We have one relative there and right now there's not much more to do than to hope she's okay (update: she emailed my dad that she was okay). My mom's sister, in Tokyo, reported in okay, and some other folks we know seem to have made it. But until we get the full extent of the disaster I guess we won't know.

And I hate to say it but I think it's going to be exponentially worse than it is now, where they're saying there's a thousand or two dead, kind of like how the tsunami in Indonesia just last year.

It didn't help me any, thinking about the horrific events over there. I'd already been feeling stressed about the race. It's a love-hate thing, this whole race thing. I was raised in a group-centric culture (Japanese if you will), where you do your best to raise the overall group. For example you work to make your company better by working hard and doing your best. If you have an after-work group, you try and make them better too.

Bike racing is my after-work group.

Therefore I try and make bike racing better. I could do a lot of different things, I guess, but the whole "promoting races" thing kind of fell into my lap and I've run with it since. To me this is one of the best things I can do to help bike racing. Since it's my after-work group it's my duty to do my best to make it better, if that makes sense to you.

Sometimes doing the races feels less than pleasant. Just like school, I guess, the stress of a test. Some stress is good, productive - I felt stress before the last race at Bethel last year, but it was a good stress.

Of course too much stress is bad, like when I realized that, holy smolies, I was crumbling academically mid-semester as the curriculum got too difficult for me to grasp. At first it's just a bad feeling, then some struggling, then the "oh snap!" realization that I'd fallen out of the academic loop.

(As you may deduce, I started in one major and finished in another.)

Promoting races sometimes follows the same pattern but with more real consequences. There are those unpleasant times, either with upset people (racers or non-racers), general stress (show up at the race course and there are no portapotties), or even just worrying about weather and such (should we call the race because it's supposed to start snowing at 1 AM and snow 15 inches but the moon is crystal clear in the sky at 11 PM?).

Saturday was one of those long, drawn out days. I had lists of things I had to bring to Navone Studios for the race, stuff I needed to do once I got there, and stuff I had to do after the race at my dad's.

With more tasks than time, I ended up doing some race promotion triage, figuring out what I could and couldn't accomplish, then selecting which of the doable tasks I'd actually do.

The list of things to bring to Navone had absolute priority - I needed it at Navone's and I wouldn't be able to replace them before the races started. I had to bring stuff like the computers, the registration stuff (releases and such), money, and all sorts of other stuff. I wanted to bring my bike and kit (I skipped only one "bring" item - Atomic Balm - because I couldn't find it in a timely fashion).

The list of things to get done at Navone had different levels of importance. Registration stuff - priority. Clear packed down sand off of the road at the bottom of the hill - priority.

Testing finishline camera... not so much priority. I decided to rely on the long time camera and all-round "I can figure it out" guy Jonathan.

So I set up registration, cleaned part of the course, and left knowing that I hadn't even looked at the camera stuff.

In the evening I found myself sitting in my childhood kitchen, at the table, with that "thousand yard stare" that typically describes soldiers during drawn out battles. I wasn't fighting for my life or anything that significant, but I still had that glazed look in my eyes, enough so that my brother looked at me and just chuckled.

"Every year I see you like this and every year I can't believe all you do for the races."

I had to grin. What else could I do?

It's like school, right? The pressure, the paying-for-goofing-off, then you do it all over again.

I managed to get to sleep at a reasonable hour, woke up at 5:15 in the "spring ahead" time, slept for another hour, and woke up refreshed and a little panicked that I'd slept too long.

I got to the course reasonably on time, a little before 7, and got the first turn swept a bit. Soaked in sweat (and I wasn't really dressed that warmly), registration had a few questions, Jonathan was struggling with the camera (we eventually went with our old TiVO set up and it worked), and bam, I was late for the clinic.

It went well, some reminders from before, some new stuff, and some random tips. I even got to do a few faster paced sections. One of the things I mentioned was never to swerve around a normal pothole or manhole cover, especially at Bethel. Bethel's course, although rougher than the past, has no significant potholes or manhole covers. Reason for not serving is that swerving suddenly can take others out, and, at least for me, bike racers have a responsibility towards the group.

That group thing again.

With my hands getting cold (in the rush to start the clinic I didn't put on gloves), a bit out of breath from the faster laps (I was working hard, regardless of what I looked like), and some misty rain starting to fall, we had to clear the course for the Cat 5s.

Unfortunately we had a pretty major stack up in the Cat 5 race. Someone, ironically, swerved in the sprint to avoid a manhole (at least that's the report I got). A lot of guys crashed. I raided our first aid kit to get one particularly road-rashed rider patched up. (Don't worry, we'll have 50 more Tegaderm patches and some other supplies Sunday).

We started seeing some traffic problems, with a huge influx of vehicles for the next door volleyball folks (they were having a tournament).

I started getting stressed. We had to clear the pavement of all riders and spectators so that volleyball drivers wouldn't feel like they had to crawl into the parking lot. If the pavement wasn't clear, they felt like they might hit a cyclist, so they'd naturally slow down.

Cars crawling slowly into the parking lot spend a lot of time on the course. And that's not good for the racers who are racing on the course.

I actually felt this chest pain, a tightening if you will (don't worry, I have a physical scheduled shortly). I started rubbing it subconsciously, then consciously, because it felt better when I rubbed it.

One of the registration girls teased me about it.

"Doing the Pledge of Allegiance?"

I could only grin.

I tried to do what I wanted to do for the races - make sure registration went well, folks that wanted to switch races could switch, those that transferred from last week got in properly, upgraded riders could get into their races, and those who forgot their licenses... well, I gave everyone a break this week.

I also tried to check email because racers were very good about contacting me via email with questions and such.

A huge goal for me is immediate information. I know people like to see their results online as soon as possible, with race reports as a bonus. Of course they're sometimes extremely off base - like I didn't put in that one winner lapped the field solo in the Ronde de Bethel. I try to put up results in a timely fashion (i.e. as soon as they're official) - my goal is results up before the next race finishes.

I failed miserably.

I managed to put up race reports only after a few races had finished, with no results (so no naming the top finishers), and putting up results only towards the end of the race day.

The whole time I kept rubbing my chest.

A few long time racers asked why I wasn't racing the 3-4s. They didn't realize that I'd upgraded to 2, and that I couldn't do the race.

Of course why the heck anyone would upgrade at my age (I'm almost eligible for the M45 race) is beyond most people's comprehension. For me, though, it was a culmination of a long time dream, one that I simply could not comprehend when I was 15 years old. So, for better or for worse, I do the last race of the day.

It eases a lot of pressure off my racing, which kind of shoves more pressure onto the promoting side of things. I felt uneasy about the numbers for next week (a problem that is getting resolved even as I type), I felt unprepared for some race stuff, and overall I felt like I was doing a poorer job than previous years.

This made my chest hurt just a touch more. I rubbed it a bit more.

I internalize my failures. It's hard for me to bounce thoughts and ideas off of others, and although we're a tight community when it comes to racing, there are few people where I can talk about race stuff. I've talked to them before, but I usually talk with the Missus or one or two other extremely long term friends (one was my best man; another I've known for more than 20 years and although he's at the races, he tries to give me a lot of room). I have some new confidants too, including some of my teammates and folks that help with the races, and it was a couple of these that helped me deal with the pressures of the day.

Of course I also come to race. I put both Stinger6 wheels on my TsunamiTwo (an unfortunate name at that moment given the situation over in Japan) for the first time ever. Luckily they cleared everything. With the higher pressure tires, lower weight wheels, the bike felt taut. It felt like it wanted to go. Not quite like some other bikes I've picked up, but this one was mine, fit to me, in a racing load out.

Okay, almost fit to me.

Once I started racing I realized I moved the bars up a touch too much after last week's debacle. I needed the bars tilted down just a few degrees. Not warming up didn't help because I didn't have a lap or three to go, hm, this doesn't feel quite right.

Part of it was that I finally remembered (thanks to my checklist) my CamelBak and its all important fluid bladder. With the CamelBak on it affects my posture on the bike. Slightly, but it does. And this made my bars, which were okay in the clinic, not quite okay in the race.

(Now I'll ride even the trainer with the CamelBak.)

My chest pains had dulled just before I got on the bike. Racing, as you may well know, is a great stress reliever. There's nothing more relaxing for me than to get in the middle of a field and fly along at some inhuman pace. All my focus and attention (as long as my bike is set up right) goes towards immediate decisions, ones that have immediate and short-term future consequences.

On this day the wind had to be the most significant aspect of the race. More powerful than usual, it actually blew around even the more experienced riders. I found myself looking for the gust points, especially by Turn Two, where my wheel would typically get pushed sideways a good six inches.

It got so that I had to think about when to move my hands from the bars (to change position or to drink), when to shift, when to even brake. I wanted both hands on the bars when the wind hit me; I also wanted to be prepared if another rider got hit unexpectedly - a few riders got caught out by the wind and had to catch themselves to keep from falling.

Strong wind usually spawns a break, acting as a filter to push the stronger riders to the front. The strongest riders normally launched from there and disappear down the road. Four guys obliged, chugging away steadily, resisting some impressive chase attempts.

Near the end of the race the field suddenly slowed dramatically - we were down to 18 mph on the backstretch. I remember thinking to myself, "Hey, I train at this speed!"

Then, like a freight train, the four man break rolled through the field.

The pace ramped up to "speed comma insane" and things went back to normal.

Cold, a bit heavy on the hill, I lacked the spark that I normally feel at Bethel. Therefore I just sat at the back. I gambled heavily on making a last lap move. I knew I could make a move on the hill then try to dice it out for a lap. I sent the memo to my legs and they responded - I was at the front of the field diving into the first turn.

I couldn't go and pull though and my speed stutter kind of messed things up. The big boys, the long time 1s and 2s, put things right, with riders drilling it as we went around Turn Two. I got stuck a bit, waited for an opening to the right, and gunned it.

Right foot down, hard.

Left foot, down...


That's when my left hamstring cramped totally unexpectedly. I'd felt twinges from my calves, not my hamstrings, so the hamstring cramping... it was like someone hit me in the leg with a baseball bat.

I stood on the pedals, scything agony driving into my left leg. I couldn't straighten it. I think I hit the curb, but managed to stay upright. I had to release this agony somehow, but I could only think of one very indiscrete way of doing it. After a millisecond of thought, I realized it had to be done.

I screamed.

I screamed out the pain of my leg, the stress of the day, the crushing disappointment in my fitness.

Riders moved around me, scattering politely. "Get away from that crazy dude!"

I coasted to a stop at the bottom of the hill. The marshal there (Pat, who helped me chop ice) came over to make sure I was okay. I was, in a physical sense, except my hamstring. But that unlocked, finally.

I made it back up to registration. Results went up. I put them on the site. Wrote some race report stuff. Asked some riders what happened, how it went down. Made sure some of the guys who didn't pick up their money last week got it this week (I like pleasant surprises as much as the next rider - and getting "free" prize money totally rocks). Started thinking of next week.

My chest hurt again.

The folks that help run the whole thing finished packing up the race stuff. The registration girl walked out the door, a casual wave bye.

Then a mischievous grin, a hand to her heart.

I had to crack a grin.

Yeah, it's stressful. Yeah, it's hard. Yeah, my chest hurt a bit. But promoting races...

You gotta crack a grin at the end of the day.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

2011 Bethel Spring Series - Ronde de Bethel Reports

Results here

Cat 5s

The races started out under damp conditions, but the warmth helped make up for it, at least a bit. At almost 50 degrees, about 15 degrees warmer than normal. The field mainly stayed together initially, churning out a couple fast opening laps (28 mph or so). The speed shed riders, those gapped and therefore in the wind. couldn't hang on.

Cat 4s

An early race move defined today's very wet and damp race. With temperatures dropping the riders seemed willing to work hard to try and warm up. Lance Jones (Expo Wheelmen) and Daniel Caridi (CRCA/teaNY) took off, building a decent gap.

Bethel Cycle's team launched a furious chase, putting, at one point, 8 or 9 riders at the front. Jones sat up when the field drew near, but Caridi kept his head down and stayed clear. He lasted much of the race, despite the chase behind.

Jones, realizing Caridi wouldn't be coming back any time soon, went clear again, but had an untimely puncture. Without a wheel in the pits he was done.

The field finally reeled in Caridi with about 7 laps to go. At that point a flurry of counter attacks went, with Justin Tyberg (Bethel Cycle) going clear. He quickly built a 20 second lead. Although faltering up the hill on the last lap, he finished off a great ride with a solo win.


With the rain now coming down really hard, spray flying everywhere, a small core group of women went to the line. Although the group stayed mainly together, in the end a familiar face showed itself at the front - Ann Marie Miller. She came here with two teammates, showing their commitment to doing well in the race overall.

Masters 45+

An epic day for an epic race. Matt Stuart (Central Wheel) took off at the gun, intent on softening up the field. What he didn't expect was that the move would last the entire race. Carl Reglar (Team Danbury Audi/Pedal and Pump) eventually bridged up, forming what would become the winning two man break.

Behind them the field disintegrated, gaps everywhere, as racers scrambled to either chase or hang on, depending on how their legs felt.

Stuart eventually settled for second, with Reglar beating him to the line.

Jim Escobar (Team Danbury Audi/Pedal and Pump) won the field sprint ahead of TargeTraining teammates Rick Spears and Rich Foley. Chris McNeil (Unattached) took sixth and the final points place.

Cat 3-4s

The skies opened up for the latter part of the day. The Cat 3-4s took the brunt of one of the storm's passes. The field tore itself apart as riders tried to force a decision before the sprint. Time and again a group would go up the road, determined to break the race apart, but the sprinters and their teams just as determinedly brought them back.

At the end the race finished up in a big field sprint. Bryan Haas (Berlin Bike/Best Cleaners) opened his race account early with a win in the Ronde, obligating him (as he put it) to return to the race next week. Juan Pimentel (CRCA) took second, followed by Bethel Cycle's strongman Bill Muzzio. John O'Fallon (CRCA/Rapha) took a well earned fourth, followed by Jacinta Pereira (Unattached) and the final points earner Darius Shekari (CRCA/TeaNY).


A very small field lined up for the final event of the day. Faced with almost 40 miles of racing, the small field seemed reluctant to go after an early four man break. Driven equally by all four riders, the break steadily gained ground. Eric Merrill (ZCC-Zane's Cycling) had a sizeable and strong team supporting him back in the field; Gabriel Acaba (Michelob Ultra Cycling) was in there as well as Justin Lindine (Joe's Garage). The fourth rider faltered slightly and got fatally gapped. He reported to his teammates the state of the break when he dropped back.

In the field the Zanes Cycling team monitored everything, pulling at a steady (and not so fast) pace when no one wanted to pull. Colavita, BikeReg, TargeTraining, Bethel Cycle, and other teams, mostly represented by just one rider, took responsibility for chasing. Peter Hurst (BikeReg/Cannondale) made some especially hard efforts, almost shredding the field with his attacks.

Robert Sweeting, the pro with Kenda/5Hour Energy, ended up so heavily marked that he couldn't make any moves. Neutralized, he and the rest of the field ended up lapped by the now-three man break.

In the end Acaba cleaned up out of the three man break, followed by Merrill and Lindine. Evan Thomas (TargeTraining) took the field sprint for fourth, with Cat 3 Pereiro doing a nice sprint to take fifth. Rounding out the points places was the Hurst.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Promoting Races - Sweep Day + Registration Prep

(I realized something. I forgot to get everyone's names and race desired and all that for the people from Sweep. Arg. See me when you register, or say you swept and I'll nod or not.)

We're starting to wind down the prep stuff for the start of the 2011 Outdoor Sports Center Bethel Spring Series.

In case you missed the memo, the Bethel Spring Series now has their own site, at (of course) Bookmark it now because it doesn't come up in search well (the old site,, does for me).

At some point I'll put together a little story about how that came about, but suffice it to say that it's a nice site. I can say that because I didn't do it; except for some text, I had a lot of help from a couple people.

Anyway, with the Series starting tomorrow, that could only mean one thing today - it's sweep time!

Sweep time means getting everything down here. It's not like the old days where I could just drive home, grab something, and be back in an hour or so. Now it's a three hour round trip so if I forget something it's kind of major. Therefore packing becomes a bit more critical.

I'd been packing the van for a couple days, a little at a time. It's overwhelming to try and do it all at once, and I've tweaked my back more than once trying to do it late at night in bone-chilling cold.

First was the stop to the storage facility where a lot of stuff lives for most of the year. We keep outdoor type stuff there, the grate covers, garden tools (shovels and brooms), tents, tables, leaf blowers, gas cans, power cords, podiums, buckets, generators, and I don't remember what else.

After the storage facility stop.
I added maybe 10 various bins to this.

Second stop was the house, where the "indoor" stuff lives for most of the year. This includes things like laptops, power cords, various cameras, walkie talkies, printer, tripod, paper, toner, tape, markers, pens, pins, and, again, I don't remember what else.

Finally I had to get some stuff in there for myself, like my gear bag, race wheels, stuff like that. My bike (even my shoes) were already at Navone's - I knew I wasn't riding much at home so leaving them here at the Studio made sense.

I headed down to Bethel, a 90 minute drive, in what was now a comfortably laden van. With the 1-ton suspension, the thing bounces around if you have less than 500-1000 pounds of stuff in it. Since I removed almost 500 pounds of bench seats, making the van 500 pounds lighter to begin with, that means the van bounces around pretty much any time I drive it.

The only exceptions occur on two drives - one down to Bethel, the other when I drive back.

Both those days I have, in my estimation, a fully loaded van. Since I've already eliminated 500 pounds of bench seats, I figure that the van's load ends up in the 2500 pound range.

(It couldn't possibly be more than that because that wouldn't be legal.)

Instead of a highly sprung, impatient van, it mellows out. It rolls a bit drunkenly, slowly righting itself. It turns reluctantly, like a temperamental horse that wants to go straight instead. And it brakes... well, it slows at a leisurely rate.

It's a solid workhorse, not a thoroughbred. It does a specific job and it does it well.

We had an awesome surprise yesterday. A "spy" (okay, just a long time cycling person) let me know that the town was testing its streetsweeper on the course, along with the load capacities of a dump truck or two.

Apparently they all worked because when I got here this Saturday morning, things looked... cleaned.

End of Turn 2, where it used to be really messy. At 10 AM Saturday it was just kind of messy.

Just before the Mirror Building. Nice.
"Pay it forward" tube on dash. This is for those riders who need an emergency tube at Bethel.

Chunk of snow/ice three days ago Wednesday, so three days prior.
I worked pretty hard to get that little section clear.

When I got here March 5, it looked like this.

I met up with the sweep crew for the year. Smaller than prior years, they performed well. They all worked hard, I have to say. It ended up less a "Sweep Day" and more a "Chop Day". We hacked and picked and axed and stabbed big solid chunks of ice, sometimes six or eight inches thick, maybe more.

The "Chopin' Crew" at work.
That's like "To Chop", not like the composer which is pronounced like "Show-pan".

The result of the Composer Crew. Insane, right? Awesome. Beautiful.

Weary but happy crew.

We ate and hung out inside Navone's for a bit. The Expo boys, six or seven of us, kitted up and went and did almost 20 laps of the course. The Navone boys joined us too, and we had some friendly efforts going 'round and 'round the course.

Two or three groups rode through too, probably to check out the course, as well as some individuals.

I have to say that the hill is a LOT harder in a small group or alone. In the group you just fly up the thing, it's barely a bump. Solo, though, it's tough. I don't know how those "recon riders" don't get demoralized. I'd almost quit if I thought that's what I had to go through the next day.

We had fun buzzing around the course. We did a few spontaneous leadouts (I sprinted only once - the rest of the time I sat up just where I'd start sprinting). I didn't want to wear myself down before tomorrow, but I did appreciate the chance to ride outside for the first time since Palomar.

Then, after everyone left, it came time to do registration work. Print out the spreadsheets (we couldn't before because we didn't have the numbers since we're printing them here at Navone's). Set up registration area/s. Plug in the radios, and, for me, the helmet cams.

The Missus arrived, reinforcements when the energy levels ebbed dangerously low. Fresh coffee and some food and suddenly we got going again.

Day of race registration. Turn right when you walk in, you're there.

Next to day of race is pre-reg. Notebook is the key since it has all the riders' names in it.

The view when the door opens. Food and beverages for sale at the counter in front of you.
The coffee area, at least for Sweep Day. Sink hidden to the right.

The Lounge. Heh.

The P123 numbers. Very pro.

The rest of the numbers, printed on generic numbers.
Not so sharp but they don't cost a dollar a number (plus ink).

The Release forms. For Cat 5 One Day Licenses please ask at the desk.

See you tomorrow!

Friday, March 04, 2011

How To - Sweeping the Road

Need pictures of Digger, Drag, XL Sweep (techniques)

This road needs sweeping (picture from sweep day at Bethel, March 1, 2008).

There's nothing that reminds me more of bike racing than picking up a broom and sweeping sand and debris off of a patch of pavement.

One of my very few ventures into seeing (experiencing?) one of those Broadway type shows was to see Stomp. I sat down in the somewhat vertical seating area (no heads in the way when you're there) and waited in anticipation. My last show was some murder mystery thing in eighth grade so this was an unusual thing. I sat in anticipation as the crowd murmured around me.

The lights dimmed, the audience hushed, and we waited.

A light appeared on the empty stage. We heard some swishing scraping noises. Repeating rhythmically.

Noises absolutely unmistakable to someone who has helped clear the Bethel course for a decade or so.

"No," I thought, "They're sweeping?! I can't believe they need to sweep the stage now! They must have swept the stage before the show!"

Then a broom head, sweeping the stage floor, poked out from behind the curtain. Got pulled back. And reappeared. And here came this guy, sweeping the floor.

The problem was that he was sweeping it wrong!

Two handed hold, digging like he was trying to get to China or something. If you want to dig holes or wear out your broom's bristles, that's the way to do it.

If you want to sweep, though, you have to do it a different way.

Trust me, I know.

So, for all you early season promoters, helpers, and sweepers, this is how you do it.

There are three types of brush strokes - the Digger, the Drag, and the XL Sweep. A few miscellaneous moves complements the brush strokes - the Bang, the Chop, and the Upside Down Chisel. After going over technique I'll review some broom basics.

Broom types

Porch - The porch broom come in all different flavors. Significantly all of them have the pole and the bristles in the same plane - they're parallel. There's the one with an angled brush head, pointy on one end due to the angled cut of the bristles, for reaching into corners. The witch's broom is a classic, with stiff bristles and direct reach great for precise sweep work.

Unfortunately no Porch type broom works well when sweeping roads.

Normal - You'll find these everywhere. They have bristles mounted on a separate bar that screws onto a handle. The bristles sit at an angle relative to said handle. Bristles can be soft or stiff.

For basic road sweeping these work fine. Look for stiff bristles (versus soft ones) and short bristle lengths (versus long lengths). The really coarse brooms, meant for spreading driveway sealer, are too coarse. You need a broom broom with consistent bristles densely packed together, not a Harry Potter type where you have random shape bristles in a not-very-dense package.

Contractor - The ultimate in brooms, the contractor grade broom resembles a Normal with two metal braces between the handle and the brush head. Other less visible differences include wider brush widths, stronger handles, better quality bristles, and better quality wood.

The Contractor broom rules the roost. You can tighten up the braces (they loosen over time), the handles don't break, the bristles work well, and they seem to last forever. You know how you never use up a pen, how they disappear before they're done? Well, I've actually seen worn out contractor brooms. They're that good.

After the equipment, the technique.

The Brush Strokes

There's a huge variety of brush strokes. Just like in bike racing you need to use different methods for different challenges. Think of these as the different versions of pedaling - sitting, standing, and with hands on different parts of the bars.

Digger - The Digger is the most stereotypical sweep motion and the one used in Stomp. Grasp the broom with two hands and push the broom forwards and backwards while exerting a downward pressure on the brush head. The brush stroke can range from a few inches long to a couple feet. The Digger is used when breaking up heavily compacted sand, or simply wet sand.

Drag - The Drag is a very basic sweep motion. It's actually the most simple and involves walking along while letting the broom head drag along the ground. Used for dislodging dry but compacted sand, it's most effective when used with a power blower. The guy dragging the broom should walk just a bit ahead of the "impact zone" of the forced air from the blower. You know you're doing it right when you see a plume of sand blasting sideways from the blower.

The Drag also works well with an exhausted sweeper. For example, a worn out sweeper can walk back to Sweep Base with the broom held in Drag mode behind the person. The exhausted sweeper can still have some effect on sand and stuff with the broom bumping and bouncing on the road behind said sweeper.

XL Sweep - This is the most powerful of all manual sweep techniques. Instead of digging into the pavement and wasting energy, the XL Sweep relies on the bristle design of the broom head to move debris efficiently.

Since a pusher broom has its bristles at an aggressive angle, oftentimes it is unnecessary to exert anything but the lightest downward pressure. The acute angle of the bristle (kind of pushing against the grain) will spring the bristle back until it springs forward. This movement pushes debris up and away from the broom with very little sweeper input.

Such light pressure can be applied with just one hand, one arm. Therefore the XL Sweep uses just one arm. The other can rest or move to act as a counterbalance. When the sweeping arm tires, the sweeper can simply switch arms and continue sweeping.

The XL Sweep will allow full arm extension, enabling the sweeper to get 5 or 6 or even 7 feet of pavement cleared at one stroke. It takes only two passes to clear a normal lane, perhaps three to clear a wide lane with a shoulder. With a rhythmic pattern, a Sweeper can execute an XL Sweep about once a second. This will clear about two feet of road, maybe 6 feet width.

After 60 seconds, the sweeper could have cleared 120 feet of road, 6 feet wide. This is 40 yards by 2 yards. In 10 minutes it's a little less than a quarter mile. In 40 minutes, a mile. 80 minutes means a mile long, 12 feet wide. 160 minutes, 3 hours, means a mile course, curb to curb if it's 24 feet wide.

Ideally one should follow the XL Sweep with a blower to get rid of the light dust inevitably broken up by the sweeper's broom.

Additional Actions

The associated movements can be incorporated in one's sweeping repertoire as conditions require. Although not technically strokes, they'll come in handy. Consider this to be something like, say, wiping tires on a bike. It's not how you attack but it's a handy skill to have.

Bang - this is a simple technique used to clear the bristles of accumulated sand. Just like a paint brush holds paint, a broom will hold sand and debris. Turning the broom 90 degrees to the side and banging it on the pavement will clear the bristles decisively. Use this motion every fifth or tenth brush stroke in damp sand, depending on how much moisture the sand has absorbed. In dry stuff it's virtually never used.

Be careful that the debris doesn't end up on the swept part of the road.

Take care if you're not using a Contractor (metal reinforced) broom. An ordinary broom can fail in Bang mode.

Chop - a variation on the Bang, the Chop consists of using the broom head's side to break loose stubborn bits of sand, snow, ice, decomposing leaves, etc. Instead of banging the broom head on the pavement, the sweeper bangs it on the debris, ax-like. This motion breaks up the debris, allowing the operator to use one of the main sweep techniques to move the debris as necessary.

Another effect of the chop - you lose the end bristles.
Blue broom has been used in a Chop manner a lot.

Again, unless you have a reinforced broom, avoid this method.

Upside Down Chisel - this is used on wider swaths of sticky debris such as rooted grass/shrubs/trees, piles of decomposing leaves, clods of dirt, and other heavy, difficult to move debris. Ideally one would use a shovel but in the interest of expediting the sweep process, sometimes it isn't prudent to go find a shovel. Instead, turn the broom upside down and dig at the debris using the wooden head of the broom. Although not particularly effective if needed for long stretches of pavement, the Upside Down Chisel works for spot work on sewer grates, small potholes, and places where plows have uprooted grass clumps and dumped them on the road.

Broom Basics

Over the years I've learned that brooms are not created equal. Most brooms are totally inadequate for sweeping wide stretches of road. They're designed to sweep smooth concrete garage floors, not rough granular road pavement. So how do you pick out a broom?

First, eliminate all that do not have metal reinforcing braces connecting the broom head and handle. Such braces indicate that the broom was meant for heavy duty use. Said braces also allow the operator to use the Bang and Chop techniques with significantly reduced chances of snapping the broom head off the handle.

Contractor Broom
Note metal reinforcing bars.
Natural bristles like this are inferior and do not work as well, nor do they last as long.

Second, get the stiffest bristles possible. Softer ones allow one to get more of the soft, fine sand moved, but if you follow the brooms with a blower, it's easier to let the blower do the work. Stiff bristles let the operator move more sand, heavier sand, quicker. It's similar to coarse sandpaper - removes a lot of stuff but isn't that finely tuned.

Note that the red bristles are relatively thin and densely packed.
These are good for dusty sand but not great for pebbles and such.

Blue bristles are thicker and less densely packed.
Excellent for pebbles but not good for detail work.

Not too tall - 3" height works best.
This is what that blue broom looked like when it was new.

Third, from my experience, if it doesn't cost $35 or more, it's probably not what you're looking for (in 2008 prices at a big box hardware store). Look for "contractor brooms".

Fourth, look for all wood broom heads and handles. I have yet to see a plastic broom as strong as the wooden ones. I don't know if there are metal ones out there but in cold weather they'd be, well, cold.

As the broom gets used, the bristles wear down. A new broom is nice to use but reeks of, well, new-ness. When you sight a broom with bristles less than half their original length, you know you're dealing with a pro operator.

Pro broom to the right. Note bristles worn down due to massive amounts of sweeping.

A final warning for those driving leaf blowers while holding a broom - artificial bristles melt when they contact engine mufflers, like those on a leaf blower. 'Nuff said.

Anyway, that's about it for sweeping the road. Here's to a clean swept course!

And that thing about Stomp? Well, ends up the sweeper was part of the act. The Digger technique he used allowed the mics all over the place (including the stage floor?) to really emphasize the sweep noises.

Although he picked up a little bit of dust, there wasn't a lot. It was more for the show effect. And it worked.

(Orig written 3/29/08)

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Bethel Spring Series - Training Onsite

This year, for a variety of reasons, I haven't been training as much. For the last two weeks my only rides have been at Navone Studios - Wednesday, Sunday, and then Wednesday. It got to the point that after Wednesday night's ride I just left my bike there. The next time I'll ride it will be Saturday after the sweep; after that it'll be on race day.

Of course, when you see the next couple pictures, you'll see why it's easy to ride at Navone's... the atmosphere.

The place is dripping in bikes, although I haven't taken any recent shots. But as an example here's one from last year:

Think more bikes, more pictures, and less tables.

The back is a bit more closed off now, with the nitty gritty of the operation hidden back there. It's open on training night since that's where everyone rides (who rides indoors - there's a corresponding outdoor ride which, in these cold temperatures, is way too flahute for me).

During the Series though, please remember the back is off limits. Even us registration folk won't be parading back there very often, if at all.

The screen about thirty feet away. I'm standing near the dividing wall between the front and back areas.

The space allows as many as eight riders or so to line up side by side without getting hit by errant sweat droplets or even any kind of odor (although I think for Pavlovian conditioning using embrocation would be excellent - I haven't brought my Atomic Balm out yet).

A better look at the screen.
Yes, that's my bike. Yes, that's the last race I did in 2010 on the screen.
Yes it's huge.
And it has a speaker system to match.

On two days we did structured workouts, one by Sufferfest, another by Carmichael. I liked the Sufferfest better because it uses a lot of race footage. As a bonus I hadn't seen the footage before it really engrossed me.

(Of course I had time to watch - I was so weak I gave up 15 seconds into each of the fifteen 60 seconds intervals. This gave me plenty of time to sight see.)

The Carmichael clips, although they are good at vocalizing the steps and stuff, have lots and lots of clips of riders on trainers. Since they all look like they're just moderately suffering, and they all have that same desperate look on their face that all riders on trainers have, it's not as aesthetically pleasing as seeing, say, Jens Voight putting it down in some unknown to us mainstream-race-watchers small stage race or something.

I realized that my ideal workout would be a split screen TV. I'd have the audio and the visual timer clock thing that Carmicheal has on one part of the TV (preferably the lower 10% of the screen, which is where the timer numbers sit). I'd have bike racing footage to replace the suffering trainer riders. I mean, yeah, I understand it's good to have a visual, but I'd much rather see some real racing action, not just that glazed over "I'm on a trainer and someone's video taping me" look.

In fact my ideal workout would be tied in with point of view footage of attacks, chases, and hanging on for dear life.





To tie it all in, sort of, on the in-between day, a couple hours on Sunday, we watched something totally different. We warmed up to some 2006 Giro (the inhumanly strong Basso just before he took his leave of absence) before switching over to some SDC helmet cam clips.

Yes, we watched my point of view of some races.

No they did not have intervals built into them. We just did a 60 second effort every five minutes for an hour.

Every now and then I'd holler out (over speaker and trainer noise) pertinent information regarding tactics or some unwritten (i.e. not subtitled) stuff.

Jefferson, a Navone rider who I cruelly chased down at Naugatuck, did sprint the whole sprint in the Francis J Clarke clip, which has an unusually long sprint for me. Since the timing was off for the minute effort (it ended just as Cliff hit the front), I'd already sat down. I watched Jefferson drill it for another 30 seconds or so - my legs hurt just watching him.

In case you forgot what happened in the two races, I'll post them here. First Naugatuck, where I worked my butt off (intentionally). I was working for my teammate SOC who, after the race, admitted putting too much pressure on himself, but I also worked because I was chasing this elusive thing called form. I knew if I kept working on it I'd get it.

So, first Naugatuck, where I chased Jefferson:

And the final Cat 3-4 race at Bethel for 2010 (Jefferson wasn't in there as he was still a Cat 5):

If that second clip doesn't get you wound up for Bethel, I don't know what will.

Which brings me to Bethel for 2011...

Man those roads were CLEAN in 2010. Holy smokes.

Each time I went to Navone's I was really going to work on moving some of the ice off the pavement. The rides were just the bonuses, the reward for a hard bit of work.

I jokingly said to a few people that I'd make a good prisoner, chopping and hacking at the ice and frozen snow, then shoveling the grainy chunks off to the side. Rinse and repeat. Over and over.

Incredibly the course has gotten a lot better, but there's one final huge chunk which defeated me and a long time Bethel supporter Pat. He came out to help with this final obstacle last Wednesday (yesterday I just realized) and worked with me. We hacked at the thing in the dusk and then in the dark, illuminated by my idling car.

(The red car gets about 40-44 mpg if I drive it once or twice to Bethel with 100 miles of 3 mile commutes thrown in there, but if I idle it while I chop at ice, it's more like 33-35 mpg... it takes a full gallon to idle for an hour or two. Note to self - generator burns a gallon every 13 hours or so and I can run a couple 250/500 watt work lights off of that thing.)

We took turns chopping and hacking. Pat worked better with the high-force, high-impact metal shovel work. My shoulders and arms were still kind of half numb from Sunday's 6 hour session with the metal shovel. But I was good with the plastic big scoop shovel, an excellent Garant snow shovel, long handled for better leverage (with less back strain) and a scoop with sides so snow and ice chunks don't slither off before you get them hoisted over the bank.

The bank, by the way, was a bit tall, like three or four feet for much of it.

Pat would chop then pull off. I'd take my pull, shoveling. We traded pulls for a while, working like a two man paceline. Eventually we both blew up. He did what he could with salt and stuff; I slowed to a crawl while I worked first one shovel then the other.

I realized that I shovel just like I ride - fast and furious until I explode. Then it's painfully slow and methodical.

Nonetheless I feel pretty good about Sunday. Not about my racing, which will be pretty dismal, but about the race. I took a lot of pressure off my shoulders when I cornered myself into being able to do just one race, the P123s. Without being eligible for the M45+ (if I lowered it to M40+ I'd be eligible, one main reason why I didn't do it), nor the 3-4s, I put myself in a no-win situation.

Therefore I have no pressure on me. I don't feel obligated to train my brains out. I don't need to ask my teammates for help (I always feel guilty doing that, although I'll accept it if it comes my way).

Therefore I can focus more on promoting the race, versus racing the race.

Therefore I can do stuff like the clinic. Work on making some stuff way more cool than before. Work on some longer term ideas. Appreciate what the Series has already accomplished. Yada yada yada.

And I'll still be able to at least go to the start line and roll off with the field. No spectacular places for me, not this year. I know my place and I'm diving into water that goes just a bit over the top of my eyes. It'll be a struggle to stay afloat, but that's okay. I can handle that. I handled it before, and I'll handle it in the future I'm sure.

The Series, though, I hope it excels.