Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Promoting - 2012 Circuit Francis J Clarke

Ah yes. The Bethel Spring Series.

Each year I look forward to the end of the Series. It's bittersweet, the end. There's always a combination of good and bad. The Series is, to me, like a big stage race. Although the racers see only the Sundays, for me the Series consumes my life for its six or so weeks.

Virtually everything gets put on hold, and any critical events automatically gets the Series piggybacked on top. So, for example, when we went to the hospital for Junior, the Series laptops and notes came along with us.

The Series also consumes. Just like a stage race, life becomes rote, with all sorts of things happening automatically. Unpack the car. Check registration. Move riders around. Correct entries. Download data. Download the release forms and send them out for printing. Pack the car. Drive down. Check out the course. Etc etc. A lot of other things fall by the wayside, postponed until after it ends.

Life, in a sense, pauses for the Series.

Therefore the end of the Series heralds the return to normalcy, the return of time.

I look forward to reclaiming my time during the week. I'm sure my workplace also appreciates it too. I typically spend (I'm guessing) half a day on the race on every Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. If it was cold out at the prior week's race I spend most of Monday and Tuesday in an exhausted zombie-like state, operating at bare minimum capacity. I walk into things, forget everything, and find myself practically dozing at work. 

I look forward to reclaiming my Saturdays. During the Series I also take off Saturdays (without pay - six Saturdays is more than a week of "vacation" if they paid me) so that I can finish everything I couldn't get done earlier.

I relish the idea of being able to ride again. During the Series I usually get to ride on Wednesday, maybe for an hour, or just skip training for the week. One week I rode three times. One week I didn't ride at all. Most of the weeks I rode about an hour between races.

I also look forward to the reduction of emails into the inbox. For whatever reason I don't get many voicemails now (and I'm not a fan of voicemail at all), and I've gotten only a few texts. The emails though, they require a lot of time as I try and reply to each one completely and sincerely.

On the other hand, I'll miss a lot of things.

I really like the races at Bethel. I suppose that if I didn't like Bethel I wouldn't have made it through the terrible years promoting them (I can't put a finger on the exact years but somewhere in the vicinity of the late 1990s and early 2000s). In fact I really, really like the races at Bethel.

Bethel also gives me a good excuse to visit my family weekly. They live close to the course so I stay there overnight. This allows me to get up at 5:15 AM instead of 4:15 AM. I usually chat with my brother, usually bounce ideas off him, and catch up with the nephews and sis-in-law. This ends up putting me to bed a little later than planned, but the tradeoff is worth it. I've discovered a lot about me, about bike racing, and about Bethel during those late night chats.

Of course I'll miss the camaraderie at Bethel. The racers compete heartily on the course but are friends off the course. My biggest rival in 2010 was someone I really respected as a rider and person. We've been trying to ride on the same team for probably a decade, and this year we finally made it happen. Yet in 2010 you wouldn't have known - we were racing against each other as hard as honorably possible. In a previous year we weren't such rivals. In fact I screamed at him to let me win a particular sprint so I could win the Series. He didn't and I didn't, and in retrospect I'm glad he didn't and I didn't.

When I compete further away from home, and I have no teammates, I look for those that do Bethel because I consider them quasi-teammates. When away from the Series I find it difficult to chase after a racer that races Bethel regularly, almost like I'm betraying a teammate.

A friend of mine said something to that effect - when a racer pins on a number at Bethel, I consider them "one of mine". I feel a kind of responsibility/duty/loyalty to everyone that races at Bethel.

It ties me to them.

When the Series draws to a close for another year, I know that I'll miss some of this bonding, some of this camaraderie.

Then again, this was the 2012 Series, and it was, to say the least, a really tough one. I was watching one of the Lance Tour DVDs and they had the pre-race interview that they usually have with the contenders. Someone asked him about the Tour and he replied in some tangential way, saying that the Tour was about life and death and that he had experienced both.

Well, in 2012, I experienced both too. I got both joy and devastation in just eight days. The Missus and I started taking care of our little one. Just over a week later we lost Markus, a kind of Jens Voigt of the area.

The Tour is about life and death? Well, Bethel is about life and death too, at least this year.

The last week started with all the usual stuff, registration snafus, Cat 5s wanting in or wanting out (I point out the 5s because they were the only field to close out), stuff like that. Add to that some last week necessities - I needed to get the trophies, I wanted to patch some long cracks at the course, and I couldn't forget some of the final week prizes.

Saturday I knew I had to get the trophies by 1 PM. With the store situated a good 90 minute drive from the house, I barely managed to leave by 11:40 AM, almost forgetting the Sportiiiis prizes. I had to go to the bank to withdraw money - the GC prize money at least doubles the normal prize payout so I'd run out of cash if I didn't take extra money. As it was the last couple people to get paid got a stack of singles.

Anyway, after the bank I blasted off to the trophy place, Crown Trophy in Brookfield. After some driving that belonged in last lap crit stuff, I managed to make it to the trophy place with literally a couple minutes to spare. They'd once again put mountain bike tops on the trophies, and we went through the catalog to figure out what the road bike tops were called ("racing cyclist"). Then I explained bike racing a bit to the trophy guy, who understood and liked car racing, but never realized that the draft even existed in bike racing.

With a bit of time ahead of me, I went to the course to patch some long, parallel-to-the-course cracks, ones that even I tried to avoid during the race. I bought pavement patch (terrible stuff - the best is PermaPatch, but no one in the area sold it, and I forgot to get it before I came down), trowel patch, and went about patching the worst of the cracks.

Someone also wrecked a bit of pavement at the bottom of the hill so I worked on that as well.

After I was done with the patching I blew all the extra pebbles off the course. On one section on the backstretch, one of the tenants pulled out in his pickup truck and tooted his horn (politely, I should add).

"You're not blowing those into my driveway, are you?"

I thought about what I was doing at that moment, which was blowing little pebbles out of one driveway (so I wouldn't blow them into it) and blowing sand and stuff away from the curb (instead of towards the curb and therefore over and past it).

"Well, I better not see anything blown into my driveway, understand?"
"I'm not kidding, you better not blow a single rock into my driveway."
"I understand. You can check your driveway tomorrow. I'll be here all day tomorrow at the top of the hill."

The tenant drove way, still suspicious.

So I carefully blew all the pebbles into his... 

Okay, I didn't. I actually cleared the first couple feet of his driveway (there was sand and some pebbles there already) and then blew all the debris down the road, away from his driveway.

I didn't hear from him so I figure he checked it out and it was okay.

Five hours after I started, late for a family dinner, I left the course.

The Missus drove down with Junior so we got to hang out at the restaurant, then at my dad's house. I worked on the spreadsheet, overall stuff, and tried to get stuff ready for Sunday. Although I got to sleep kind of late, I still woke up at some point to take care of Junior (3 AM?).

I couldn't get up with the alarm and arrived at the race 40 minutes late, at 6:40 AM. From there the race just flew along. First the final clinic for the 5s, then a short break for the Cat 5 race. Once the 5s finished I had to do GC calculations after each race, podium pictures, and try and get prepared for the next race.

Scott of Outdoor Sports Center was there. He manned the tent, organized the trophies for me, and hung out to the very end of the day. When they decided to sponsor the race, they committed heart and soul. I was glad to see them there every day. He's realistic too - he knows that sponsoring a race doesn't automatically generate a lot of sales, and he actually joked about that. I still think that supporting those that support racing is good, so if you can get over to Outdoor Sports Center in Wilton, CT, do it.

If nothing else you should buy some of that awesome Serfas tape I picked up. I told the Cat 5 clinic racers that it's got to be worth 50 watts in a sprint - it's so grippy it's incredible, and in the damp or wet it doesn't slip at all.

We had our raffles, the Cannondale CAAD10 frame (it went to a Junior) and the signed 2010 Vuelta Leader's Jersey (it went to a barely-out-of-Junior-ranks racer). Appropriate, I think. New racers, new blood, and a great way to hook them into the racing culture.

A little final milling around, kind of like when the party ends, and we were all off.

I headed home, the car a bit more loaded than normal. I had a bunch of stuff that lived at the race for the prior 7 weeks with me, plus the regular stuff that fills the car. I was tired, I still had sand in my shoes from clearing the course the day before, and a couple cold Cokes from Panificio Navona only cleared the fog for a bit.

The weariness hit me.

It was okay. The Series, except for some paperwork, was done for 2012. Even as it wrapped up, I had more "to-do" things queued up. I'll have an eventful season I think, with some planned off-bike changes, some hopeful on-bike improvements, and Junior throwing a joker into the deck of cards.

And now that the Series has finished, I can hit the Play button of my life player.

Life continues. 

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