Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Racing - 2011 Season

I didn't know it when I started it but the August 24th Ninigret would be the last race of my 2011 season. I figured I had one more Rent to go but with the flooding Irene brought that was a totally different thing altogether.

This summer I never really got going, new bike notwithstanding. My biggest problem was trying not to get too psyched up for the season. As a new Cat 2, with stuff happening off the bike, I wasn't sure what I'd be able to do bike-wise. It'd have been great to slay all as a newly minted (but old on the bike) Cat 2 but that wasn't the case.

Early on I tried to control my enthusiasm by intentionally making myself ineligible for my normal season targets - the Bethel Spring Series and the CT State Championships. The former had only one race I could enter, the P123s. I didn't meet the age requirement for Masters and there were no other races at Bethel I could enter.

(And it's a big reason why I declined to drop the M45+ to M40+, despite a few vocal requests to do just that, because if I dropped the age I'd have a goal - to win the M40+ race.)

Without an early season goal to drive my training, my winter ended up blah, my spring blah, and my summer blah. Usually I can get on the trainer and hammer away for a while, my energy level surging and ebbing just like it does on a regular ride. Sometimes I'll do some timed efforts (I hate them), usually I'll ride hard like whatever DVD I'm watching. A pro race tends to have a few hard bits and a really hard finale. My own DVD (I put it together from my helmet cam clips) is nicely segmented into 10 minute efforts, with the one 15 minute race from the last Rent in 2010.

The key here is "Usually".

In previous winters I could do pretty serious efforts on the trainer, averaging 160+ bpm, bumping up to a high-for-me 165-168, sometimes even seeing 170 bpm. And I could do it again and again, revving the ol' engine up, stomping on the throttle.

Then, for the long days, I'd pop in a DVD.

Or two.

Or even three.

I did a few (just a few) 5+ hour trainer sessions in the last few years, climbing off the bike tired and sore, just like I'd ridden... 5+ hours.

On the other hand, last winter I could barely turn the pedals. No goals in March meant no motivation in December. I didn't have that inner drive that I normally have at that time of year. Instead of being anxious to ride, instead of making time to ride, I skipped trainer sessions. I wasn't thinking of races or racing when I got on the trainer - I was thinking of the movie in front of me or focusing on how many minutes I'd been riding or the stuff I had to do when I got off the bike.

This was one of those times that "Life in General" took some precedence over "Bike Racing". Whatever happened on the bike, stuff off the bike was going fine. It's the bike stuff that suffered.

When I went to California I was unfit. I got sick. I had about three good days there, and one of them was a rest day, another was a race day, and the third was a crammed to the hilt ride, a Palomar attack.

I returned home not much more fit than when I left, gaining weight all the time, at least ten pounds over my early 2010 weight, no miles on my legs, no cycle of fatigue from which I could recover.

My racing at Bethel went poorly. In 2010 I could do the 3-4 race, try and win, then enter the P123 race and virtually do the whole race. Twice I stopped to check on riders in late race crashes, and once I sat up on the last lap, soft pedaled up the hill, and sat and talked with some friends... about 20 feet before the line, so I never finished (doh!). Instead of doing 2.5 hours of racing each Sunday, I was getting in as little as 15 minutes of racing, maybe 30 minutes.

This eroded my already weak base.

Early season races ended early for me; I rarely made an hour in a crit. The Tuesday night races started ending earlier and earlier as my lack of form and lack of motivation encouraged me to sit up after just 15 or 20 minutes of racing.

With no base I had no foundation, and my season went down the tubes.

I had sparks of form, in Somerville (a Cat 2 only race no less), in one (just one) Tuesday Night race, and at the Keith Berger Crit.

Other than that, I had nothing. Nada. Zip zilch zero.

And, as a final kick in the butt, my blogging suffered too.

I realized, to my horror, that I haven't even done 100 posts this year. It's 80-something right now, an abysmal number, less than one post every three days. I thought doing two posts every three days was reasonable, and if I could get into the mid 20s every month that was good. That's been my goal, about 22-24 posts a month, or about how many days a full time person works in that month.

My low number means my 2011 blog post total, at this time, represents less than four months worth of goal posts. That's a problem when it's the tenth month of the year.

Anyway, that's the gist of my season. Not much racing, not much writing.

What will change for 2012?

Honestly, I don't know.

I hope that things change. I want them to change.

I'm still working on the Life part of me. The bike is important, of course, and even the Missus has been pushing me to train just a bit more. If I'm a bit more fit it's more enjoyable to race and I actually get a workout each race day. But Life is important too, and I've been a bit stagnant there.

Obviously I want to be more competitive on the bike. When I'm not fit then racing is just plain hard (with no reward at the end of the effort), I race for 15 minutes instead of 60, and I'm disappointed in myself for not living up to my own expectations.

Part of my 2012 goals will be to be good enough to live up to my own minimal expectations. I can define them pretty readily.

First I want to be able to participate in all flat races where there are fewer ex-pros than Cat 2s. When I say "participate" I mean I can chase or bridge or even attack, and I have some semblance of a chance of doing a sprint. Even if I'm dying at the back I'm okay if I can move up for the sprint. But to sit at the back dying and then come off on the last lap, or worse, get shelled before the end of the race... that's not participating.

Second I'd like to be able to race where I make efforts, harder than not, without getting myself shelled. It's no fun to do a race where my average wattage is about 275, my peak wattage is about 600, and I get shelled in 15 minutes (because, by definition of FTP, if I'm averaging 275 watts, my fuse runs out long before 20 minutes).

I like the spiky races where I see a lot of 800-1000 watt spikes, a lot of coasting or easy riding, and although my average may be 200 watts or less, my race ends up being at least an hour long. I don't feel like a racer just motoring along at a steady pace - I feel more like a racer when I'm out of the saddle and feeling my legs work my bike over.

Third I really want to win a field sprint. I haven't done that this year at all, and I was never close, even in a training race. To outsprint a field, even if there's a break or something, there's a special feeling there.

Fourth, if at all possible, I'd like to get back on the track. I want to do some 100% sprints, 100% efforts, and I feel that I work hardest on the track. I think it's the short attention span that does it - 25 second laps instead of 120 second laps.

Of course I also want to hold a good Bethel Spring Series. That work already started for me, with town permission and sponsorship things to do this month. I have ideas to improve the races there, improve the benefits to the racers, and improve the quality of racing in Connecticut (and surrounding areas, where ever the racers at the Bethel Spring Series race).

I have some ideas for other venues, i.e. other races. These are new ventures, not on the calender at this time.

One is on a venue that virtually no one knows about.

Another is a venue that has some history but I hope that it works out.

Both require a lot of work, much more so than Bethel. As they mature I'll share them with you all (of course), but in their nascent stages it's probably best that I keep things quiet. If anything goes wrong I'd rather face the failure privately.

There's also talk of a third event where I'd be helping more than running, but that's kind of on "let's think about it for a moment" for now.

(This doesn't include the 'cross race that Expo Wheelmen is holding October 30th in Manchester, CT, where I'll be helping with registration. It should be a hoot so please show up and join the fun!)

My ultimate goal is to increase race days in the area, specifically crit days (versus road races or time trials). Expo Wheelmen holds a time trial series in the summer. Road races... right now road races are a bit much for me.

I vocalized a very ambitious goal back in the early 90s - I wanted to bring 20 days of racing to Connecticut in a year. I had no idea how I'd do it, no inkling even, but I declared that to the people around me. I may not make it to 20 days ever, but I hope that 2012 allows me to bring you more than the six days at Bethel.

2011 may not have been the roaring success of 2010 but it wasn't bad at all. Maybe a "bridging" year for me, or a growing one. Whatever the nice word for it, it was a poor racing one but a good one otherwise.

I'm looking forward to a fresh 2012 season, full of motivation, full of expectations, full of life. I have a feeling it'll be a good one so don't go anywhere.


Anonymous said...

Please drop the age to 40+. Life is too short!

shovelhd said...

Please don't.

It was great to race with you this year.

Aki said...

I'm not planning on changing the age bracket at Bethel for 2012.