Suffice it to say that the counter-clockwise direction is really good.
This last week's been pretty hot, not as bad as most of the country, but still, here, it was hot. With temps forecast in the mid-upper 80s, along with sun, I figured that I'd be racing a bit hot.
Therefore my preparation began the day before when I filled a bunch of insulated bottles (Podium Ice and Podium Chill) with ice cubes and left them in the freezer. They're not very flexible so I didn't want to fill them with water first - the expanding water would probably break the bottles. I did this so the ice cube box would empty out a bit and we would have more ice cubes the next morning.
I also fixed up my bike a bit. The tape I had looked and felt pretty ragged so I quickly rewrapped the bars (I hollered upstairs that it'd be 10 minutes - it took me about 13 all told). I found some Cinelli cork in a bag of spares so I just threw that on.
I also swapped my pedals and adjusted the front derailleur. After my unclip/derail scare at Gimbels I wanted to avoid this. My front derailleur was so far off I wondered to myself if I ever adjusted it when I put the 53T ring on.
I also swapped out the Keo Carbons for some Keo Classics. The only difference between the two were the clamp force - the Keo Carbons were supposed to be good for
With an early start and all the gear to pack in the car (Junior's stuff plus mine), I totally forgot about my ice cube tactic. Oops.
We set out in the fully loaded car. I had two bottles for each of the races plus a couple dump bottles and a 2 liter bottle for rinsing. In a pinch we could use the 2 liter water to help feed Junior too.
With not much time before the start of the race, I found myself still pinning my number at the 2 minute warning. With other riders lining up I figured I better get a move on. Warming up on a hot day is overrated anyway.
Les than 2 minutes to start.
One Podium Ice bottle for this race.
The first race was the M45+ race, the state championships for CT residents. I wouldn't refuse a medal here but I had no idea how the race would unfold and therefore I limited my goals.
That's pretty good, right? It's a clear goal, it has a solid desired result, I can formulate a plan, and work on executing it.
When I turned 35 I tried a couple Masters races and got shelled pretty hard. I wasn't necessarily out of shape but I was entering races because there wasn't another race I could enter (like Somerville before they gave the 3s a race). Such races were hard anyway, and mixing it up with the elite of the M35s didn't do me much good. I stuck with doing Cat 3 and P123 races for the next ten years (although I did a few M35s in the last few years and I'm sure one or two others I forgot about). This meant that a lot of people didn't know how old I really am.
As someone I've known for about 20 years asked me during the race, somewhat rhetorically (since I was in the race), "You're 45?!"
The M45+ race seemed a bit more controlled than what I'd normally see in the 3s. They race a bit more tactical, a bit less chaotically. I had told the Missus that my plan was to sit in, conserve, and sprint. Hopefully in the second race (the 3s) I'd have some gas left over - last time I did this I was a non-factor in the second race because I started cramping.
Therefore I sat in, watched breaks go up the road, watched others chase down the breaks, and waited for the race to wind down. I glanced at my heart rate a few times to see if the numbers seemed out of line - it seems my heart hasn't wanted to go over 160 recently, so to see upper 150s pretty much right away and then low 160s as the race went on, that was good.
I mean, okay, it's a bit high, but it's okay. It's better than seeing 148 and struggling, let's put it that way.
I figured that I'd move up with a few laps to go. My last lap surges don't work so well when I'm not fit so I wanted to give myself some time to recover once I got towards the front.
As we approached 3 to go I saw an opening, my legs felt frisky, and I rolled up the outside. I looked over as I moved up and I saw a lot of suffering faces. Downcast. Sitting up. I knew that the field had been making efforts and now they were just starting to sit up, take inventory, and prepare for the last few laps.
Ahead, almost forgotten, were two riders, Mike M (from the Nutmeg break) and another rider that was very tall.
Tall riders, as you all know, time trial well. That's my stereotype anyway. Plus no one would go off the front at 3 to go if they were a sprinter, right?
I rolled up to and kind of off the front. Then, with the field gifting me a gap, I rolled up to the break by myself. I carefully slowed to get on their wheels instead of blowing by them (which discourages them from getting on your wheel). They were already off the front so they were a bit tired - I suspect the field was chasing them and trying to bring them under control, and when the field got within 20-30 meters the field sat up.
That's when I rolled across the gap and injected some new hope into the break.
The field, knowing I can't time trial, knowing what happened last time I tried this, let me go. I looked back as I followed the other two around the first turn and the field really had sat up.
The Tall Guy wasn't pulling very hard, Mike wasn't too keen on pulling until he saw what I'd do, so I pulled my heart out when we hit the very beginning on the backstretch.
I worried a bit when I got to the hill - all too often I've pulled up a hill and blown myself up, so I tried to take it fast and then Mike (as it ended up) did a short pull on the slight downhill. Tall Guy was cooked I think and had let Mike through already, then left a gap behind Mike.
Whatever, it was okay. I slotted in behind Mike and hit the front before the final turn. Another long pull for me, to the start/finish sort of, and I was cooked.
I didn't know it until I downloaded the SRM but my heart rate had rocketed up to the mid 170s, numbers I haven't seen since 2010 (and at that point I couldn't sprint).
I begged death and didn't pull for the next half lap, as we slowed down. Mike wasn't about to pull us both and Tall Guy didn't have much gas left. At the top of the hill Tall Guy left a gap, I couldn't think about closing it, and the field rapidly approached.
I poured ice cold water on myself, preparing for the catch. I hoped I'd have something left for the sprint, and I hoped that the chase had hurt a few guys in the field as much as the attack hurt me.
I slotted in fine when the group rolled by on the slight downhill, and on the main straight we passed a totally cooked Mike. Ultimately I couldn't sprint so I rolled in behind the first group. I have no idea how I placed but I was out of the top 6 or so and therefore my place was irrelevant.
With a couple hours between races and the temperatures starting to climb, I tried to stay cool, hydrate, and eat a bit of something. I couldn't eat anything solid (the Missus had meticulously prepared some food for me) so I got by with some gels and such. I also managed to drink quite a bit of water, enough so that I started running out and thought I'd have to start with one bottle in the Cat 3s.
If you look carefully you can see Junior.
I salvaged a second insulated bottle by filling it with ice and water from other bottles so I had two bottles for the 3 race, the primary (meaning what I thought I'd need) and the secondary ("extra" in my mind). I'd use the extra until it was gone, then I could be generous with my primary. It's just water - if I want sugar I'd had one gel in my pocket.
The 3s raced a bit more aggressively. SOC and I had our plan. I thought that SOC had a chance of making a late break, and I knew my only chance would be the field sprint. Easy cheesy.
We both hung out at the back for a while, trying to save our reserves for our respective moves. I had this notion that I could help SOC launch but the reality was that I was in trouble early in the race. I started using up the extra water quickly, running out of a large bottle within 8 laps (of 20). With just a small primary bottle left I had to take it easy on the water. I started to twinge a bit and rolled over to SOC to tell him just that.
He took it to mean I was dropping out, so when I rolled up to him a bunch of laps later, he couldn't help but blurt out, "You're still here!"
I was but I couldn't get far enough up the field to help SOC. I glanced down at my heart rate and saw 160 a couple times, so things were well within parameters. The heat and long day had started to affect me but otherwise things were fine.
On the backstretch coming up on 2 to go SOC launched his planned attack. Another guy had attacked at the start/finish a half lap earlier but unfortunately SOC wasn't in a position to react. With two guys up the road the field started to organize. A local team, promoters of the New London Crit, put three guys at the front and whipped up the pace.
For a lap it looked possible, but the field really started to ramp up the speed and the sun and heat cooked SOC until he turned crispy fried. We rolled by him coming up on the bell so quickly I never saw him, and I optimistically looked up the road for him with half a lap to go.
He wasn't there, of course, so I tried to move up for the sprint. Although I followed an aggressively moving duo I couldn't translate that into a good sprint and I rolled in, again, behind the group fighting for bragging rights.
I glanced down to see if I had a heartbeat and the SRM showed me 180 bpm. Wowsers! I haven't hit that in forever, maybe for 10 years or more. I hit 187 in the late 90s and held 198 (running) just before that, but 180, wow. Hey, at least I worked hard.
We debated staying for the P123 race, especially after a funny siting (and for some reason these seem to happen at New Britain). I saw some guy roll towards us in a Jelly Belly kit.
"Who's this guy in the full Jelly Belly kit? What a doo.... on a team issue Focus bike... that's a real Jelly Belly pro!"
It wasn't Jeremy Powers although he rolled by shortly after. I'm sorry to say (apologies!!) I didn't know who the other guy was but it's always a thrill to see that level pro at a local race.
(The last time I mistook a pro for a Cat 5 was at New Britain when the last race of the day was the Cat 5s or Citizen race. I think it was Jim Copeland who was sporting the Chevy LA Sheriff's kit, and while I was warming up for the race I thought, jeepers, this Cat 5 is sporting a full Chevy LA Sheriff kit. The real pro romped around in the race but a very strong Charlie Issendorf soloed in for the win. I was next to Issendorf at some point in the race, looked at his Scott Rakes and decided he was going for the solo move. I watched him attack but I couldn't respond. I guess no one else did either so that wasn't a bad thing.)
The heat, Junior's fatigue, and my hunger made me vote to leave early, even though I'd have liked to watch the pros.
A good day again. Hot, okay, but good. I tried to make something happen in the M45s and I set out with a plan in the 3s. I suppose a lot of this is what a new racer goes through - you want to try all sorts of moves because it's hard to tell what will work for you and what won't. I'd go at the bell, two laps before, half a lap to go, all sorts of stuff. Even when I sprinted I'd jump early or late, mixing things up to see what worked for me.
Ultimately I found the proper formula. For me it's a bit boring - sit in, be near the front at the bell, and sprint. For hard races I used to start moving up at 10 to go, for easier ones at 5 to go. Then as I got older and slower I started reducing the numbers. 7 to go and 3 to go. 3 to go and 1 to go. At one race I was at the back with a friend as we passed the bell. My friend sat up - he was satisfied with his training in the race. I looked at him, grinned, and said, "It's miracle time," and started moving up.
That day I think I got second, maybe I won. My friend couldn't believe it, and, to be honest, neither could I.
Those days are gone though. I'm much slower in the sprint, by a huge margin. My prior strong point is now just average. This means going back to the drawing board and experimenting once again. It makes racing interesting and fun and all that - it's like being a kid again.
Now let's hope for a nice night on Tuesday so the races at the Rent go on.