Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Racing - June 29, 2011 NBX Training Series

So after my disastrous June 28th Rent race, I decided to give the Ninigret race a chance. In the past I've had good memories at Ninigret. I finished my first race there, in 1983 (!!). I got second there last year too, after romping around having fun, with absolutely no plans except for romping around and having fun.

This year, with less fitness, more weight... miracles can sometimes happen.

Of course, first I had to get there. With my blue car kind of on the market, I didn't want to put my bike in there. Part of it was that I'd just spent a few hours earlier that day detailing the car (and my bike and the three wheel sets I use). Tossing a bike, no matter how clean, into the car would mess it up. This meant swapping out for the red car (the "winter" car), which hasn't been driven for a few months now. I drove over to the "storage garage" and got into the red car.

Fortunately for me the red car started without a hiccup.

After swapping spots, red car for blue, I drove back home. I did note that the tank was less than a quarter full, maybe two gallons, and I had a 100 mile drive ahead of me. I mentally noted I'd have to stop for gas.

Without the Missus's car, I didn't have the regular stuff already packed. I'd gotten kind of used to the whole "leave everything in the car and just get another kit" business, like we did for two Tuesdays and a Sunday race.

This time I had to get everything and not forget. Helmet. Shoes. Pump. Kit. Heartrate belt. SRM head. Camera (and is it charged and is the memory cleared?). So on and so forth. I even brought a laptop just in case I checked the camera and it had data on it.

By the time I left it was a bit late, like 45 minutes later than I wanted to leave. This put me into the heart of rush hour traffic, so I creeped and crawled through Hartford. Then, free of constraints, I made good (but sensible) time down to Ninigret.

I forgot about the red car's low power and struggled up some of the hills. Trying to stretch the tank out, now that I had no extra time, I wanted to get to Ninigret without having to stop for gas, but I also wanted to avoid going 40 mph up some of the longer grades.

Eventually, thinking about how pessimistic the gauge has been in the past, I decided to maximize power on the uphills, and try and minimize consumption elsewhere.

Delicately balancing on this razor edge of economy and speed, I managed to get to the race.

At 6:30 PM.

Which, coincidentally, is the start time for the A race.

SOC was waiting for me, telling me that we don't necessarily have to start on the first lap. See, it's a low key race, and there are no numbers and a lot of honor system stuff. Still, though, it didn't seem right, so I hurried anyway.

He got my bike out of the car while I registered (check payable to "Cash" in lieu of knowing exactly what to write), then ran back. With SOC puzzled by the somewhat tight tolerances of the bike, he waited for me holding the bike and a wheel. I got the wheels on, pumped them up, got the heart rate belt on, slipped on my jersey, grabbed my helmet, stuck both wheels in the bike, grabbed a couple bottles, buckled on my shoes, and we were rolling to the line.

No time for gloves so I told myself not to crash.

Field already lined up.

With a relatively low key start, I hoped that things would escalate gradually. The first lap went by sedately. I'd seen some pretty big guns lining up so I hoped that they'd ride slow, break away cleanly, then lap the field. This way the field's speed wouldn't escalate too high and I'd be able to sit in.

At this point I even had time to sight-see.

Spinergy Rev-X wheels!

The wind, ever present at Ninigret, hit us square going away from the start/finish little hut thing (i.e. hit us after the second right turn). This made for a severe crosswind on the straight parallel (and opposite) the start/finish stretch. I knew I had to find shelter there but I found it difficult, lacking focus and concentration. Inevitably, lap after lap, I'd find myself in the wind, too late to move over.

And, eventually, as would be expected with multiple errors like this, I came off the back of the field.

It wasn't at the crosswind section though. A crosswind section may saw you off if it's long enough, but usually it'll just zap your legs. Then, on the less windy sections, when the rest of the racers pick it up, your legs don't do anything.

And so it was for me.

Note: this is a cross-tailwind stretch, not a headwind one.

I eased, letting the field lap me. SOC told me that I could participate in all but the final sprint if I was lapped, so I decided that once my heart rate got back to racing level (instead of coasting around the course level), I'd do whatever I could. Once I reintegrated into the field, I let my heartrate rise until I was back in "hurting" mode, my regular race mode.

When the officials rang the bell for a prime, I decided that I'd pull for the sprint. A few guys insisted on trying to get away, but without a significant gap, I followed through with my pull. I went pretty hard, too hard actually, and kept pulling about two straights longer than I would have pulled had I wanted to get back in the race.

Pulling hard. Heart rate 168, about my max in normal life.
Note lack of gloves. This lack of hand protection was a first for me in many years.

Instead, after I peeled off, the whole field zipped by me.

I coasted around again.

The field reabsorbed me again.

And I did another pull, another one that was too long, too hard, and would see me off the back.

Eventually, as the laps wound down, I decided to actually stop. SOC was still in the race, with a break that had gone away. As expected it had a lot of the big guns in it, and although they shed one rider just before they lapped the field, four riders did lap the field.

Therefore the field would be sprinting for fifth.

The main break antagonist, Bill Y, couldn't help himself and went again with about 5 laps to go, soloing in for the win.

The other four resigned themselves to sprinting it out in the field, while the field set up for the scraps.

Arc-En-Ciel put two guys at the front for the last three laps, stringing out the field into single file. SOC, somehow, planted himself right on their wheels.

As the field rounded the 5th turn, the front three looked exactly the same, the two Arc-en-Ciels followed by SOC. They disappeared from view at the 6th turn, with a lot of moving up and such. I lost the tactical picture there but saw that a surge had swamped the Arc-en-Ciels.

I hoped the best for SOC.

When the group popped out from behind the low trees, a few guys at the front, followed by a couple length gap, then SOC at the head of a very pointy field.

SOC jumped hard, overhauled the others, and started his final effort to the line. A couple break riders tried to pass him, gave up, and then they all finished.

With SOC at the front of affairs.

Incredibly, after sitting for 3 laps in relative wind, after getting slightly gapped going into the sprint, and leading out the sprint, he managed to win it.

His haul?

His entry fee, a pound of coffee (he passed up on the booze), and a gift certificate.

That was for 5th place! Well, that and a prime. And another prime (a second place in the two place prime - all primes are two places there).

Yeah, he was cleaning up that day.

After the race we had some food, I got gas for the red car (it still had over a gallon left in the ten gallon tank - the gauge kind of misses the first gallon I guess) and set off on the 100 mile trip home.

It's a great series. Low key, inexpensive ($10), with some serious racing. We'll be back for sure, and I promise I'll arrive earlier, be more awake, and be much more careful about the wind.

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