Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Racing - 2014 Zwiedzanie Bethel

The last race for the 2014 Bethel Spring Series p/b Outdoor Sports Center, the 2014 Zwiedzanie Bethel. I felt some pressure to do well - a couple people told me I needed to win this race "for old times sake". I wanted to do well but realistically I wasn't sure how I'd ride.

The prior week, spent driving back and forth all over the place, meant that I managed to ride 20 minutes between last Sunday's race and this Sunday. It was just enough to work up a sweat, not much more, and I hoped that I wouldn't cramp during the race. See, if I don't ride much before a race then I start cramping almost immediately. If I do an hour the day before the race I'm fine. Less than that, or with no riding for 5 or 6 days, and I'm in cramp city from the start.

The other thing was food. I realized after some trainer rides this winter that I actually ride harder when I'm hungry. Higher wattage, higher energy, higher heart rate. I inadvertently tested this during the Series when I did a few races after having had plenty to eat and others where I started the races almost bonking.

Incredibly I felt and raced much better when I started it almost bonking. For Bethel it meant eating my normal breakfast at 6:15 - 8:00 AM (two egg sandwiches and some coffee) and then not eating until just before the start of my race at 1:00 or 1:30 PM. Normally a break like that would mean disaster for me but somehow it seemed to work this year.

Therefore I didn't eat anything until about 1:25 PM, when I ate two pieces of a croissant thing that someone had at registration. After that it was all I could do to dress, take pictures of some podium stuff, and get to the line.

Earlier I'd pinned my number, pumped up the tires on the Stinger 6s (they seem to work better for me than the Stinger 7/9 set up at Bethel), and basically saved getting dressed for last.

Of course when I went to zip up my jersey the zipper broke. So after some frantic pulling and tugging I realized I just needed to re-pin the jersey.



With that, and an emergency gel in my pocket, we started the race.

For today I had two helpers, SOC and Joel. Joel's been at the races every week because he's been working them. He arrives either at the same time as me or, at least twice, earlier than me. He also stands outside and marshals, moves stuff around, clears the course, stuff like that, so he's definitely working during the six hours before the race. Nonetheless he's been gamely trying to help me do well in the races.

SOC hasn't been able to make it due to work and family obligations, but he actually not only sacrificed all that he also sacrificed a 5K run that he'd registered to do on this day. He showed up to offer his support of the race series and me and also to test his racing legs.

Fortunately the weather turned out quite nice, with warmer temperatures such that most of us were in shorts and short sleeves.

SOC in action in his first race of the year.

The racing seemed pretty aggressive even though the Series lead was pretty wrapped up. Sixcycle showed up in force, their first and second places not under any real threat. They still worked super hard to try and get moves off the front and such.

Mike M, a strong 4, upgraded to 3 earlier in the week and this was his first 3-4 race. He wanted to put a show on and repeatedly drilled it. Although no one wanted to work with him his repeated forcing of the pace meant that eventually he dragged himself and another THIRTEEN riders clear of the field.

Wow.

The break forms.

At first the break seemed doomed, hanging out just in front of the field. Lap after lap they didn't move, the field tried here and there to bridge, and a few guys would make it up here and there.

A second group catches them, now the break is about 10 riders.

Eventually the break started to gain momentum. With every successful bridge there was another rider or three unwilling to work. More and more of the solo riders started to worry, forcing the pace. Some of them got clear and joined the break, others exhausted themselves and recovered in the group.

A final few take off, leaving the field behind.

Both Joel and SOC worked hard to try and bring the break back but without any coordinated effort they couldn't do much against the raging Mike M up the road.

At first I was a bit disappointed because I wasn't feeling that bad. I realized, though, that I'd been suffering pretty hard until the break went, and that if it was all together there'd be a lot of guys attacking the field.

Also, although I didn't feel it appropriate to win the race unless I deserved it, I felt it was okay to target the field sprint. After all that's my calling, the field sprint, whether it's for the win or for, in this case, 15th place.

With that in mind I steeled myself for the admittedly meaningless field sprint.

Joel finds me after the bell.

Joel had tried to help me a different week by going up the road, but he blew pretty quickly and shot backward just before the jockeying for the jump began. At such a time to be stranded in the front would have been worse than anything else.

He looked for me with a couple laps to go, I followed him around, but after the bell he really looked back, made sure I was there, did some telepathy to tell me he was really leading me out, and we set off.

On Joel's wheel.

With the other week's last lap in mind I followed Joel. I should have been easier to move up on the backstretch with a tailwind but I was afraid of hitting the front too quickly. In a headwind sprint I melt pretty quickly so I wanted to save myself for as long as possible.

Joel moves left with about 400m to go.
You can see the guy on the red bike look over. He jumps immediately.

When Joel moved left I made a critical error. I felt afraid that his big move to the side would blow him up so I stayed put. If he went and blew then he'd string out the field and I could ride off of the knowledge of "what would happen". Knowing the field will be strung out is pretty key information, since sometimes the field suddenly sits up as everyone up front realizes that whoever leads out the sprint is going to get absolutely annihilated before the line.

Of course this week things turned out differently and Joel made it quite far. I didn't know that so I played the "let Joel string out the field and I'll work off of that" bit.

I lose the wheel, it's a bit tight so I don't go.
Note the red bike guy is on Joel's wheel now.

With Joel rocketing up the left side I had to try and play the surfing game just right. I didn't want to lead out the sprint. My ideal sprint, with the wind so hard from the right, would have been to jump hard on the left curb and go to the line. This meant being sheltered left going into the sprint, but the left wasn't great just before it. I had to chose one way or another and I didn't know exactly how things would play out.

Therefore I had to let it just happen.

I go right trying to find a gap.

Joel was going so fast he opened a gap between his little group and us. I started to worry that he might lead out the sprint winner from the front. To the right a couple guys started to go, realizing that the sprint was leaving them behind. I tagged along, to the right for shelter.

Of course this meant that I'd be on the right in the sprint, which would put me…

In the wind.

Joel leading out the sprint.
If only I'd followed him.

I could feel the wind pounding me from the right, just zapping my legs. I stayed seated and low, trying to move up as far as possible before jumping. I didn't want to stand any earlier than necessary because as soon as I stood my sprint timer would start ticking down.

On the other hand since I was directly in the wind there'd be little advantage to me jumping later. I wasn't getting shelter. I was in a really weak position in the sprint so I just had to do my sprint and hope it would be enough to get me to the line first.

Seated, trying to save my standing jump for the final.

I was still seated at this point, still trying to delay my sprint. It seemed the other guys were starting to fade. Joel, incredibly, still leads the field at this point.

Now I jump!

The closer I got to the line the better I felt about my being able to sprint to it. When I started to draw even with the guys up front, including Joel (his red/black glove is still up front in the picture above), I knew I could go to the line.

So I jumped.

Hard.

Just after the line.

I accelerated in a pretty big gear for the wind and ground the pedals around until I got to the line. Like the other week no one else followed me to the line. I think the wind had zapped everyone's legs, and, honestly, the riders with the most power in their legs were probably up the road.

Nonetheless I felt satisfied with my race. I didn't place well per se, 15th, but I won the field sprint.

I stopped almost immediately so that I could get on with my promoter duties, but I could quickly review how the race went.

I didn't get shelled.

My 20 minutes over the week was enough to keep my legs from cramping.

I didn't bonk.

The sun was out.

It was a great day.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Promoting - 2014 Zwiedzanie Bethel

Ah, where to start.

It seemed like just yesterday that I was worried about whether or not the Series would even go on. I gambled a few thousand dollars (in insurance, numbers, and permits) that it would, then gambled many more thousands that it would go on for at least a few years (trailer, new generator). The stress really got to me, with my riding hours down, my back hurting, and generally being tired all the time.

The Series did eventually kick off, the racing happened, and I even got to race my bike. Surprisingly I could race okay after the first couple weeks. My back pain leveled out at "tolerable but be careful" levels, my whole body soreness (from sweeping and chopping and shoveling the course) went away, and the staff, virtually all new, settled into a nice, well oiled unit.

Before I knew it the last week of the Series approached us. Usually the last week means a lot of extra work so I tried to do what I could to get things done earlier. My normal first stop included picking up the release forms from Staples on Friday.

My assistant picking up the release forms.
It took 15 minutes to get going, about 30 minutes less than usual.

I dropped the releases off, along with the numbers and start lists, with Veronica, who would organize them into the pre-reg notebooks that we all know so well.

The big things for me this week, literally in some cases, was to bring the podiums down (big wood boxes), the trophies (big boxes that don't stack well), and the t-shirts (big boxes).

Although I had to make a trip to Bethel on Friday I got it done, dropping off the podiums, trophies, and t-shirts. Junior was a bit wigged out since he was with me for about 4.5 hours of driving that day.

Saturday the 12th was the CCAP Breakaway Benefit ride. I'd registered for it, raised money for it, but I wasn't sure if I could ride. I had this fantasy that I could pull Junior along in a single-kid trailer. When I realized that even 25 miles would be tough with 40-50 pounds of trailer+kid I started thinking I'd just pull Junior around in the parking lot or maybe a surrounding road or two.

Of course in the frenetic weeks I never even got the trailer down from its hook in the garage.

I lowered my goal to making it to the start at 7 AM. The start was only about 45 minutes from the house so 7 AM seemed realistic.

In the morning things just didn't work out. I thought for a brief time that I could make the 8:20 AM ride start time, when the Expo guys would be starting.

Finally I realized that, oh, I really should go to the bank (to withdraw $2000 in additional prize money in addition to the $1500 I normally had), and they open at 9, so I'll head down after that.

Things with Junior take a while so I didn't get to the bank until 10. Since he likes to run laps around the building and such it was a bit tough even to leave in 15 minutes, and a touch after 11 I finally got to the CCAP tent.

Junior loved it, running around for the next FOUR hours.

One of the rider's daughters was out exploring.
Junior was fascinated with her bike.

Trotting with purpose.

Dancing.

I've seen these birds a lot in the last week or three.

I didn't bring any bike or anything, I figured I'd just hang out with whoever was done riding and such. I managed to catch up with a few people I know from the races, saw a couple of my teammates, and we called it a day. Junior started to melt down at about 3 PM so we headed out. I'd drop him off at home - the Missus would be done with work by then - head back to the CCAP spot for the dinner, then drive to my dad's for the evening.

I managed to do 20 minutes on the bike at home, just a short spin up and down the condo complex roads, then dressed ("business casual") and headed back. Although I had my camera I didn't take any shots of the dinner, I just basked in the atmosphere. I'll have to do a separate post on CCAP as it's such a significant thing. Suffice it to say that I didn't head out until after 9:30 PM, and the nav system told me I had about 1:20 of driving ahead of me.

And here I was, still needing to do some registration work before tomorrow.

I got to the house pretty late, ate some (more) food as I really hadn't had much at the CCAP dinner, and decided to call it a night.

6:15 AM trailer selfie.

I kept meaning to take a trailer selfie shot in the dark with all the lights but by the last week of the Series it was too light when I got to the venue. I should have taken the 30-60 seconds to take the picture in the first week of Daylight Savings but I didn't.

6:17 AM, give or take, the beginning of the day.

I'd already coned off the truck on the backstretch and now we had to set up the registration area and the finish line area. I generally helped with the trailer, the rest of the crew helped with the Turn One and finish line areas.

6:30 AM, ready for business.
John is leveling the trailer. Note podiums in the background at the left.

I think that picture was from a bit later than 6:30 AM since we normally have Cat 5s ready and waiting by then. This might have been around 8 AM, after the clinic started and there was a short breather period for everyone in registration.

John R is the guy that's been at Turn One this year. He's helped out in the past but not to this extent. He marshaled the finish line intersection last year, the "crossover" if you will, and I knew that he'd be great at Turn One. He sacrificed his opportunity to race in order to make the Series work, and his efforts made the results incredible.

His backup, and usually stationed at the bottom of the hill, was Jeff C, and between the two of them they'd run the marshaling group. Derek was one of the full time marshals as was Joel. Both did other work too, in setting up and breaking down, but without the consistent marshaling from those two things would have been much less predictable.

Junior race.

Derek C is in the front gesturing, tall guy on the white bike, CCAP kit. He's one of the new guys and has worked out great. I first noticed him last year when he make a huge effort to make sure his teammate won the Junior race. Over the winter I asked his folks if he could work, if they could work, and so it was that the Series gained a whole family, Jeff, Veronica, and Derek. Derek spent each week working the whole day, from setting up to breaking down, marshaling until just before the P123s, and racing P123s. It was really great to have him and his family on board.

Hanging out at the trailer midday. Erin is standing at the window.

The "registration girls", as I call them, worked well once again. All experienced hands at the whole thing, they accepted the extra things I needed them to do in good spirits. This year we wrote checks for everything, I had a CCAP donation bottle out, we sold t-shirts… all sorts of extras. Erin, Delany, Amanda, and Veronica (in order of when they started helping out) worked out great, and I've only heard nice comments about the "registration girls".

One of my goals with the trailer was that it would become a focal point for riders in terms of hanging out and such. With Outdoor Sports Center's tent, CCAP's bake sale, and the results on the end, it sort of ended up like that. The traffic on the road, both bike and car, meant it wasn't an ideal spot for hanging out, but it worked.

Speaking of t-shirts...

Front

Rear

Luckily for all of you these t-shirts are still available! $10, let me know if you want one. S, M, L, XL, they run about true to size (Gilden t-shirts). As my brother asked…

"So how'd the t-shirts go?"
"Go?"
"Well, did you make money?"
"No. Lost a lot, actually."
"Yeah. We never made money on t-shirts either."
"Yeah."
(pause)
"I think the money is in making the t-shirts, not selling them. It's like the gold rush - the people who made money sold the picks and axes. The people looking for gold had to buy the tools but that didn't mean they found any gold."

Back to the regularly scheduled program…

Finish line set up.

This year was Mike's first year at the camera (back to the camera, blue shirt). He did an excellent job so that was a huge stress relief for me. I was super nervous the first week, making him do two practice "finish line clips" on the Cat 5s. I even asked him how he unlocked the screen saver on the laptop, since that would really screw things up if he couldn't use the laptop. He pointed at the manual his predecessor Jonathan wrote.

"The password is in the instructions."

Oh.

Mike and Meg, the officials, did their usual exemplary job. As a promoter I can request specific officials. There are a lot of reasons that I ask for Mike and Meg, but the main one is this: if I'm racing at a race I'd want them officiating the race. That's what it boils down to, that as a racer I'd want them officiating my race.

As a promoter I stress about three things - crashes, course marshals, registration, and the finish line camera. With the full crew in place I didn't have to worry about pretty much anything. You can tell because I took a lot of pictures during this Series, something that I can't do if I'm busy doing "promoter stuff".

My favorite podium shot, pretty much of all time.
Sixcycle guys, hamming it up. They won the Cat 3-4 overall in both team and individual.

We did podium shots on the last week, which you can see here on the Bethel Spring Series site. We also raffled away a roof rack with two bike mounts, courtesy Outdoor Sports Center and Thule. Fittingly one of the women racers who marshaled regularly ended up winning the roof rack.

5:40 PM, the end of the day, all packed up and ready to go.

Unlike other weeks I had to get everything into the trailer and Expedition for the trip home. Joel helped load the trailer properly, although I think I vetoed one of his ideas and that ended up making the trailer a bit less stable. Nonetheless I made the drive home, only a wiggle here and there on the road.

What I unloaded that night at about 9 PM, taking almost an hour to unload.

Normally I don't unload a lot the last day of Bethel but I wanted to empty out the trailer in preparation for the interior finishing. Therefore I tried to empty out the trailer before I drove home from the storage bay. Except for a few totes everything ended up in the garage, and by the next day everything was in the bay.

I worked hard to get the results up that evening. I wanted to do that for the race but when I woke up on the keyboard I realized that it wasn't going to happen. I got the individual GC up but had to do the team and high school stuff the next day.

Well earned cup of coffee in a Sixcycle gift mug.

I have to comment on the Sixcycle guys. I don't know any of them, heck I didn't even realize that one drove a green pickup until the end of the Series. But they've been super nice, super polite, at least off the bike (on the bike they just rip your legs off). One of them called me "sir" which was really great. They brought me a few gifts on the last week, a mug (same mug as Carpe Diem Racing so I know what it cost etc, but the thought is what counts) and a couple t-shirts (I know about them too, sort of). The kicker is that these were almost the only actual gifts someone gave me for the Series. Yes, for Junior, people gave us so much I could barely fit them in the car, but for me, for the race… not so much. So thank you to the Sixcycle guys and good luck in the rest of the season.

So that ends the 2014 Bethel Spring Series p/b Outdoor Sports Center. After a bit of decompression, some work on the trailer, and prep for some of the other events coming up, I'll revisit the whole "where will the Spring Series be in 2015?" question.

For now, though, a nice cup of coffee.

Thanks everyone for coming to and supporting the races. I hope to see you all next year at the WhereverItsGoingToBe Spring Series.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Racing - 2014 Circuit Francis J Clarke

Today for some reason I was a bit more relaxed than on other weeks. I think part of it was the staff - the race was going really smoothly and I felt like things were under control. No craziness, no weirdness. Regular problems I can handle, the weird ones stress me.

The bike, ready for battle.
Custom Tsunami frame with a custom Steelman Bikes stem.

I brought T-shirts to the race. I bought too many, I think, since we need to sell almost 200 shirts to break even. The girls at registration did their best but I think I'll have a separate post on the t-shirts this week.

Anyway I wanted to take a picture of the bike with the t-shirt and there it is.

Some trackstand battles between the Series leader and his teammate.

I wasn't the only one feeling a bit better in the warm sun. The Cat 3-4 Series Leader was horsing around a bit, doing a track stand battle in the waiting area by Turn One. I left before someone dabbed so I don't know who won. It showed the team's spirit and camaraderie though, and helped demonstrate their tightly knit team. They've been super impressive each week they've raced and they definitely deserve the overall lead.

Rolling to the start.

Today we got a moto ref "on a trial basis" if you will. They have to do some races for practice so this was this moto's practice. It was so good that I think the federation should do a free moto for a field or two for all promoters, to give them an idea of what a moto can do for them.

Junior wants a hug before I race.

Before I got to the line I looked for the Missus and Junior. I'd spent a bit of time with them before (maybe that's why I was less stressed) and I knew that Junior was getting to the end of his tether. The Missus would leave with him before the end of my race so I wanted to say bye before the start. Junior wanted to hold me so I gave him a hug and said bye softly.

Following an early counter move.

The guy to the left will win the race, I think the guy up the road gets second, and the guy in blue, near the yellow line, third. If I could have looked even 30 seconds into the future I'd have killed myself to stay on the wheels.

Normally I sit in and such but today I felt a bit of energy in my legs. I got to the front and decided to fly the colors a bit.

I ended up pulling for a short bit.

When I say "a short bit" I really mean a short bit. I pulled a little, pulled off, but no one wanted to pull through. So I pulled sort of slowly until someone finally decided to go around, aka sort of attack. That brought a bunch of riders around me and I could get back in.

I'm still standing.

I had the legs to stay near the front for a lap or two more and then I did my customary slide to the tail of the field.

The Series Leader noticed me and commented that it was nice to see me out here. He's the nicest guy, a tribute to his team, a great spokesman for the sport of cycling, but he's so strong he didn't realize that I've been out here racing "against" him, just I've never actually ridden next to him because I'm always way back.

I grinned to myself after that comment because that's about when I went backward.

Waving to Junior.

I wanted to wave to Junior while on the bike. It's hard to pick out a particular rider in a field and I wanted to help him out. On one of the slower laps I took the chance and waved.

He was looking at me with total concentration, furrowed brow. I could tell his brain was working in overdrive, trying to figure out what was going on. He doesn't filter things like we do so he'll pick out a logo on a wall of product. His non-filtering works against him when he's trying to pick out dad in a field of cyclists - I think he has to look at every rider, at least every rider that has red on him.

Random lap, moto ref to the left.

The moto ref tooted the moto's horn a couple times. Regardless the racers were much more careful about the yellow line. I really liked it, having the moto ref looking after us.

Random lap, close.

I chose this picture because the rider close to me was moving ever so slowly to the right. I wasn't sure if it was intentional but I realized it was when he got really close. This was the closest I got to someone in the whole race. A non-incident.

During the race four guys eventually went clear. One guy blew and got dropped - the other three lapped the field. In the field many of us had no idea until the spectators started yelling, "They're right behind you!" The dropped guy time trialed ahead of us, trying to get his 4th place.

A lap later two Sixcycle guys went to the front, towing another NY rider with them, the third break racer. We'd gotten lapped.

With all the Sixcycle guys streaming by, with other guys jumping on their wheel, I had no idea how many lapped us. Maybe 4, maybe 6? I assumed it was 6 and that all the points were gone. This settled me mentally as I could focus on doing a sprint with no pressure.

2 to go.

Two weeks ago I had a good sprint, partially because I started in good position. I decided that I'd try to replicate that effort. Joel, my teammate to the front right of me, was looking to move me up so I stuck on his wheel.

I moved to the left only to toss my bottle, which I hadn't touched all race. I've started without a bottle only to want a sip of water, but I'm going to toss my bottle earlier if I don't drink from it early on.

Bell lap.

We hadn't gained much position and Joel had spent a bit of time (and energy) sitting in the wind. When things shifted around I had to get to the right to shelter from the front-left headwind on the critical backstretch. Joel, stuck on the left side, ended up stranded.

Backstretch, last lap.
About 550 meters to go, maybe 600.

I've moved more to the right to get shelter. I believe Joel's wheel is just on the yellow line in that shot. I saw the opening to the right but thought someone would come blasting up the side so I decided not to take it.

Still open to the right so I go.
About 400 meters to go.

Of course, 100 meters later, the hole was still there. Maybe I was at the back of the field, I don't know, but I went right and quickly scooted up to a Jordan racer in a white kit, black shorts.

Now shifting to the left a bit.
About 300 meters to go.

I moved to the left a touch, expecting a squeeze to the right, but no squeeze so now I had a lot of room. Again there was a gap to the right but I was hesitant to fill it, holding position instead. This is a tad under 300 meters to go.

The right opens up. The Jordan guy is now to my left.
About 250 meters to go.

The Jordan guy moved left while I still eyed the right side. I wasn't sure what would happen but the left side looked like they were going. I didn't want to risk getting boxed in on the right so I stayed middle.

The Jordan guy moves left, I do too.
Just over 200 meters to go.

When the Jordan guy moved left I did also. The Rockstar Games guy to the left was my outside lane wall - I couldn't move left through him so he defined the left border, the Jordan was a variable, the right curb was my right wall. The middle was good so that's where I went, following the Jordan guy.

The right side jams up.
About 200 meters.

Then the right side jammed up. I don't know if someone blew or what but suddenly the guys came backward. I shifted left to avoid the guy coming back at me, then shifted left a bit more as he tried to get around those in front of him.

Sprint starts to open.
100 meters? 125 meters?

I finally got some space and start to go. Of course It was still a bit crowded, with riders going forward and others coming back.

Sprint jams up.
15-20 meters.

Here a big Sixcycle guy is going backward, one of the two Sixcycle guys that lapped the field, and he's winning the race. His teammate, on the same lap as me, is on his last legs and slowing hard. I'm boxed in and have to wait for the lane to open up. I end up going to the right the Sixcycle guy on the same lap as me and to the left of the guy with the red swoosh on his shorts.

Yeah, there's no hole there but it opens up.

At the line.

Sixcycle to my left, Red Swoosh to my right. I sort of nosed the bike forward but I had very little momentum since I never really sprinted. It was one of those habitual things, a little poke forward with the bars, nothing dramatic.

Relative shot.

I'm glad I nosed the bike forward because I just barely nosed out the Jordan guy at the line. It was only for 9th place, so 5th in the field, but still, ever bit helps. Another 10 meters and I would have gained a few more feet.

In the sprint I went at 700 watts peak (as the right got blocked), eased, went at 900 watts peak (as I got some real estate), eased, then 950 watts (still in the real estate), eased really hard dropping to 0 watts and 5 mph, then did 700w peak and trailed off to the line (snaking between the two riders and then throwing the bike. We never got going, maxing out at about 33 mph, crossing the line at about 23 mph.

I did a cool down lap, very unusual for me, mainly because I was blocked from going to the left to get back to the trailer. Then I  stopped, chatted a bit with the guy that got 4th - he finished just in front of the field - and then headed over to the trailer. My race was done, now it was time to get to work.

One more race here and then it's on to the rest of the season. Yay.