Saturday, March 30, 2013

Racing - March 30, 2013 Plainville Sideline Report

So normally a race report involves me racing and reporting about the race. In this case I couldn't race because my back was bothering me. I'd essentially collapsed Thursday - it was awkward because Junior was already in the car, ready to go to day care, and I decided to move some stuff out of the way before we left. That's when I collapsed. It was a bit tricky driving the car to day care but luckily it's just a mile away from the house. I rested for a good half hour in day care with Junior walking all over around me, then I managed to get home.

I spent Friday on the living room floor - the Missus put a pack of diapers on a chair, Junior was playing with a package of wipes, and I spent the day mostly at eye level with Junior. By the evening I could sort of pick him up so my back was getting a bit better. Nonetheless I decided against racing the next day, just to allow my fragile back to strengthen a bit.

Saturday I intentionally left my bike behind because I knew that if I brought it I'd be tempted to race. Instead I brought a camera. Unpacking the car in the parking lot I felt that quiver in my back and I realized that I had to be careful. The stroller helped as I didn't have to carry Junior other than to put him into it and take him out. Any other times I carried Junior I wanted to carry him and felt okay doing it.

I arrived at the course a bit late so I barely got settled before the Cat 3-4 race lined up. With conflicted races the field wasn't that big but the racers there all wanted a piece of the action. The race promised some fireworks.

Lots of Expo red and black.

The race ended up coming down to Expo versus everyone else. Usually "everyone else" gives you bad odds but Expo had a good 40% of the field so the numbers actually favored Expo. In a way I felt sorry for the others. I've been on both sides of the numbers, having lined up with 10 or even 15 teammates in some races, and in other races watching another team line up 10 or 12 teammates (and wondering what I'd do to beat them).

The Expo racers are active for the most part, willing to work, willing to see the wind, so at least it wasn't totally negative.

Moves went from the beginning.

The Expo boys started launching moves right away but the others knew that they couldn't let anything go. Chasing immediately neutralized some of the Expo advantage because there was no gap to exploit. Once a gap formed then the Expo riders in the field would be riding negatively and that would force wedges into the gap between the field and the break.

Junior and one of his babysitters.

Junior spent the race mainly with some very enthusiastic babysitters. He enjoyed his first experience with the grass on the ground and tried to walk on the paved sidewalk. Pops managed to avoid having Junior experience his first skinned knee. Pops isn't ready to deal with that yet.

Promising move.

If you're outnumbered in a field then a good move is to make moves. Inevitably you'll attract a rider or two from the "big team" and then the rest of the team will block, helping you. Biker's Edge racer Eric made such a move, drawing SOC, but the rest of the field brought them back.

Dave trying to launch Stan.

Of course the numerically superior team ought to make moves too. Dave, the team cheerleader, rode in support of the selected leaders for the day. Stan, the overall leader of the Cat 3-4 Series, naturally qualified as a leader. When a move went up the road Dave tried to launch Stan but the others wouldn't let such an obvious move go.


Finally the field basically split. In a larger field it'd have been a break, but in this race it was more of a split. It appears that Dave, after doing some work, eased off while sitting towards the front of the group. Everyone else eased off too and suddenly a gap opened. Eric made a good move to join the front and the group immediately started working.

Jeff W, center, after a supreme bridge effort.

Two riders knew the move when they saw it and made supreme efforts to bridge - Jeff W (Devil's Gear) and Jeff M (Expo). Others tried too but they didn't make it. Although Expo's Jeff made it across quickly, having seen the split early on, Jeff W waited until the gap was something like 30 seconds before going clear of the field. The gap was big enough that I didn't bother taking pictures because a solo rider in pain doesn't look impressive - it just looks like a rider off the back.

Of course at some point Jeff W suddenly looked like he was going to bridge and I got so excited I forgot about taking pictures. Oops.

Jeff W at the front

He bridged just before the end of the race so he set about working for his teammate in the break.


Expo Jeff, biding his time.

As a spectator I couldn't see what happened on the last lap but inevitably an Expo rider crossed the line first, and incredibly it was Jeff. He'd done a perfect race, bridged to the winning move and then waited patiently in the sprint to win.

Expo Jeff winning, barely.

Eric's excellent helmet cam footage below:

It becomes obvious how hard everyone went on that last lap. Jeff W sets it up, Expo Lance drills it for Stan, and then it becomes a free for all. Expo Jeff played it perfectly and the late jump gave him a well earned win.

Junior in the feed zone.

For Junior it was time to eat. The whole event distracted him so much that he didn't fuss for about 3 hours before he wanted to eat (normally it's 90 minutes) and he didn't think about a diaper change until I changed him.

With lunch out of the way it was time for the 4-5 race.

Expo Dave at the front.

With so much focus on the 3-4 race the two Expo riders in the 4-5 race were cooked. Dave and Lance tried to play but they'd given everything in the 3-4 race in support of their teammates.

One active team - Cycling Concepts.

One guy that's been trying solo moves at Plainville and Bethel launched yet another attack with 5 to go. Cycling Concepts Mike is a tall, lanky rider unafraid of the wind.

Another move, this time by Cycling Concepts Mike.

I knew about his 10 lap escapade at Bethel, ended at the bottom of the hill on the last lap. I hoped that he could pull this one off.

Junior wondering if Mike can make it.

Mike at the bell - it looks good.

Mike took the bell with a decent gap but the field really ramped it up. Expo Lance was one guy trying to close the gap hard, a final effort for him on this double race day.

Mike holds off a hard charging field.

Mike managed to hold off the field, throwing his bike as insurance just in case. The picture doesn't do the speed justice - he won by maybe a tenth of a second. Had the race been another 100 meters I think it'd have been a different story.

A better fitting hat.

I worried about Junior and tried to put on one of my caps. It's a bit scary that my hat fits him better than a hat he wore a few months ago.

With this first very sunny race out of the way Junior and I headed home. I wished I could have raced but I also knew that this was the smarter thing to do. I had to be good for Bethel in a promoting way and I couldn't risk that for my own selfish reasons.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Promoting - Tow Vehicle Revisted

On the way home on Sunday I watched some tractor trailers as well as a couple pickups towing small trailers. I thought about my trailer and tow vehicle problem. It's something really occupying my mind when there's room in there next to the 2013 Series.

You probably know this but the current Bethel van, an older 15 passenger Dodge van, is nearing the end of its serviceable life. I started looking for a replacement but then thought that if I was buying a new vehicle I should think long term, not just next year.

This made me think of trailers

After some thought, a bunch of feedback, and some more research, I'm pretty set on the trailer idea. I figure it would be 2500 lbs or so, 14-18' long, 6'-7' wide, hopefully close to 6' high inside, maybe 4000 lbs fully loaded with race promotion stuff. I realized I wouldn't need as much gear as I have in the van because some of it would be replaced by the trailer itself. So, for example, I shouldn't need to bring two tents, nor a number of tables, etc. A lot of that stuff could sit in whatever future trailer and the one-off things, like maybe a snow blower, could sit in the tow vehicle.

For the tow vehicle it'll be either a cheap(er) pick up, like a Ford F250 type, or I'll trade in the Golf and get a used Touareg. If I got a pickup it'd sit outside and therefore be somewhat disposable like the van. Those are my two options at this point.

I decided against a big SUV, like an Expedition or Suburban, because it would be a pain to own it based on our house/driveway/garage situation. We wouldn't be able to park it in our garage so it would have to sit outside year round. As it is such a vehicle would be hard to keep in our driveway. If we did decide to garage it our storage bay is not close enough for regular access, and it would force us to keep the trailer outside.

The lack of easy access to the SUV means that we'd need to keep two smaller cars as we do now. The big SUV would replace the van as the "third vehicle", becoming the third vehicle in our array, not a replacement for the Golf or the Jetta Sportswagen.

On the other hand the Touareg, being just 8 inches longer than the Jetta Sportswagen (aka JSW), should fit in our very compact bay, and it should be able to tow 4000 lbs (it's rated at 7000+ lbs). Other than its sister SUV the Porsche Cayenne there are no vehicles I can find that are rated to tow 5000-7000 lbs and is in the same size range as the JSW. A few folks have questioned the size of our garage spot in the sense of "Are you sure it won't fit?"

It's small.

The bay is awfully short - there's about a foot behind the back of the car.
The intrusion from the right is the dining/office room.

I took the picture from the right side bay also, a longer bay but more narrow. On the right side we pull in the Golf, turn the wheel to the right so the tire hits the wall, and the only way to squeeze past the car to get to the stairs is to fold in the side view mirror. Another foot of width and we'd have to NASCAR our way in and out of the vehicle, climbing out of the window onto the hood to get to the steps.

Golf in the right side bay. The right front tire is hitting the wall.
I framed the picture so the left side of the frame is the dining/office wall.

Of course there's the whole idea of being more efficient when we drive around for day to day stuff. Although a full size SUV would be great for towing it wouldn't be great for day to day driving. On bad days we get 35-37 mpg in our two TDis, on the good days they're in the mid-40s, and on great days it's over 50 mpg. We wouldn't use the full size SUV to do long trips because even with a few bikes on the roof of a loaded down JSW we're in the low-mid 30 mpg range, much higher than the 12-15 mpg that we could expect from a large SUV.

To be honest the Touareg wouldn't be much better than a larger SUV. Even at the 25 mpg the diesel version would get with no rack on the roof we'd be getting worse mileage than the JSW with a couple bikes up top. Worse still we wouldn't be getting any benefit from the Touareg versus the JSW in terms of space - it's only inches larger inside, slightly wider, but wouldn't fit an exponential amount more stuff like a full size SUV.

So after all my debating internally I've decided that I should go with a semi-disposable pickup truck, one capable of pulling at least 4000 lbs of trailer. A full size F250-F350 type is rated at some insane 10,000+ lbs towing capacity so that would be fine. Although a crew cab would allow me to carry Junior in the back I think realistically saving money and getting the standard cab will work fine. If I have to run "bulky item errands" I'll have to do it when Junior is under someone else's watch.

Of course what happened on my next ride? This rig passed me.

Pretty much what I've been thinking about - 12-14' trailer, pickup pulling it.

Now to figure out a budget and see if I can do it sooner than later. Although the tow vehicle comes first  the trailer should follow shortly thereafter. I could probably get by without the trailer for a bit but for future race promotion plans the trailer is key.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Racing - 2013 Bethel CDR Gold Race

Sunday I was a bit discombobulated before the start of the race. I really wanted to try the red Tsunami, the one that used to be orange. I rode it on the trainer and decided that if I felt comfortable riding it at the race I'd be okay with not having power or anything - I hadn't installed the SRM wire and I wasn't planning on doing it on race day.

I did wrap the tape though and thereby decided that the levers were in their final-for-now position.

I also test rode the new-to-me wheels which I'll review later, but the important part is that the front is a HED Stinger 7, 75 mm tall, and the rear is a HED Stinger 9, 90 mm tall. Both have the SCT profile, the stability thing that comes from a rounded "peak". The rims look more U shaped than V shaped. I wasn't sure if I wasted a bunch of money buying the wheels but the data seemed to indicate that these U shaped rims should be fast.

Plus they look and sound cool so there was that.

I wanted to use those wheels because my goal this week was to help my teammate Bryan at the front of the race on the last lap. I figured I wouldn't be sprinting up the hill, my main focus would be drilling it on the backstretch. Realistically I knew I wouldn't be able to do much else - I've been struggling just to finish the races this year. I also knew it would be a big ask for me to be at the front on the last lap, but if I could do it I'd bury myself to keep Bryan out of the wind for another 20 seconds.

With that in mind I decided to use the super duper aero wheels. The Stinger 6s, my faithful 60 mm rimmed wheels, stayed in the pits.

I rolled to the start line with those 7/9 wheels but mounted on the black bike. Although I'll race new-to-me wheels off the bat I figured that racing the red bike wouldn't be smart - it would mean its first outdoor ride would be a race. The black bike is a known quantity even if it needs a bit of work. For example I regularly see 1-2 watts when I'm soft pedaling and the freehub body is clicking - that means I'm using that much power just to turn the cranks.

With all my thoughts on what bike, what wheels (the new rear wheel doesn't have a magnet yet), I decided I'd rely on Strava to record my ride. I even started Strava before I rolled out there, with the Record button prominently displayed in the center of my phone.

I forgot about my heart rate strap but again, with Strava, I was just getting speed, distance, and GPS location. The SRM sat on the bars so I thought it'd be nice to have heartrate but whatever, it was all good.

While I waited at the desk I also pinned my numbers.

Because I had to man the registration post I couldn't leave the registration desk until 8 minutes before the start of my race. It meant a quick bathroom break (which I couldn't take before either), changing with all that it entails when it's a chilly race, realizing my HR strap wasn't there (it was in the car), and quickly rolled out to the line. The race started almost immediately after.

I forgot to start Strava.

I even forgot to power on the helmet cam. By the time I did the field was strung out and we were already heading past half a lap into the race.

Just after I turned on the helmet cam. Yeah, oops.

I felt okay at the start. Fresh, of course, since as usual I hadn't warmed up. My legs felt a bit better than they did last week - I had my head better covered, I wasn't freezing cold, and I'd eaten some amount of food during the day. I even moved up into about 20th spot in a few laps. I started thinking optimistically - maybe I could get to the front and drill it to lead out Bryan.

I did notice that the big wheels seemed really fast. I wished I'd had power (meaning the SRM was hooked up) because I felt like I was barely pedaling and the bike just wanted to roll.

Even better the bike didn't feel terrible on the hill. I wondered if the slight weight penalty would be something I'd notice but apparently it's below the cusp for me, at least in the poor condition I have right now. Maybe in a summer race, at the limit, in shape, I might notice something, but here, in cold Bethel, out of shape, I'll only notice coarse differences, not fine ones. Whatever, the bike climbed willingly on the hill and I had fun climbing out of the saddle.

After about 20 minutes though I started to suffer. I know I'm hurting when I look at the lap cards. I hope to see less than 10 to go because that always seems possible. When I looked the first time today it said 22 to go.

Yeah, bad.

My teammate Joel said something to me but I was so out of it I have no idea what he said. I just focused on the wheel in front and told him to move right - I needed him to move over so I could get some more shelter.

Things looked grim.

By 45 minutes into the race I was suffering a lot. Someone let a gap go at some point after Turn One and I had to close it on my own. By the time I did I was cooked and we were halfway down the backstretch. Luckily the field eased that lap going up the hill so I didn't get popped but that was a really close call for me.

The gap I had to close.
Same spot as the first picture - note location of white house.

The gap really hurt me, zapping whatever reserves I'd saved up. My mistake though and I paid the price. As the laps wound down I reminded myself of my goal - to help Bryan out before the sprint so he wouldn't have to do everything himself. I tried to empty the tank so that I'd be near the front at 1 to go.

Unfortunately I couldn't muster the strength to get up there for the bell. I'm good doing a last effort going up the hill but if I did that at the bell I'd blow up at Turn One. Therefore I tried to go hard without exploding myself. This half assed approach got me nothing.

Coming up on the bell... not good.

With everyone flying I had my hands full just maintaining position. I think I only passed riders who'd blown up or had given up. Everyone else seemed keen on doing exactly what I was doing - trying to move up for the sprint.

On the backstretch it looked like one of the teams would get a leadout going up the left side. Although initially balked when the field spread out, a gap opened up again and I waited, hoping they'd drill it. I figured with one effort they could be inside the top 20. At that point I could move up to wherever Bryan sat and help him.

The leadout guy backed off though - I think he blew up before the balk and couldn't get rolling again. I watched the gap go away and realized that I wouldn't be able to get up there for Bryan.

Approaching the hill on the last lap.
Big hole center right. I used it to blast through to the next bunch of riders.

My next hope was to finish behind Bryan. I had faith that he'd be good in the sprint, maybe a top 6 to get in the points. Since every point can be important I hoped that if I could do a good sprint I could place right behind Bryan. If he placed higher up, like 3rd, and I could take one of the places behind him, I'd deny some rival those points.

Bryan, to the left in the red shorts, exploded.
I was too far back anyway but I still had a few pedal strokes left in the tank.

That all went to pot when I saw Bryan exploded and shooting backwards on the left side of the course. When I saw him sit up I also eased - I had no aspirations for myself so it wouldn't do any good to sprint for the line. When I crossed the line I was actually on my hoods, shifting down, looking for a path to the left side so I could turn around and go back to registration. No bike throw, no real pedaling, no nothing.

I couldn't find a path so I did a cool down lap before heading in to the registration area.

SOC and I both managed to "beat" Bryan. Unfortunately our goals were to help him and neither of us made it up there to do so. I likened our result to something like if Bernard Eisel and Mark Renshaw both beat Mark Cavendish to the line for a Tour stage. Beating the leader isn't cause for celebration even if it represented personal triumphs for the two of us (I wasn't sure I'd finish the race and even turned down an offer from someone to bring me to the front).

As it turns out Bryan had had bad legs the whole day and simply didn't have it for the sprint. Last week he won the field sprint on his own. This week, not so good.

At least for me there's a week break. I can do some training to get some hours in - I looked today and I rode just 8 hours in February. That's not enough to get in shape.

I can also get the red bike ready to race, train outdoors on it, get the SRM harness set up, install the magnet on the Stinger 9.

Then I can return to Bethel for the 7th ready to rumble.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Promoting - 2013 Bethel CDR Gold Race

Monday always seems like such a relief during the Bethel Spring Series. It's quiet, the car is (hopefully) unpacked, and there's a few small fixes to make but otherwise the Series is running reasonably well.

This week marks the break for Easter Sunday so for me there's no race to promote this coming weekend. It means that the stuff I usually leave until Thursday, like putting together the deposit for the race or moving some of the stuff inside from the garage, I need to do that sooner, maybe even today or tomorrow.

Yesterday on race day I basically ran out of Leader's Jerseys for one main reason - when I went to do wash at my dad's house the dryer had just broken. Therefore I couldn't do laundry. It was just a minor hiccup in the scheme of things but it meant that the first thing I did after finishing a GC (with just a few errors, still to be fixed) was to do a massive load of laundry. I have one more load to do, more lost and found clothing, or, technically, "Found and Lost" since we usually found it before the owners realized they didn't have it.

Before I headed down there we (the Missus and I) did all the pre-reg work. It's an evening of work, usually on Friday evening after she gets home from work. It's a long day for her (an accountant during tax season), a long one for me (with everything else that I have to get done for the races), so we asked for some help.

Junior helping with pre-reg.
Any errors you know who to see.

Saturday I have to look after Junior until the Missus gets home from work in the early/mid afternoon. I heard from a secret source that the town had swept the course on Friday so I wasn't in too much of a rush to get down to my dad's - I even planned to meet my family at my dad's at 5:30 PM. Normally I'd want to leave as soon as possible so I can check out and clean up the course before heading over to my dad's.

Unfortunately we needed to get some groceries, I needed to get fuel (both of our cars were running on fumes), and I couldn't get some stuff done before I had to leave. As it was I was late - it was 4:30 PM when I left, not 4:00 PM. I wouldn't make it to the house in an hour so after a short call to my brother we shuffled our plans to meet at our normal restaurant hang out at 6 PM. (The family is so regular at the restaurant that when we showed up the first or second week of the Series with Junior in tow and sat at the 8 person table a family sitting near us commented, "I think that's a new baby in that family, I haven't seen it before.")

By the time we got back to my dad's it was late, the dryer was broken, and, with the printer, cables, surge protectors, and all that packed away in the car, I decided to call it a night.

The bikes outside my dad's. Thankfully no snow in the picture this night.

I woke up a bit worried about oversleeping, my usual way of sleeping before a Bethel. I trundled out to the course, unpacked the car by the registration door, moved the van over, and even got some of the van stuff unpacked before other people showed up. With our normal registration person out for the day I needed to take up the slack at the table. Our camera guy would take over the registration laptop while I was doing the clinic or the race.

Things generally went smoothly at registration. A few late registrants, who got in touch with me at some point during Saturday, had to fill out release forms and such since I didn't have all the gear unpacked and set up for most of said Saturday. Even before I left for my dad's house it was all in boxes, staged either in the house or in the garage, and once I got to my dad's it was all in the car and staying there. Otherwise things went well.

We had good marshaling coverage, thanks to all the racers that pitched in and helped. A few riders really put in some time out there and for that I am very thankful. It makes for a safer race - although I carried a radio in the race just in case (turned off for fairness) I never even felt the need to reach for it.

The very cold morning gave way to a bit more palatable afternoon - I actually raced in knickers instead of tights, and I wore two long sleeve layers with a wind vest instead of a long sleeve with a full winter jacket.

After the race we started packing up during the P123 race, trying to get out of there before it got too late. By my watch we were out of there at 4:15 or so, about an hour earlier than the first week. That wasn't bad.

Just before I left.
Note that the red bike's bars have tape on them now.

I headed home, the car's mileage battered by a combination of the wind and the bikes on the roof. Instead of averaging about 40 mpg in the wind, or 43 mpg under better conditions on the same hilly route, the car managed just 36 mpg. Luckily we'd just filled up before I left the house so I was okay.

I got home too late to see Junior as he'd gone to sleep. I came in only after I unpacked the car and set up his car seat - this way I could get us in the car and go if it came to that. He fussed a bit in his crib after I got in the house but I didn't want him getting up to see me so I left the Missus to take care of him.

Of course he woke up at half past midnight and with the Missus working long hours 6 days a week that meant I needed to get up with him. He tried to get his Sunday play time in at that time, finally conking out at 1:15 AM. He'd whimper occasionally until 1:45 AM before waking up again at 6.

Ah yes, back to reality. Three more races and then the craziness ends, at least for the Bethel Spring Series.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Promoting - 2013 Tour de Kirche

I suppose the whole promoting gig started on Friday. The Missus got home from work, Junior went to sleep, and we immediately set about doing the pre-reg books, releases, start lists, etc. We had to double check the "exceptions" (like when I add someone manually) to make sure we had releases for the start list people and that the start list people really should have been on the start list.

Saturday got busier.

In the last 5 or 6 years, since I moved away from the Bethel area, I've driven down the day before the race to my dad's. Since we've had registration indoors, first at Panificio Navona, then now at the Retail Lab, I drove down to do minor set up tasks. Sometimes it's not so minor, like shoveling a few hundred yards of road shoulder clear of snow. Other times it's pretty basic, marking off the lawn or doing a quick drive-around to make sure nothing weird happened since the last time I was there.

The Missus works Saturdays at this time of year, even Sundays, so she normally can't make any races after the first one.

The new wild card for this year is Junior of course. Someone needs to look after him so with the Missus at work Saturdays that means I need to make sure he stays out of trouble. This means waiting until she gets home before heading out towards Bethel.

March 16th was a bit different. I've missed, for eight years, the one official's clinic held each year in the district. Most years the clinic happened to take place while I was training in SoCal. Last year the Missus and I had our hands full with Junior's arrival. This year I decided to make it a priority this year to attend the 8:30 AM - 4:30 PM clinic.

That times range meant that I had to have someone take care of Junior. One of the regular Bethel officials Meg volunteered to take care of him - she'd be bringing another Bethel regular Delaney to the officials' clinic. So I got to the venue at about 8:00 AM with a full day's of distractions packed in a few bags.

Junior hanging out before the clinic.

It ended up going well. Junior behaved himself, spending literally hours in the classroom (the clinic was at a local school) with all the potential new officials. He only really made noise a few times in which case Meg would take him out exploring the rest of the school. He even slept for an hour and a half in the class, waking up with his quiet self-babble, only getting excited when he realized I was there.

After a long day I passed the very reasonable test. My one error had to do with the free lap rule of all things. Never assume, right?

I headed home with Junior, the plan being to leave the Golf with Junior's stuff and take the Jetta. I had to finish packing the race stuff in the Jetta - my bikes were inside still, for example, as were the computers and such. Once packed I headed out... but it was late.

On the way out - this is about 10 minutes from the house.

I wanted to check the course and such but I didn't have time, plus I was exhausted from the long day (Junior wakes up at about 6 AM each day now). I knew tomorrow would be another long day so I made the executive decision to head straight to my dad's house, skipping checking out the course (which would add about an hour driving to the route). I had to stop for dinner - tonight it would be an egg sandwich and a calorie rich muffin.

I kept thinking of things that I might have forgotten. My shoes ("okay they're in my gear bag"), my helmet ("that's in the bag with the clean Leader's Jerseys"), the check book ("in the bag with the official clinic stuff... and it has Junior's log in it, oops"), finish line camera, race permit package ("in the plastic bin... and there it is in the rear view mirror"), etc etc.

My phone kept ringing (during the clinic as well as during the drive down) but I let it go to voicemail. If I took any calls about the race now I'd just forget whatever I promised to do and that's worse than the caller just thinking, "Oh he's not available".

On the way it started to snow.

Arrived at my dad's at about 9 PM. It's snowing.

Once at my dad's I brought in one laptop and my overnight stuff. I had to handle a few last minute questions about the race, mainly about the weather, and posted stuff to the site about the weather. The Missus and I had spent Friday evening prepping pre-reg so that was all set.

Then my brother and I talked, as we usually do, except this time we talked until something like almost 1 AM. I wouldn't recommend this with a 4:30 AM wake up alarm.

Arrive at the course at about 6 AM.

I managed to get to the race okay. I was on that race day adrenaline, my mind racing, thinking of all the things I had to deal with during the day.

The first deal was the ice cold conditions. We had black ice on the course, it was in the low-mid 20s, just bitterly cold. The Cat 5s braved the conditions for the clinic and the race and by the time the clinic finished the last of the ice was covered or gone.

Registration has really smoothed out. The Missus wasn't here for the first time this year but things ran well nonetheless. Our new crew for day-of-registration, Amanda and Joel, did superbly. I helped out here and there but otherwise it was all them. Delaney, as a newly minted official, handled the pre-reg folks perfectly as well.

The camera, too, went better, with Jonathan manning it. As another newly minted official he had a better understanding of the various priorities of an official so that helped.

The marshaling has really improved for this year. We still need help whenever we can get it but the main spots, by the start/finish and Turn One, the hill, and "Turn Two", had good coverage. A lot of racers stepped up and marshaled, getting comp'ed for their race in return.

Unfortunately the Tour de Kirche marked the first anniversary of a tragic crash. Last year Markus Bohler fell in the Cat 3-4 race, succumbing to his injuries early the next morning. VeloNews did an article named Death In The Family about the crash - it was their Editor's story of the year. In respect we had a moment of silence before the Cat 4 race and the Cat 3-4 race.

Rob Kelley of Pawling speaks briefly to the Cat 4 field before their start.

Finish of a silent lap in memory of Markus.
Someone put flowers at the crash site this year.

The Markus Bohler Memorial, in use by spectators as intended.

The cycling community really pulled together after Markus's death, raising funds in New York and New England. Ultimately the fund was used to build the Markus Bohler Memorial at the start/finish area of the Bethel Spring Series. Each week this year people have sat there to watch the races, exactly what the intent was when the Memorial was designed.

The fields were unusually large this week. I was happiest about the Women's race, hitting almost 50 racers.

The Women's field lines up.

The Cat 3-4 race was a massive 120 starters, the most I've ever seen at a Bethel. Three of the five missing starters were my teammates so it was very few people that couldn't make it. The other fields weren't as big so it may not have been a record day overall but it was definitely one of the bigger days. Hard to believe after that day's morning where we had black ice, frozen sand, and snow on everything except the road itself.

We managed to start breaking things down during the P123 race. I had suffered in the 3-4s (finishing 93rd out of 95 finishers) so I was around to help once I recovered a bit. We pack up stuff in the van, trailer, and whatever car I drive.

After receiving two birthday gifts for Junior I headed home.

View to the top right.

View to the top left.

Once we put the rack on the Jetta I've been very aware of the rack whenever I pull into the garage. Every time we go somewhere I stop and look up before I pull in, even if we didn't bring a bike. One day, after I stopped the car outside the garage and craned my head left and right, looking at the obviously empty rack, the Missus asked me what I was doing.


I got home a little bit before 7 PM. I backed up to the garage, looking at the bikes on the roof and the garage entrance. Yes, I stopped before the garage. I quickly unloaded the race stuff from the car, the Missus putting Junior's seat back in place. Now if we needed to go anywhere with Junior we could - leaving the car packed meant that we only had one car available with a babyseat.

I knew the racers really wanted to see results up, including the GC, so I worked on that before I did anything else. The Missus tried to feed me dinner but I couldn't even feel hungry until I was almost done with the GC and I'd already put up the day's results. Only then did I feel like I could take a shower and relax.

Of course I was so tired I really couldn't do anything. I couldn't stay awake, I couldn't focus, and I could barely read a half dozen pages of a book before the blanket of fatigue covered my face.

I took off my glasses and fell asleep.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Racing - 2013 Ris Van Bethel

So the race...

Unusually I hadn't been eating much during the day, staying busy doing other things. It started in the morning when I used one then another leaf blower, doing the clinic, changing, and then doing more promoter stuff. This included marshal type stuff, dealing with various issues as they popped up, more marshal stuff, and then of course more miscellaneous issues.

I felt not-so-great at about noon, my stomach complaining vigorously. This persuaded me not to gobble down some extra food. Eventually this hurt me when the race was ending at about 2 PM. At 1 PM, race start time, I felt fine. My legs worked much better than they did the prior week. I had teammates looking out for my interests as well as our current points holder Bryan - we both sprint so our team tried to hold things together. We lost two teammates early on, one to a flat tire (no wheels in the pits), another exploding spectacularly after covering three hard moves at the start of the race.

It was almost an hour later when things started going pear shaped for me. We still had Bryan, we still had a bunch of other guys, but for me... well things started a bit of a downward slide.

Coming up on 5 laps to go

You can see I'm at the pointy end of the race. I raced like I meant it. I didn't want to sit at the back until 2 to go, move up hard, and see what happened. I felt the need to surf the front for a bit. Those of you that know me know that racing "from the front" is really unusual for me. I usually race like this when I'm really, really nervous or when I feel really, really strong. I wasn't nervous and I wasn't feeling all that strong but my legs definitely felt better relative to the prior week. I moved up really just to get a feel for what was going on up front.

Then suddenly I got dizzy and light headed. My legs went empty in about 30 seconds. I briefly considered stopping, it was that bad. I pushed a bit, discovered my legs kept going, so I kept going. I felt miserable though. Although I was slightly overdressed for the warm-ish conditions I was suddenly bathed in a cold sweat, my face suddenly drenched with beads of sweat. I felt hungry, dizzy, empty. My arms were trembling a bit.

I had bonked.

I had one teammate absolutely dedicated to helping me out, Lance. He'd spent the day marshaling, rode the race in my service, and then promptly went back out marshaling again. In the race he came looking for me, giving me shelter when I needed it. In a couple instances he sheltered me from the slight right side crosswind on the first stretch; another time he moved up on the hill, towing me up with him.

Well Lance tried to shelter me as I faded but even he couldn't help me. I slid back into the field and then to the back. I was sitting last wheel before I knew it.

Bell Lap (the front of the field is at the tent at the left)

Coming up on the bell I was pretty much at the back of the field. I tried to move up a bit on the hill just before the bell, passing maybe 10 riders. It wasn't a big move and in fact it was one of those "moves" that elicits a sideways look and a "Really?" kind of response.


It taxed me though so it was a big move for me, but in the scheme of things it wasn't a big move. I still had 50 or 60 racers in front of me.

The backstretch was still a bit congested. I needed to douse the field with Mucinex to loosen everything up.

End of backstretch on last lap

At the picture above we had about 400-450 meters of racing left and I can't even start to guess how many riders were in front of me. We had a short "wooded" stretch (the bit I shoveled at the end of Saturday's shoveling adventure), the glass building, then the hill. I have no idea how far back I was but it was pretty far. At this point I was starting to give up hope.

But, you know, things could turn around. We weren't going fast. If I had a jump.... well something good could happen.

Then one guy, to my left in the black in the picture above, let me through a gap. It opened up a world of possibilities. I knew I had no sprint left but I thought that I might be able to use the wind to get some kind of a respectable place.

Bottom of hill, last lap, about 200 meters after the picture above.

As we rounded the bottom of the hill I still had some hope. I mean, okay, I didn't think I was going to win, but in this kind of position, if I had a good sprint left, I could do maybe a 4th or 5th place. Usually the winners sprint away from the field, gapping them slightly, but I could sweep up many of the others.

Unfortunately when I jumped nothing happened. My normal max power at Bethel is 1100-1200 watts. I'm happy if I can hit 1100 watts peak and hold about 1000 watts for 18 seconds, the normal length of my sprint (as I discovered after getting a power meter i.e. a cyclocomputer that has downloadable time-stamped data). A great sprint for me is 1200-1250w peak and 1100 watts for 18 seconds. My 20 second power drops off quickly because for whatever reason I've never gone for 20 seconds all out, it's always 18 or 19 seconds. Figure, though, that my 20 second power is about 950-1050 watts in a good race sprint.

(I can exceed both those numbers by about 250-300 watts in training but I'm not fighting for position or surfing the front of a field before I sprint when I do a sprint in training. Therefore I can do a sprint with some "localized" recovery, meaning I go easy before I sprint. My best ever numbers came at the end of 4 and 5 hour training rides so I was fatigued overall but I still had some good power left in my legs.)

Today it was... not so much. 901 watts peak and by 20 seconds I was down to 520 watts, so about half of my normal sprint power. I never knew what bonking would do to a sprint but now I know - peak power down by 20%, sustained sprint down by closer to 50%. That's serious business.

I'd seen the possibility of a huge move. If I had legs it would have been huge, and I mean race winning huge.

I had no legs though so although I jumped when I had to I didn't go anywhere. I watched riders close the big hole, filling it, ending all possibilities.

Coming up on the line for the finish.

The line could not have seemed further away. I was happy to sit behind my teammate Jeff and roll up to the line. I didn't even throw my bike at the line - I was convinced there had to be 20-25 racers ahead of me.

I stopped at Turn One, turned around, and headed back to the registration area.

I found out later that I managed a 13th place. I'll have to see if my no-bike-throw cost me a place or two. It's not important in the race or anything but it's good for me to know if my carelessness in my concentration cost me a place or two.

Teammate Bryan picked up some more points, keeping him in there a bit. The winners pick up a lot of points but a few points now could make all the difference at the end.

For me it was a much better race than last week. I averaged 155 watts for the race, higher than the 139 watts that I held last week until I got shelled. It's a bit short of the 160-180 watts I can hold in a race and still sprint (if I do 200 watts I can't sprint anymore). But a big improvement nonetheless.

Hopefully things get a bit better next week. I'll eat more during the day. I'll try to avoid doing a few hours of hard labor the day before. And I'll see if I can't get to sleep a little earlier.

We'll see.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Promoting - 2013 Ris Van Bethel

Saturday evening one of my nephews came over to me, sitting at their kitchen table, a laptop in front of me.

"Are you on Facebook?"
"What are you doing?"
"Commenting on this picture I took before dinner."
"Is that a shovel?"
"Were you shoveling the road?"
"Yes, I had to shovel the sides of the road."
"Why did you have to shovel the side of the road?"
"What's penance?"

I grinned. I told him that it was something I had to do. With the first 2013 Bethel race and all its problems, fresh in my mind, I knew that I had to step up the game. So let's back up a bit.

Saturday morning went as usual with the Missus off to work (during tax season she works Saturdays and sometimes Sundays), me at home with Junior. The Missus and I had staged the stuff we needed for Bethel in the garage, and when she got home we packed the stuff we needed for Junior and ourselves. Then, with both cars loaded up, we headed down to my dad's place.

To put some detail on the situation at my dad's - it's the house that we moved into in 1978. I spent all my middle school and high school years there. My brother, his wife, and their kids live there too. When we head over I always think of the rooms as "our" rooms. My brother will say "Yeah, you're in your room tonight", meaning my room from when I was in high school.

I still had to do some stuff at the course - the surprisingly heavy snowfall during the week meant that there'd be snow on the course, or at least on the shoulders. I went directly to the course first while the Missus and Junior, in the other car, went straight to my dad's.

The first thing I did was to put in all the stakes to mark off the grass at Turn One. In the morning the ground would be frozen solid so it would be best to put the stakes in while it was 50 degrees out and sunny. With that done I focused on cleaning up the snow on the road, with emphasis on Turn One, the hill, and the backstretch leading to the hill.

The course was worse than I thought - the "few inches" of snow spillage on the shoulder ended up, at times, two or three feet wide. The snow was heavy wet slush and with temperatures expected in the low-mid 20s overnight it would all freeze. We could melt a little bit of ice but not frozen slush a few inches deep.

Therefore the slush had to go.

I cleared the left shoulder towards the top of the hill. That wasn't too bad. I also tried to sculpt the Turn One snow bank. I didn't have the time or energy to move it all so I tried to make it into a more "corner" type of shape instead of the disjointed "bang the plow into the bank" shape.

The not sculpted Turn One.

Since I threw out my back a couple weeks ago I played conservative and tried not to work too hard. That worked until I headed down the hill a bit.

The hill after the storm. Not bad at first glance.

What I didn't realize was just how much snow sat next to the curb. Once it started to melt it turned into this slushy wet mess. In the expected overnight temperatures it would all freeze, creating an unrideable shoulder.

The "Nephew Picture"
There was a lot more snow than I expected.

This is the right side of the hill and the snow had been piled up along the bank from the driveway opposite, a couple feet high and a couple feet out from the curb.

I had to abandon my conservative approach with all the snow on the hill. My back seemed up to it so I plowed ahead and did what work I could do. At some point, when I was next to the glass building, the Missus called.

"When do you think you'll be done?"

I looked around. I knew sunset was just before 6 PM. It was maybe 5 PM.

"Until the sun sets, for sure."

Cleared area just before the glass building, facing the same direction as the race goes.

By the time I got to the end of the glass building section, about 200 meters from the line, it was getting pretty close to that sunset time. I still had to get one more straight - the bit before the glass building. The backstretch was reasonable, and the stuff after Turn One was fine. So just that wooded section at about 350 to 200 meters to go.

Starting to clear the bit before the glass building at the bottom of the hill.
This one I'm looking backwards relative to the race direction.

I have to admit it was worse than I expected. I thought the snow only came out a foot or so from the curb, but you can see from the picture that the snow was more like 3 feet from the curb.

I started it so I had to finish so I kept going.

The cleared area.

I finally got to the end of that section when the Missus called. Everyone was going out to our standard "family is visiting" restaurant in South Norwalk. She told me that she'd stay at the house with Junior and I could head down there straight from the course. As I was starting to bonk this was a good thing. I said I'd leave in about 5 minutes.

Then I realized that there was literally an inch or two of slushy ice all along the shoulder. It really accumulated when I pushed it with a broom, and knowing it would be absolutely unrideable frozen I cleared it away, pushing it all to the grate at the end of the straight.

Some of the slush/water that I had to clear after I cleared the snow.

Before I left I took a picture of Turn One. Better than before.

I was a little late for dinner but they ordered for me but I was so hungry I think I finished my food before everyone else.

When we got home from dinner that's when that one nephew came up to me at the kitchen table.
With last week's fiasco of a race I was determined to have a better race this week. I asked for help, the Missus put in a lot of work to help prepare for the race, and she told me she'd go to the race one more week before leaving it to me (she normally only works the first week).

Sunday went much, much better than the prior one. Bitterly cold in the morning we used all the ice melt I'd brought (calcium chloride, the good stuff - the ice actually sort of creaks when the melt hits it because the ice melts immediately). I pushed a leaf blower to clear the dusty sand, grabbing a second one halfway through the backstretch, pushing two blowers clearing practically the whole lane in one pass.

The camera, working as it was at the end of the day last week, worked fine.

Racers stepped up to marshal in exchange for racing and the race was much better marshaled.

Of course it helped that the temperatures hit about 50 degrees by mid day and that there was practically no wind. We had crowds of people watching, unusual for a Bethel.

People at the finish of the M45 race.

In the Cat 3-4 race I decided to carry a marshal's radio just in case. I left it off except when I need to use it as a "roving marshal" so I wouldn't be able to use it as a "racer". A few laps in, when I saw a utility truck at Turn Two (he'd been checking underground wiring in the area), I called in a request for someone to keep an eye out on him. I didn't realize that someone was already on their way down there but having the radio was good. Going forward I'll keep one in my pocket during the races.

We broke stuff down before the P123s were done so we could get out of there quicker than we did last week, by over an hour. With the melting snow the floors were a bit dirtier but nothing that we couldn't clean with the cleaning kit we have specifically to clean up the registration area.

We headed back to my dad's where Junior had spent the day with his cousins, aunt, uncle, and grandfather. He seemed totally at ease when we got there. We celebrated his birthday - he turned one year old that day. I have no pictures but I'll have to get them from my brother. Junior had some pasta with no problems but promptly threw up when I gave him a bit of chocolate frosting. Oops.

We headed out after dinner and cake, a two car convoy. The Missus headed straight home with Junior while I had to stop for fuel (the light was on for a while), get some food for the kitties, and then head home.

After a long day.

The JSW (Jetta Sportswagen) was loaded down enough that the rear looked lowered. With the bike and a few hundred pounds of weight the car didn't get better than about 38 mpg. Arg. It was weighed down enough that the stuff on the front seat triggered the "no seat belt" chimes, the ones that tell you that your front seat passenger doesn't have a seat belt on. Well of course it didn't, it was left over cake and a pile of race stuff.


I unloaded the car into one of the garage bays because the next morning I needed the car back in "Junior configuration" so we could take him to his one year check up. I decided to take a picture of the stuff I took out.

I don't know where the other tent is but the rest of it was in the car.
I think the second tent's still in the car.

My bike is behind the piece of wood. I didn't have the jigsaw, the ladder, or the rear privacy awning (the black thing in the back of the picture) but everything else came out of the JSW, or, in the case of the bike, from off the top. This makes my trailer/tow-vehicle thoughts much more real, dealing with this every week.

It was a long day but a good one. The race went off much better than last week, the primary short term goal for the day.

And, as the primary long term goal, Junior has been alive for a year. As we told each other about 364 days ago, our first task is to keep Junior alive and healthy. Everything else is to support this goal.