Monday, July 30, 2012

Equipment - Tsunami 1.1 (Ream/face)

The only real issue I've had with my frames has been the BB30 shell. It's a press-fit bottom bracket shell, and as such it needs to be exactly right. The spec states it should be 41.96mm in diameter on the inside (internal diameter or ID). This allows the 42 mm bearing to squeeze in there with a perfect balance of snugness and looseness. If it's too loose it'll creak (most likely) or move a bit. If it's too tight the bearings get squeezed. You may not think a BB30 can be squeezed but trust me, they can.

In the old days of steel and aluminum all frames had to be prepped before they were built. The brazing and welding would warp and distort the metal, leaving behind imperfect frames. Okay, they might have been pretty or whatever but you had no way of knowing if the bottom bracket shell's outside faces were parallel or if the threads were any good. Likewise the head tube surfaces were suspect, both in the inside roundness as well as the flat edges the headset cups sat against.

The problem with having unfinished surfaces is that the different halves of the bottom bracket or headset may not be in line with each other. The frame's owner will always have weird wear or adjustment problems with both areas.

Shimano addressed the bottom bracket issue a long time ago by selling a bottom bracket cartridge, a one piece insert that had its own "shell" if you will. The problem was that these things were heavy, and the current crop of bottom brackets returned to the "left side - right side" construction type of days past. This, of course, means that frame prep counts again.

It's easier for most shops than it used to be. With the advent of mass produced aluminum and carbon frames shops and suppliers have slowly lost the art of frame prepping. The big aluminum manufacturers will get a whole frame, sit it on a jig, and using a monster machine, quickly ream the insides of the bottom bracket shell and the head tube, then face the outside edges. This assures that the bottom bracket and headset will work smoothly on the assembled bike.

With carbon it's even easier - the frame molds are so precise that the manufacturers pull out a frame that's already "finished". They don't need to do anything else because it's all done.

Finally component manufacturers have done their best to enable their bits to work on roughly finished frames. I think of the Soviet approach to military machines compared to the American one. An old joke goes something like this:
An American pilot makes fun of his Soviet counterpart's coarse jet fighter. The Soviet responds, "Well, your planes are like fine ladies' watches. They are beautiful and work well but they are very delicate. Our watches are like Mickey Mouse watches. They tell time and if something happens and they stop you just shake the watch and it works again."

I really identified with this since at the time my mom had a precious watch that seemed very fragile, and 12 year old me had a yellow Mickey Mouse watch that was basically indestructible, even when I dragged the watch face along the sidewalk.

Nowadays there's a lot less adjustment (i.e. fine stuff) and a lot more "just replace the cartridge" (i.e. coarse stuff).

I say all this because a small aluminum frame builder (and steel too I suppose) needs to finish the bearing interface surfaces - the head tube and, if applicable, the BB30 bottom bracket shell.

(Regular bottom brackets get screwed into the bottom bracket shell, and many shops still have the tools necessary to chase/cut such threads. BB30 is nice because it allows a wider diameter bottom bracket axle and ultimately a very light crank/BB unit, but the problem is that very few shops are prepared to service the frame part of a BB30 bike.)

When I built my (then orange) Tsunami, I didn't have the luxury of a bike shop or even the big tools of a shop. I built it in a hurry before I headed out to California for a training camp and I took every shortcut possible. Therefore I never dealt with finishing the frame, either the bottom bracket or even the headset. Because of this I've had to deal with the resulting issues since - a headset that always had to be a bit too tight and a bottom bracket that was very, very tight.

In fact, in that SoCal training camp, I coasted down one of the numerous short but reasonably steep downhills at about 40 mph, shifted into the 39x23 or so, and spun the pedals. Since I wasn't pedaling fast enough to engage the freehub body I was still coasting even though I was pedaling. This meant that any resistance in the drivetrain (chain, derailleur pulleys, pedal bearings, and BB bearings) would result in a power reading on the SRM.

Unlike 99% of my riding time, I stared intently at the SRM as I spun down the hill. I varied the pedal speed, from about 60 to 90 to about 150 rpm. I saw about a watt of resistance for every 10 rpm (which I just realized now, since my benchmark numbers were 6, 9, and 15 watts).

Although it takes only 20 extra watts to see me off the back of a crit, I really focused on the sprint. And 15 watts (at most - if I was pedaling 150 rpm I was doing something wrong) is a very, very small part of the 1500+ watts I could hit at the time.

Therefore I ignored it.

The bearings got crunchy quickly, and I went through a few sets in the year I rode the orange frame. I got the black frame next and spent some time filing the shell by hand. Hopefully I didn't ruin it but on this frame I only saw about 4 watts, at most, doing the same kind of test. This seemed acceptable to me, even if my cranks don't turn more than a half revolution at a time if I try to spin it as hard as I can.

With the UsedToBeOrangeAndNowRed frame back, I decided that I'd invest in the tools necessary to ream and face the two bearing surfaces. With the help of the Expo Wheelmen's shop sponsor Manchester Cycle I went ahead and bought the business end of the BB30 reamer and headset cutting tools. (The cutting edges are what cost money - they sit in handles and Manchester Cycle has the appropriate handles for the cutters.)

I should point out the the FSA BB30 reamer alone lists for $400 (and that's without the handles!). The headset cutting tools were a bit more reasonable, but still, it's not a small thing. Neither are big sellers since most shops work on those aforementioned "fit and finished" carbon or aluminum frames.

All this took some time and I have to thank Bob at Manchester Cycle for all his patient work. Luckily he's a car nut too and used his 20 ton press to finish off the job (I'll explain below). Suffice it to say that I'm looking forward to building up this frame.

 BB30 shell, reamed, left side.
Bob reported that significant material came out of both sides.

 The headtube with the Crank Bros cups pressed in.
This is a simple result for a nightmare process.

 Seat tube - honed in prep for the seat post.
This is the cheapest of the tools needed for prepping a frame.

 Another BB30 shot, of the right side.

I mentioned a nightmare process? Well, I didn't know this, but when I jury rigged the headset press and jammed the cups into the frame, I was really, really lucky. The headset has an incredibly low stack height (i.e. it's not tall), the main reason for me purchasing it. It's also very light, a bonus (I'd have bought it even if it was heavier - I was only concerned with getting the shortest height headset within my budget.)

Well the reason the headset is so light is that the cups are extremely thin. They're so thin that if you try and press them in without a special thing holding the outside of the cup, the cup breaks.

 Special tool that surrounds the headset cup to prevent it from breaking.
Bob used a 20 ton press to press in the cups -  Press means lots of pressure, very easy to modulate.

This is an oops. Crank Bros sent a replacement. Thank you.

Now that the frame has its main bearing points finished, the seat tube honed, it's ready for the detail prep and then assembly.

Detail prep in this case means mounting the replaceable rear derailleur, cleaning out the cable housing anchor stops, and chasing the threads on the downtube barrel adjuster mounts (they got painted over/through).

I'll need to put the headset crown race on the new fork, make sure everything seems right, then proceed with the assembly. I won't be using new parts except for consumables, I'll just be rebuilding with basically the same stuff (which is currently sitting around my bike workshop). It'll be the Record/Chorus 10s stuff, a Cannondale SI SRM (my backup crankset will go on this frame), and a few experimental replacement parts.

Once the red frame is up and running I'm going to have Bob do the black frame - the reaming, facing, and honing. Yes, I already asked him if he'd do it all again (the black frame has the same headset). Yes, he agreed.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Racing - 2012 New London Crit

Not much for me to say here. In 2010 I had a fantastic for me race here, with a good solid finish after a intimidating introduction to the race. I didn't know there was a hill to the finish and I almost came off the back a few times early on. As the race progressed I realized I had settled into the "high uncomfortable zone" where I could maintain such a pace for a long time but it'd hurt every minute.

Of course as the laps wound down the pain went away, and although I got balked at the narrow acute last turn (the guy in front of me fell over), I still did a good sprint.

Two years and 20 pounds later I had only modest aspirations. I hoped that I'd make the finish and if I did I felt that I'd have a good sprint (because usually when I finish a course that has a downhill on it I have a good sprint).

Like 2010 the day threatened rain, but the Missus, Junior, and I trooped down for the early-to-us race regardless. It didn't seem all that bad out and we were looking forward to seeing some of our friends there.

With the normal delays in getting out of the house, I decided that 30 minutes would be enough for getting there, getting registered, and doing any warm up. I had fresh legs, my last ride having been my reasonably successful Tuesday Night race. I didn't spin my legs or anything the day before but I figured what the heck, it's just a bike race.

Of course we had a little less time when we arrived. I got my bike ready, registered, got my number, pinned it on, did a warm up lap, and that was that. Everything took a bit longer though - my valve adapter unscrewed my tire's valve so I had to fiddle with that, I forgot my wallet so I had to log into my USAC account with my phone to show them my license info, and I did kind of a crappy job pinning my number.

Still, though, the lack of warmup wasn't out of the ordinary for me, and in fact it was about what I wanted to do.

We did a lap in memoriam then started off the race. I thought we'd have the memoriam lap, a parade lap, then the start, so I tooled around the course at the back for the memoriam lap. When they started the race at the end of it I found myself a bit out of position.

The race strung out immediately and I realized that yes, 20 more pounds makes a difference going up that little hill. I was carrying an extra bike up the hill every lap. I was okay for a lap or two but then the rest of the course started playing its role.

With a left, right, left, long left, right, left, and hard left, there were a LOT of turns, and the group stayed single or double file most of the way. Usually I love these kinds of courses because it emphasizes handling and tactical skills, but today it hurt me. I couldn't find a good spot to recover so I made one - I'd go a bit easier two turns before the downhill, let myself get gapped before the left into the downhill, coast/recover down the hill, then start pedaling to try and exit the turn fast and reattach to the back of the field.

I did this okay but some miscalculations, some inattentiveness, and suddenly I was deep in the red just reattaching.

After a few laps of fish flopping around I gave in to the inevitable and eased.

The announcer was saying "You need to stay in the race! We need the footage!" Accurate unfortunately - I don't really post clips of me getting shelled - they're not that interesting and the only real lesson I can teach from them is to be stronger than I am if you want to stay in the race.

I rode around until the field almost lapped me then, expecting to get pulled, I did a sprint up to the line.

I got pulled but I managed to do a reasonable sprint to close my "workout".

I joined the Missus, unable to breath or sit or do anything quite right. I felt totally spent. We watched the finish of the race and I went to get the camera to take pictures of the finish. I jammed my jersey into the bib part of my bib shorts, threw the helmet on my head, jumped on the bike, and started rolling down to the last turn.

Thump thump thump thump.

I looked down. I could see a bit of tire over the edge of the very wide Stinger 6 rims.


I kept rolling but this didn't feel right.

I stopped and pressed the tire.




Well that could help explain my poor performance. Or not. But I'll use it as an excuse.

Teammate and friend SOC did fine, hanging in and doing a good sprint.

SOC in the final turn of the final lap.
I like the bouncing chain.

Then with rain threatening we quickly packed up and headed out. It started to rain a bit as we headed out to a nearby restaurant (the Missus used to live around here). It poured while we ate, then basically stopped. We drove home in relatively dry weather but the threatening clouds made me drive a bit faster.

"I don't know if we're racing into the rain or in front of it but those clouds look really threatening."

It ended up we raced ahead of the rain. We unpacked the car in record time, got inside, and then the torrential downpour started. We'd never seen the road flooded like this, to the point I went and took a picture of cars going through the big puddles.

 Minivan through puddle.

The spray after.

An hour later it was okay again.

I'll be reinstalling the valve on the tire and hope that's what caused the flat. If not I have 4 spares to choose from and glue one on.

No Rent next week so my next race will be the Rent in two weeks. Till then...

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Racing - July 24, 2012 @TuesdayTheRent

Once again the Missus, Junior, and I headed down to East Hartford for the @TuesdayTheRent race. This year I've had the chance to get ready before the Missus gets home so we get to leave a bit earlier. Still, though, we seem to miss the B race start, and I told the Missus I wanted to try and make them and take some pictures for the team.

The weather wasn't unbearably hot, enough so that I only brought two bottles, one full of ice (and topped off with water) and the other just half ice and half water. I tossed them in a soft cooler along with some freeze packs for the drive over.

After Sunday's race I thought I was okay. I even vocalized it, telling the Missus that "I'm not sore."

Well, Monday morning hit me like a ton of bricks. My whole body was sore, from my wrists to my forearms to my shoulders down my back, my hamstrings, quads, and even calves. I guess that the bumps and efforts from the Naugatuck Crit really worked me over.

Therefore, with an off day on Monday, I wasn't very sure how this Tuesday would fly. I felt tired, a bit weary, but that's kind of normal for a normal summer. I hadn't really trained much going into the season though so this wasn't normal for me - it would have been normal had it been my January/February SoCal training camp, but this was late July and the season would close in a couple months.

I thought I should warm up a bit but instead took some pictures of the B race, sat around and talked about kids with another parent (and Cat 2 racer), and basically goofed off until it was time to line up. I think I rode about two minutes and thirty seconds before I lined up for the start.

Whatever, right? I felt tired and sore and I'd accept whatever happened.

The start. Approaching end of the season = low sun.

Naturally the race started off with an attack or three. The field strung out pretty quickly but the wind seemed manageable. This meant the pace wasn't killer - with unfriendly wind it's impossible to find shelter and I quickly go off the back. With friendly wind things are a bit easier and I can hang in for a lot longer.

This night the wind blew in from the south (kind of), so it was kind of a cross/headwind out of the third turn (first from the left then from the right), a crosswind on the main stretch, a right side wind after Turn One, and a middle wind that swirled into a hard right side crosswind on the backstretch.

The swirl, just so you know, comes off of the enormous vortex generator sitting just to our right on the backstretch - the Rentschler Field football stadium.

After a couple laps I had my rhythm down for shelter. I'd do whatever on the main straight, usually sit to the right, then go around the first turn and try and stay real close to the next wheel - the wind hit immediately and I realized quickly that a slight gap meant a lot of work.

I'd be okay on the backstretch, moving left with everyone else as we hit the swirl current that blew around the corner of the stadium.

Turn 3 led us onto the backstretch, and the right side had tons of shelter. I really dug it on the very right on the first lap until we started around the final curve. The wind hit me unexpectedly strongly from the right and I spent a very worrying 20 or 30 seconds in the gale force (to me) wind on the right side, exposed like a beach comber standing at the water's edge.

After that educational lap I slid over to the left to keep someone between me and the wind. I would sacrifice lots of positions, sometimes 5 or 10 spots, to do this, but it was worth it.

Five guys went up the road. Unusually for Expo we only had one of the many strong teammates present. Not to be disrepectful of the other guys but Cliff, David, Todd, and recently Will are the standard go to guys for the breaks. The rest of us can chase primes or take pulls but we don't infiltrate race long breaks that lap the field. Tonight Todd was the only one of the go-to guys to show, and he duly made the split.

The rest of us duly sat in.

Once the break gained about half a lap, everyone started working together. There were individuals who were chasing, fine, and two teams that had some strong riders but happened to miss the move, and they were chasing the whole time. When the break really got established then many of the rest of us got into the rotation.

The A race format stays the same the whole season - time plus 5 laps. Tonight it was 50 minutes and 5 laps which comes out to about an hour of racing. When I figured it was at least half way I resisted the temptation to look down at the SRM to see what my elapsed time said. Then, another quarter of the way into the race (meaning I'm guessing it's about 45 minutes into the race), I looked down at the SRM.

32 minutes.

We hadn't been racing for even 30 minutes.

I started using my bottle up and switched them for the other one. Ever since I learned that the Podium Ice bottles have been discontinued I decided not to toss them aside in a race unless I knew they'd land softly and near a friend. If I was going to carry both bottles with me I figured I might as well use them up before the finish.

Slowly, steadily, I counted down the minutes. As the riders fatigued there'd be more and more gaps, more and more efforts required to stay in the race. The group shrank as a few riders dropped out. I tried to stay in the middle of the group, but soon that meant sitting within 6 or 8 places from the front. I drifted to the back all too often, finding myself forced to close gaps that I shouldn't have been behind.

I found myself on the pointy end of the group just a couple times, and both times I worried that I'd be dropped shortly thereafter. Henk, one of the promoters, murmured some quiet words to me and I made it through both crisis points in reasonable condition.

Henk talking to me.

With everyone working and the break starting to wilt after a race-long effort, the two groups never merged. We never got lapped but we couldn't catch them either. We'd be sprinting for 6th place. Well, I'd be sprinting for 6th place if I could stay in the race. Every gap I closed made me doubt it, but every effort I made reassured me that I hadn't started to cramp yet, I hadn't started to overheat, I hadn't messed up in some way.


Then, miracle of miracles, I saw that we weren't at 5 laps to go, we were at 4 laps to go. Wow. I was so intent on doing the wind thing each lap that I didn't even see the 5 laps to go card. When I looked around I realized the others had noticeably throttled back, gathering themselves for the sprint. Game on.

I debated when I should move up. I knew the ferocious headwind would kill anyone that went anywhere between Turn 3 and the final bend in the last straight. I also knew that the only place to really  jump would be on the final short straight, maybe 50 meters of road. If I were trying to win the sprint I'd have to be sitting second wheel at that point to have any chance, and, ideally, the guy in front of me would have been in the wind at least 100 meters prior.

I was too tired to contemplate moving up on the 4 to go lap, and 3 to go went by all too quickly. 2 to go hit and guys started to do that comet thing at the front, where the front gets a bit bunched up and the rest of the group (including me) trails off the back. The field resembles a comet if you will, or some other small things, like a tadpole.

That left me the bell lap to do whatever I could do.

Coming up on the bell.
Them there's a lotta guys in front of me.

I moved up a bit as we passed the ringing bell. You can see from the picture above that there was a big hole to my front left, and with some guys choosing to sit it out, I could slide up a bit. We went through Turn 1 in formation, with two CCNS riders at the front. I knew Aiden was in the group, and since he normally doesn't sprint, he'd be leading it out.

It was going to be fast.

Turn Two, last lap.
Still not great.

Sure enough, as we headed out of Turn 2, I could see Aiden's figure at the front, a teammate tucked in behind. We passed the CCNS boys (riding their bikes) on the drive down so I knew they'd already ridden some miles. I wasn't sure if it was 10 or 100 miles so I wasn't sure if he was going to go 35 or 39 mph in the leadout.

Regardless it didn't matter. However fast he pulled his teammate, I'd have to go faster to move up. So I did.

 Turn 3
I followed Kevin Y up to and through this turn.

As you can see now there were only six riders ahead of me (in the field - we still had a 5 rider break that had won the race). Aiden would be pulling off to launch his sprinter, leaving me to deal with five guys, the sprinter and four others. With the wind initially from the left I worried that one of the guys to the right would get a good run into the last curve but that didn't happen.

On my side, luckily for me, one guy went around the CCNS guy too early, and I was on his wheel. He duly led out the group around the long bend, me sitting second wheel. I moved out to claim my passing lane (which both broadcast my move but also protected my lane), and as the course straightened out I tried to launch as hard as I could.

It was hard, with my body not really working in a coordinated fashion (due to fatigue), I had no strength to really do a proper jump, and I felt waaaay overgeared.

I saw Kevin jump to my right and I knew right away I couldn't match him. I sprinted to the line but my legs had nothing and Kevin led me all the way there.

 A glance to confirm what I thought.

At the line I looked and sure enough, Kevin had killed me in the sprint.

That may not be ideal, but for me, to be able to finish this race, to be able to gather up my tired body and do a good solid hour of effort, just to reach the sprint was a huge success. To have something of a sprint left was even better.

My numbers weren't that great - I didn't do an 1100w 20 second effort, which is about my record in a race. In fact at race end my peak power was only 1100w and I did a sub 650w 20 second effort in the sprint.

Still, though, that was good enough for second.

I got to finish the race. I got in a solid hour of training, basically a motorpacing session for me (to the others I think it was a "moderate" ride). I got to experience a sprint "under duress", the only way to really work on a race end sprint. I bounced my heartrate up and down a bit more fluidly, with my heartrate up over 174 bpm for the last couple minutes and hitting over 183 bpm at the peak of my effort.

It's too bad it's approaching the end of the season. It'd have been nice had this been early on, but it's all good. There's always next week. Well, two weeks from now as there is no Rent race on July 31.

And there's always next year.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Racing - 2012 Naugatuck Criterium, Cat 3-4

I've written a few times about this race. I feel a small connection to it - the Junior race is named in memory of Paul Ruhlman, a kid I raced with when I was a kid. He helped me out a few times, made some pointed observations, and made me realize just how much I needed to learn about bike racing.

The Missus, Junior, and I made the trip to the course midday - with the late start we could afford to leave later than normal. This made for a nice morning - we had breakfast out at our regular place, Junior charmed a few more people, and then we headed back to watch the last stage of the Tour.

I wasn't sure how Cavendish would do at the end of the race, especially after reading a Tweet where he described how he was getting sick all over himself on the climbs. Too much information perhaps but I've personally never ridden hard enough to get sick on myself and even so I have a hard time doing well in races. Therefore it put some doubt in my mind about his ability to sprint on the last day.

Of course the day before the time trial he won the stage in spectacular fashion. The break dangled just ahead of the field in the last kilometer. Cav eased a bit hard going into the last turn, losing his leadout man's wheel, and I thought for sure that he'd made a critical error. Lotto took up the running for Greipel, Cav slotted in, and as the break started to disintegrate in front Cav launched.

He skipped from rider to rider, taking refuge from the wind when he could, then bridged up to the last two survivors of the break. Then, spectacularly, he dove to the right, clear of everyone, and sprinted to a dominant stage win.

I've sprinted through breaks to win but only at Bethel, and after I've "practiced" the finished hundreds of times (through laps of the race as well as sprints). I can't imagine pulling off a sprint like that after weeks of super hard riding on a road that I either never or rarely rode (I don't know if it was used as a finish for a race he'd done in the past).

Sunday Cav showed his dominance once again. Wiggins pulled hard going into the finale, bringing to mind Laurent Fignon leading out teammate and birthday boy Pascal Jules, the first Tour finish I watched on TV. I remember Lemond doing the same, but in both cases their rider didn't win the stage. Wiggins had the luxury of leading out this generation's Abdujaporov/Cipollini/McEwen/Petacchi/Bontempi/Museeuw. His rider won from way far out.

I thought of this teamwork, Wiggin's willingness to work when he really didn't need to, when I was at the race. I had one teammate in the very small field, Bryan. I realize now why but I think there were something like 7 or 8 races over the weekend, including the Hilltowns Road Race and a perennial favorite of mine the Stirling (NJ) Crit, and a slew of races in NYC.

The sheer number of events probably sucked up a lot of racers. Also the Tour was on and most racers are fans, and if they were fans, they were at home watching the Tour in the morning. This precludes driving a few hours to make a noon or 1 PM start, and suddenly it's much easier to do the "close" race, not the far one.

At any rate I know this isn't my race. It's not my kind of course even when I am fit, and now that I'm not really fit at all I couldn't even count on finishing the race. I decided that I'd work for Bryan, and if it came to the sprint I told myself to keep pedaling to the line (my habit is to sit up if I'm not in the top 10 or so, and if I'm not able to sprint I'll sit up with half a lap to go).

Bryan did the M35+ race just before the 3-4 race and soloed the last two laps to finish between the break and the field. This meant that he'd need some recovery time as our race lined up next. The small field meant less shelter, and the course favored a break.

It'd be a hard race.

Two white dots to the very left - the break early on.
Then a small split in the field. Then another one.
The whole race felt like this looked.

Of course a break went. Eventually a group of about five escaped up the road, strong steady racers all. I couldn't do much but hoped to latch onto a chase group. If the gap came down and Bryan felt good then he'd be able to go too.

 Turn 1 - real "small town main street" feel

Turn 2

 The deceivingly tiring hill on the backstretch (note wall "angle")

Turn 3, an acute turn.

A few times I got surprised at a line a rider took (or didn't take). I remembered that this was a 3-4 race, not a straight 3 race, and I should be expecting such riding. I wasn't and had to delay my effort a bit as I'd lost my run into the backstretch. As the race progressed I adjusted my expectations and never saw anything weird or unusual. Maybe not efficient but definitely nothing dangerous.

I felt like this race was progressing like a TuesdayTheRent race, where small groups would slide off the front, never to be caught again. I figured I'd let a group get a bit clear and bridge, then join the disappearing little group. I waited for a move to establish but still be within 15 seconds of the field, or, ideally, 10 seconds or so.

A few guys rolled off the front, and after a couple laps they looked like they'd settled into a good rhythm. I decided this was my move.

I did a seated rolling surge, wanting to break the elastic but already having used some of my reserves just getting back into position (after an unexpected swerve) to make my move. Unfortunately it came to naught, and when I rounded the last turn (3 turn course) I saw the next group was just too far away for me to bridge solo - they had at least 10 seconds after I covered whatever I did with my surge.

I eased and eventually guys started to come around me. One guy, meaning well, complimented me on my "nice pull". I had to grin - it was meant to be a field shattering surge, not a "nice pull".

I hid and recovered while Bryan set about bridging up to the break. The rest of the race went by in a haze. Main straight, find shelter, try not to hit too many bumps. First turn, watch for any weirdness but generally okay. Downhill, set up to the outside or inside, the middle wasn't ideal. Second turn, outside was great, inside was too, middle was so bumpy my chain came off a few times. Backstretch the right side worked well, then up the hill watch for the squeeze to the right. Around the last turn (anywhere worked well) then a few hard pedal strokes to roll up into shelter.

Rinse and repeat.

I started feeling really hot. After a particularly long surge on the backstretch (someone trying to launch a countermove) I decided that I'd had enough. I sat up as we hit the hill, hot, fatigued, and tired of making all these efforts at every part of the course.

Of course the field sat up too and I rolled back into it.

I kept going.

On the last lap a friendly rival pulled our group for much of the lap. The field remnants had splintered and the break had swelled to take all the places. I let him pull to the line. When the guy between us sprinted around, I rolled up to my friendly rival and pushed him forward. I wanted him to place ahead of me because, honestly, he'd worked hard during the race.

I rolled in after him, pedaling to the line as I'd promised myself, just not exactly how I envisioned. I felt happy to have finished, happy to have at least had the strength to make at least one move.

I also felt really zonked after the race - the Missus drove while I sat in the back with Junior.

Looking at the data I can see why I felt zonked - my heartrate soared to the mid 170s virtually every lap for the second half of the race, and my one effort meant my heartrate stayed at 171 for over 5 minutes - and this was midrace! Normally I'd make such efforts only at the end of a race.

Even without sprinting my heartrate hit 178 bpm before dropping to 174 by the line (since we'd all eased up).

(As an FYI I don't look at my numbers during the race, except an occasional glance to make sure there are numbers there and not zeros, so I didn't know any of this until I looked at the power file. An added bonus - even with coasting my 5 min cadence was 89 rpm, and it was close to 100 rpm when I was pedaling, so my form is acceptable. With shorter cranks I'd probably be closer to 110-115 rpm but on the 175s I lose some rpms.)

Although my power numbers are low - 236w for those 5 minutes, and 165w for the race, that's about what I can do - that's not really relevant. I need enough power to stay in the race. Although I was at my limit for much of it I managed to stay at least in the field.

I worked hard doing it too. It's good to rev the engine - it feels good to be able to make efforts, dig deeper, and keep going. This means I'm finally getting fit. It's a bit late in the season for me, especially since I don't do any cross or other fall/winter stuff, but still, this is better than getting shelled in the first few minutes of a race.

There are a few more races coming up on the schedule and then I don't know what I'll be doing. Hopefully this summer doldrum fatigue weariness strength thing keeps going, and I'll be able to race respectably the rest of the year.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Racing - July 17, 2012 @TuesdayTheRent

The summer seems to be slipping through my fingers like it always does. These hot days (it's been in the 90s and that's hot to me) really zap me. My cool weather preference meant that I've been camping out in the relative cool of the house (and any businesses I visit).

Last week took me to a few places for some much needed maintenance (my eyes and my bike). Along with the regular stuff during the day I didn't ride outside at all so Tuesday would be a test of both pedaling and temperature resistance.

At the start Aidan, CCNS bossman, quickly went over the symptoms of heatstroke, mentioning things like nausea, dizziness, goosebumps, and some other stuff.

I privately recalled another symptom - passing out. Back in the day a promising Junior from close to home was in a break in the Danbury Crit. At some point I didn't see him in the break, and shortly thereafter I saw him walking his bike, scraped up a bit, his parents with him.

Ends up that he passed out in one of the turns and just leaned over until he hit the deck. After some IV fluids and a bit of cooling off he was okay, albeit a bit red faced from the heat and wobbly from the heatstroke.

I'd taken my standard preparations for hot weather (anything over about 85 degrees for me) - two Podium Ice bottles full of ice and topped off with water, two Podium Chill bottles with the same, a 2 liter bottle of water (for dumping/drinking), and a couple extra bottles of ice and water (non-insulated).

The cooler also held a bunch of bottles for Junior - with temperatures forecast in the mid-upper 90s we wanted to give him cold feedings, not warm ones.

I had my trusty Halo headband. I don't think I've written a post about it but it's the best thing since sliced bread as far as I'm concerned. It keeps sweat out of my eyes, I don't notice it until I take my helmet off, and it comes in a few flavors. The only problem I have with it is that I misplace it or can't find it because the headband is small.

Of course I had all the other gear. I misplaced my Sportiiiis so that was missing (it's also very small and easily lost in even a small gear bag) but I had my helmet cam, phone/Strava, and my SRM computer (PowerControl V or PCV for short) and heartrate strap. I wear just a jersey and shorts, and for this race I decided to skip the team shoe covers and race in my Vegas socks.

(The shoe cover zipper scrapes my ankle and I have to wear my Swiftwick Expo socks to prevent that, and if I didn't want to wear the Expo socks I skip the shoe covers.)

The Missus set up camp with Junior, a regular thing for us now. She has a good system for the camp bit and I deal with the cooler and spare wheels.

The race itself was difficult. It felt windy like normal but the heat was a bit much for me. About 20 minutes in I came off the back. I don't know what it was but I know I sat up - I definitely had more efforts in me although not for the 40 minutes required to get to the finish.

I jumped in twice, sitting at the back. Apparently a lot of people felt the same as I did because the second half of the group was carefully and politely trying to let the non-lapped people ahead. Problem was that most of us were lapped so the gaps would form and we'd scramble to stay on.

After the second "jump in" I realized that I was starting to overheat. I sat up when a bunch of us got gapped, rolled for a lap or two, and decided that I'd do a sprint before climbing off the bike. It felt like a good plan, I thought it was a good plan, and I even dumped ice cold water on myself so I didn't think I was in the temperature redline.

As soon as I jumped I knew things weren't right. I tried to keep the bike rolling but after maybe 10 seconds I flipped the switches. I thought of the cooler at the car, with two more bottles of ice water and that 2 liter dump bottle.

We picked a restaurant that was kind of warm inside and that didn't help any. In fact, until we got home, I never felt like I'd properly cooled down. Junior wasn't happy with the temperature either and fussed for a while - I think he's more sensitive to the heat than even me (which is normal for a baby).

The heat and fatigue felt vaguely comfortable. I want to say "uncomfortably comfortable" although that doesn't make sense. It brings back the whole feeling of "this is summer, this is racing season". There'd be 4 or 6 or 8 weeks of this, hot, tired, fatigue. Then the days will cool down and it'll feel like "back to school" time, the chill in the mornings, the sun trying to warm up the cool air during the day.

I complain about the heat, the lethargy, the doldrums, but it also means that very shortly we'll be heading into cool weather and, for me, the end of racing season.

Maybe the heat isn't that bad.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Racing - July 10, 2012 @TuesdayTheRent

After the races over the weekend I felt a spark of hope for Tuesday's race at the Rent. First off the weather had initially threatened, but as the forecast evolved the chances of rain dropped to next to nil. Second, with my heart rate revving nicely Sunday, it meant I could ask my body to actually work a bit. I hoped that Tuesday ended up the same.

With the previous Rent race shelling me after a little less than 10 minutes at 235 watts, I needed a race that wasn't quite so aggressive. For me that means a break goes right away, with all the main protagonists, and the field eases. Tuesdays don't work well for me due to the course and smaller field sizes - when 100 racers start off and chase each other ferociously it's much easier than when the group numbers 30.

I remembered the big camera this time, and since the Bs were out there, and the Expo riders seemed to be enjoying themselves, I decided to take pictures. I took them until handing off the camera to Amanda (who later handed off to Heavy D). Heavy D, in what I think is his third race ever, won (for a third time). Although two took place here at the Rent, one was at the New Britain Crit so that was a "real" race.

All the picture taking meant I didn't start pedaling the bike until after the Bs finished, and I think I just rode from our vantage spot (the Missus, Junior, and a few other various Missus's and Juniors were there) to the start line. With such an extensive warmup I decided to sit in and hope for that break to go soon.

Of course, with a Tuesday Night Worlds, the attacks went from the gun. I hadn't finished putting my gloves on so I struggled with that as we got under way.

First lap.
The lead rider is in front of the barn red shed thing towards the left.
I just finished getting my right glove on.

The group immediately fragmented up front, with two groups escaping and eventually merging. I saw three teammates up there so I relaxed mentally.

Behind the break the field strung out as riders tried to close the tantalizingly small gap. Although we weren't going quite as fast as a couple weeks ago, it felt immensely easier. The numbers bear this out - at the 5 minute mark I was at just 209 watts, about my FTP, whereas two weeks ago I was at 235 watts, a somewhat sustainable but tiring level for me (I got dropped at about 8 or 9 minutes).

By 10 minutes this night the speed was higher, my wattage was still down, by about 20 watts (178w today versus 199w two weeks ago), and I felt totally normal. That doesn't mean "good", although if someone asked me if I felt good I'd have said yes. "Normal" means I was suffering but I could make efforts out of the corners and I could close the small gaps that inevitably open up.

("Great" is when I feel unstoppable, surf the front of the race the whole time, and feel invincible. It almost never happens.)

I don't know if the wheels helped, but when splitting wattages like this it seems that the Stingers helped with the repeated accelerations out of the corners. I rarely had to get out of the saddle (if I did it was to stretch) and it took just a couple downstrokes to accelerate to speed. For the last two Rents I used the Bastognes (basically the Ardennes LT wheels from HED) and I couldn't finish the races.

Coincidence? Probably. Whatever.

Of course the fact that I have some more training in the last two weeks (a couple races and some training rides) may have helped a bunch too. Although I'm not anywhere near my 2010 weight I still managed to reverse the direction of my weight trend, thanks to the help of the Missus. This will make more of a difference than anything else.

Nothing unusual happened during the race, at least not for me. I wanted to maximize my time at speed, i.e. in the race, so I tried to simply stay out of trouble. I wanted to get 40 minutes in and work hard after I had some fatigue. Working really hard in the first few minutes then getting shelled doesn't accomplish that.

Therefore in the race I tried to stay in it. If I felt like I had poor position in the group I moved up, but otherwise I just looked across the 10-20 second gap to the big break off the front.

I briefly contemplated trying to bridge to the break when their lead dropped inside of 10 seconds. I mulled it over for a lap or two. I had three teammates in the break, at least one told me earlier that his goal was to be in whatever break, and I didn't want to ruin what was turning out to be a great race for him. He was a newly minted 4, won the first Cat 4 race he entered, and he can handle himself in a field.

I also didn't want to launch a huge move to bring back a break that would have gotten caught anyway. I'd be trying to recover just as the counters started going. I decided that the best plan would be to go if the field sat up or if the break started to gain time again.

The next time I glanced across the gap it had grown well past 15 seconds. Oops. Since I can only bridge about 10 seconds effectively, I realized I'd mulled away my chances to bridge. Hindsight, right?

The break had splintered apart, shedding off the tired racers unable to go with the moves. Suddenly just Will was up front (but I didn't know this - I thought Will, SOC, and one more teammate were still up the road).

At some point my teammate Joel told me he was starting to cramp. I know all about cramping so I gave him an ice cold Podium Ice bottle, still full of ice and water, and told him to spray his legs down. After the race he said it'd helped. I had a second bottle left for myself so it was all good (the car thermometer read 89 degrees on the way over, so for me it was pretty warm).

One of the CCNS guys lapped us solo (and he'd lap us again apparently). Everyone sat on his wheel until he launched another attack, shedding the field a second time.

Suddenly a bunch of CCNS teammates swarmed past me. The rest of the break had lapped the field. SOC showed up, one or two others, but I didn't know the exact composition of the break.

The CCNS boys quickly went off the front again, dragging a couple other guys - five riders went up the road.

I asked SOC if he'd lapped us, and he answered he'd been lapped. I misunderstood and thought he had lapped us, which put him in the lead group. At least a couple guys had just gone up the road so I told the other Expo guys around me that we needed to help out SOC and chase everything down.

I took the lead by going up to and past the front, trying to rile things up, trying to encourage a chase. I went a bit too hard - when I went to shift I realized I'd made the move in the 11T and I had no gears left. My strength left me quickly as I'd pushed quite hard to go - it wasn't a sprint per se as I didn't even break 950 watts but I pushed much harder than I expected - I pulled at over 30 mph for a minute.

When my legs started to falter I eased off, letting the next guy through.

"You're too low for me, I couldn't draft you!" the next rider yelled as he pulled through.

I drifted to the back of the group, intending really to sit up and stop. Heavy D screamed at me to keep going. This got me going again but I was still a short gap off the back, maybe a couple bike lengths. Suddenly a host rider (meaning a CVC rider) actually eased at the back, let me get his wheel, and kept checking to make sure I was on. He shepherded me for a lap or so until I could stand on my own.

Last lap.
The field is totally strung out. I'm just sitting up - it's about 200m to go for me, 100m for the leaders.

I sat up at the bell, meaning to stop again, but Heavy D insisted on encouraging me. I closed the gap I'd let go, rode around to the last turn, and sat up for good. I wasn't going to sprint - I didn't want to contest it if there were a bunch of riders a lap up. Plus I knew I could give up somewhere away from Heavy D and not get yelled at to keep going. Heh.

Ends up Will made the final selection - only three guys (other than the double lapper solo one) stayed off the front of the group, and he was in the thick of the action. I figure we'll see him in the 3s soon enough and probably the 2s shortly after. No pressure of course.

Me, I know my place.

I felt much better about the race in general because I felt pretty comfortable. I wasn't coasting along but I could make efforts when I needed to and I never irrevocably exploded.

When I rolled back to the car the Missus had just finished changing Junior. I stopped to look at him laying there, happily kicking his legs and waving his arms. He's a happy guy anyway but it's always nice to see him when he's so cheerful. When he saw me he stopped, looked at me intently, and a smile spread across his face.

I smiled back.

It's hard to get too worked up (or happy) about how a race went when really the most important thing is the little guy smiling back at you. Racing racing yada yada. I don't get anxious to train, I can even do without a race or two, but it's hard to fight the urge to hold and cuddle Junior.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Racing - 2012 New Britain Crit, M45+, Cat 3s

Ah, another New Britain race. It's a course I've been doing long enough that I did it the last few years before they reversed the course direction to its current counter-clockwise rotation. The reason for reversing the direction isn't very good, but it has to do with a femur, a big rock, and a fast curving S-curve.

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.

Win gold.

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.

Cat 3s

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.

Post Race

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.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Training - Gimbels Ride (Regular)

On the major holidays we try and get down to my dad's place. He lives in the same house where we lived from the late 70s, when we moved back to the States. When I go there I actually stay in the same room that I had when I was a kid in high school, so it's kind of cool. Other than some maintenance type repairs (tree/yard stuff, applieances, stuff like that)) and one major addition (central air), the house is basically the same as it was back then.

We (the Missus and Junior) went down for the pre-July 4th weekend. With the thoughts of my recent racing failures in mind, and the fact that I wasn't absolute exhausted each evening, the Missus and I planned some training for me - the Gimbels ride.

The Gimbels ride is a huge group ride. It used to start at a Gimbels store somewhere in NY, but when a racer told me about it he told me to park in White Plains - they'd roll out for another 20-30 minutes and then the ride proper would start.

The pack at Gimbels July 1. I wasn't at the back either.

I have to admit that I haven't done the ride in a while. I definitely remember the fall of 2003, maybe September or October. It was still a bit warm, I was at my heaviest so about 215 lbs, and I got shelled on the roll out on 22.

This is kind of like getting dropped on the lap where the race announcer says, "Okay guys, we'll be a minute, take a lap okay?" and then I get shelled.

We were going about 14 or 15 mph and I couldn't hang - by the time we got to the classic car place I was done.

I turned around and rode back to the car.

A short time later I returned and made it to the 120 sprint (the first one) and got shelled after that.

I've been there since but I personally don't remember it. The Missus remembers me going though so I've been.

So it's been a while. I didn't know the current batch of riders. I didn't know the road conditions. I didn't know any other changes in the ride since those days many years ago.

On top of that we were going through a mini heatwave (it lasted at least 3 days so it's technically a heatwave I learned). The forecast called for temps in the upper 90s. I hate anything over about 82 (except in January in California) so I knew I'd be pushing my own limits with a 95+ degree forecast. In preparation I brought my two Podium Ice bottles, filled partially with ice (I only used one tray for the two bottles - I could have used one tray for each, but I didn't want to strip the house of ice cubes). I also brought two regular bottles for rinsing - they stayed in the trunk, no insulation, no cooler.

I got to the parking area a bit early, hoping that it hadn't changed in the meantime. The original parking area was the bowling alley lot but one weekend they started towing all the bike racers' cars so we started parking on the street a block away.

I got there early enough that I was one of two cars there. I got changed, got ready, and lo and behold some guys I know rolled up.

One is a long time racer Tom. He gave me some tips, the important ones, like the fact that the whole ride has come under scrutiny by law enforcement. Apparently the NY rules of running lights and stops is winding down - riders as recently as the day before were getting pulled over wholesale and ticketed.

He also told me about a closed bridge on the route, and that I'd need to take a left two lights later. He cautioned me on trying to use the sidewalk on the closed bridge - a slew of riders got ticketed there too.

I understand the need to do this and I'm okay with it, but it would definitely change the atmosphere of the ride.

Another guy Joe rolled up while Tom and I talked. Joe's the promoter (or co-promoter maybe) of the White Plains Crit. He's jumped through a lot of hoops to make this race happen this year and therefore I'm a big fan of his. He seemed much stronger than his license indicated and he chipped in with details on the various caution notes.

Tom's apparent teammate (they wore similar kits) Chris rolled up. He's a guy that as a kid I admired. He had all these really cool cars, really enjoyed them, and, most importantly, drove them the way they were meant to be driven. It's like showing up with a nice bike on a group ride and mixing it up at the front - that's what they were designed to do, not leaned up against a rail outside the local Starbucks.

Finally fellow promoter and former Cat 1 track racer Greg rolled up. He couldn't believe what he was seeing - me on a Gimbels again! When he asked how long it'd been since I'd been on the ride, I pointed out that there's this huge new Infiniti dealership on Central Ave.

"I think that was built in 2007 or so, and it was originally a motorcycle dealership."

I pointed out some other stuff that I noticed on the roll out. Greg decided it had to be at least 5-7 years since I'd last done the ride. He cautioned me on the law enforcement efforts, and, more immediately, told me to get out of the right gutter because there were some huge holes coming up.

I moved over and missed a crater by a few inches.

I started paying more attention to the road.

The group splits into Short Short, Short, and Long, but now it seems that riders call them Short, Regular or Medium, and Long. Short Short is pretty short, Long involves some hills I couldn't make even when I was fit, so Regular it was.

When we split (Long went left, Regular went right), the Regular group, numbering about 50 or 60, immediately started to string out. I didn't think anything would happen right away so I just surfed wheels at the back. We rolled down a slight decline when the light in front turned yellow. 15 or so riders sprinted through, past a police car with its lights flashing.

The rest of us stopped. We'd never see that front group again.

Reduced to about 30 or 40 riders we continued.

The Regular ride is kind of like a B race, with most of the riders being either 4s or 5s in pack riding experience. A few riders are experienced 3s (like me), just unable to get over the hills on the Long ride. Others are old timers that might have been 2s or 3s back in the day but now are leisurely 3s or 4s.

What this means is that the ride isn't quite as tight as a Cat 3 race, and, notably, there are riders who are extremely nervous in the group. I noticed one guy who hung out off to the side, in the wind, maybe 3 feet from the closest rider. It's better to go Long because the riders are all pretty good in the field; on the Regular route it was maybe 1/3 of the riders not so good, 1/3 fine, and 1/3 as good as anyone on Long.

Other guys were slipping through tiny gaps, getting good position before the choke points of the course, corners or tight roads or whatever.

At some point Mr Nervous, the guy hanging out on the side, reached out to caution the rider to his left that he was there. I think I must have been a bit frustrated with Mr Nervous's fear of the group because I told the guy he touched to ignore the guy because he had plenty of room.

I rolled up the other side of Mr Nervous to get away from him. He had all sorts of warning signs - unsure in the group but "knowledgeable" enough to reach out to touch a hip (that was pretty far away); riding on the hoods when nervous; strong enough not to have any kind of negative conditioning potential (meaning he wouldn't get shelled based on his poor riding so he'll be around, dangerous, later in the ride).

It happened to be near the 120 sprint. I really came to the ride just for the 120 sprint - I wasn't sure if I could make it further, plus all the law enforcement stuff happened shortly after the sprint.

Therefore I wanted to be in good position for the sprint, i.e. near the front, maybe 10 back when I jumped.

Problem was that the group started to split up about a mile before the sprint. First one group of 6 or 8 escaped, gaining maybe 75 meters, then a second group of 8 rolled away, just by 10 or 20 meters. The third group, where I sat, didn't seem intent on closing up quickly - I got ready to take the initiative.

I rolled hard up to the second group just as a guy there started a surge. Slotting in third wheel I tried to figure out how late I could leave it and still pass the guys which, at that point, were about 50 meters up the road.

Vinnie, another veteran of the ride, on his first helmet cam ride in fact, pulled through unhurriedly. I don't think he was contesting the sprint but I wanted to get in my jump and follow through, so when we got to within 20 meters of the front group, with not much room left for the sprint (it was probably in the last 200 meters), I jumped hard.

I got about 3 pedal strokes into my sprint when BANG I slammed into the bike. My chain derailled over the large ring, my right foot unclipped, and I had to pull myself off my bars.

The heck happened. I don't know. I just put on new cleats, a few rides ago, and my Keo Carbons are pretty much maxed out on tension. The big ring is new so that's a non-factor. I have to check my chainline in the bigger gears; I also suspect that my pedal bodies are worn out, allowing too much movement in the cleats.

Whatever, I clipped back in as Vinnie rolled by unconcerned. Pedaling a bit harder I caught up to Vinnie.

"Good work staying upright."

Yeah, but ideally I wouldn't have to worry about unclipping or having a chain fall off.

The heat, the effort, and my disappointment in myself got to me. On the next rise I moved to the right and eased, allowing everyone to roll past me.

I went through the heavily patrolled bits of the route, finished the ride, and rode on towards the intersection where riders hang out after the loop. Only one guy sat there, the rest choosing to head home. A long while later just 7 riders rolled up.

Incredibly Joe was there, as well as some other guys I knew. They got some cold drinks, stretched out their legs, and we all headed back to White Plains.

On the way back I suddenly got lightheaded so I ate a GU, the first thing I'd eaten since 8 AM. I was out of water - the Podium Ice had kept the water cool until I drank it all, but two bottles for that ride, in that heat, it wasn't enough. 

When I got back to the car it'd been 3 hours since I left.

The bottles in the trunk seemed surprisingly cool, and after a short rinse of the head/face, I felt a lot better. I cranked the AC, got changed, and headed out.

The thermometer read 97 degrees as soon as I got going. I felt that long distant but familiar fatigued feeling, a cumulative one from the heat, the legs, and the stress of doing the ride. The hot car, the bright sun, my starting to bonk, it all seemed appropriate. It felt like I'd returned home.

I may not do the ride often going forward. In other words I'm not figuring out ways to get down there to do the ride right now. It seems just a bit more chaotic than I want, with conditions not quite as nice as I remember. Nonetheless the ride brought back memories of my "pro" cycling days, when I worried only about cycling. I saw some of the same faces, went around the same loop, and found, to my surprise, that I could move around like I did before.

I do pine for the days where I scampered up the short hills without too much trouble, where I had a chance of finishing the Long ride in the group. I wished for some more spring in my legs, a bit more staying power, a bit more speed, a bit less stomach. I guess, though, that this is what life is like. Getting older, getting slower.

As I merged the car onto 287, I knew I was driving back to my dad's place, where the Missus and Junior were hanging out. I'd end up napping (as the Missus predicted) but then hanging out with family. My cycling may be on a decline but it's all good.

Life goes on.