Sunday, March 25, 2007

Bethel Spring Series - Bethel CDP Gold Race

Well now.

It seems I only know how to write about bad races (from a racer's point of view). And here's another one.

Just as a counter point, the race from a promoter's point of view was pretty successful. The races went off pretty smoothly. The course wasn't icy. And we had some big fields. One crash marred the official paperwork and some very, very squirrelly and aggressive riding marred the unofficial rating of the race. I've heard reasonable complaints of chopping wheels and stuff before (meaning one guy complained and it didn't happen or it was misinterpreted) but today I heard enough, to, well, I can't do anything about it. Not officially. But when the officials also reported the same things, then it worried me. I don't want Bethel to be a wheel-chopping, elbow throwing, hip-checking kind of bike race series. At Bethel I want people to ride people off others' wheels so discretely they don't realize what happened till they're in the wind. And I want sprints to be won because someone outsprinted someone, not because they slammed the guy against the curb and then took off. I have to think about how to bring this about.

Back to the racer's perspective.

The day actually started out yesterday when I spent about six hours on my back installing a new exhaust system on my daily driver, a Honda Civic. Yes, it's one of those exhausts, but I couldn't resist upgrading. And yes I consider it an upgrade - it's stainless and won't rust through in three spots like my old exhaust.

You know how when you want a new wheelset it's nicer than the one it's replacing? Well I feel that way about car parts. If something wears out, I'll put something a little nicer on if it costs about the same as the replacement part. It did so I did.

Anyway, try laying on the pavement outside for about six hours. Okay, I'll give you this - you can get up, go hunt for a tool or anti-seize or get the impact wrench, but whatever you do, you have to lay back down for a few minutes at a time. Ideally you should be inhaling little specks of rust, jam your hand in weird positions, and do lots of crunches to peer up into the bottom of your car.

Then, when you're totally chilled to the bone, do it for a couple hours more.

The result? You wake up the next day with a sore throat, swollen glands, and a general feeling of malaise.

Hey, at least I got a shiny exhaust out of the whole deal.

So we got to the course this morning and it looked like one of those New England beaches - sand all over the place. And not normal sand like, say, on a postcard picture. It's New England sand. Rocks. Pebbles. They make walls out of this stuff. And it was all over the road.

We swept, blew, shoveled, and the whole time wondering what we need to do to get a weather-course break. Then when we thought we were done, the wet sand dried out. And we went out there and did it again.

Add breathing sand and a couple hours of hard labor to sore throat, swollen glands, and general malaise and you have a winning receipt for not winning races, field sprints, or a jog to the registration desk.

Between the two long rounds of course maintenance, I was checking out some of the bikes by the registration table. I'm still on the "My Giant is mushy" train of thought. Thankfully one guy said that they weren't mushy at all, but he might be trying to psyc me out.

Ok, I'm not serious about that, but it is one of those things you say to a racer, you know, the sort of thing you say when they doubt themselves and you're trying to be nice. Example:

"I think I need to lose weight. You think I need to lose weight?"
"No, you're fine. Damn you can sprint well."
"Hm thanks. Maybe I'll be okay with my weight for now."

See? Sounds fine till the guy says his next sentence.
"Hey, why didn't you go with me when I bridged to that break? I mean you were right there."
"Um... my bike's mushy?"

I tried to stay cheery though. I figured I'd try and fool my body into feeling good. I managed to change 10 or 15 minutes before my race started, set up the helmet cam, accepted an offered GU packet (it tore by accident and the guy didn't want it), took a PowerGel to be safe, and lined up.

As soon as we started I knew I was not going well. I had a sort of shiver-hyper feeling, the kind that hits me right before I bonk. I tried to move up and stuff and actually sat near the front for a bit, just long enough to watch a break ride down the road. I decided I should let the break simmer for a lap and then go if someone went. So I was far enough in front to watch a group launch a nice chase. And I figured, well, I should probably go with the next move. And watched that go.

Eventually, no one was going. And the little peloton up the road just disappeared.

A full fifth of the field (a close to 100 rider field mind you) went away and I just watched them. And for the last two weeks I've thought "I better go with the moves because they're actually sticking this year.

I have to admit that I couldn't watch them on one lap because I was literally seeing stars while riding up the hill. At first I thought they were New England sand particles bouncing around but they were a little too consistent and spun in circles. I quickly dismissed the possibility of weird air currents around a rotating rear wheel as the reason for the circles, although when I first noticed them, the idea briefly crossed my mind. I almost stopped because I wasn't sure if I could keep my balance, but before I could fall over, the stars went away. I kept going.

I thought maybe the double sugar rush was too much so drank water. Drank almost all my water. No use. I didn't even toss my bottle because it was virtually empty, and I dreaded the walk to go pick it up.

Walk > Weight loss from bottle toss + psychological benefit from bottle toss = no bottle toss.

I figured I better move up and it happened to be at something like 4 to go. So I tried to stay up there, be aggressive, and do all the things you're supposed to do towards the end of a race. Follow moves for real, slice and dice, blah blah blah. I figured if we're sprinting for 19th (yes, 19th) place, well, nothing to lose if I do some work and stuff.

Not too much work mind you, just the stuff you're supposed to do.

So I followed certain guys, moved up when I could, and sat on wheels when it got windy. At the bell there were a few guys off the front, each alone, evenly spaced apart, sort of like moving wind shelters. A good rider would have been able to jump from one to another, like James Bond did on the alligator snouts, and launch off the last guy for a spectacular field sprint win. The "where the heck did he come from?" kind of win.

Alas I was not that kind of good.

I did go across a tiny little gap to some CT Coast Cycling rider who looked really strong. After I sat on his wheel for about 30 seconds, he turned around, saw me, and started going faster. Or maybe he saw the field about 30 feet behind me. Whatever, I was already at my limit and started to come off. Then he actually jumped.

How the heck did he do that? I mean he was pulling for something like a lap, then when I got there, he accelerated and then finally jumped.

Those alligator snouts bite back sometimes. If I was Bond, I'd be Bond-flavored 'gator food.

At the bottom of the hill I pulled off to let the field through and thought I almost took someone out since he pulled left just behind me. But he also sat up. He didn't yell at me so I think (and hope) he was simply trying to close the gap for the field or a friend in the field and sat up when he caught me.

I watched the field roll up the hill but sort of lost track as I lost all momentum. It probably took me a minute to go up the hill. I was dizzy, exhausted, and disappointed. Not a good combination for a racer.

I even gave my spot in the P/1/2/3 race to a friendly racer (I'm the promoter and he signed a waiver). And I just sat in a daze for a while on a registration table.

I decided I better change and get warm but someone came over and told me something weird had happened in the trees right by the start/finish. They're those pine needle trees that don't shed during the winter. Apparently some guy was in there breaking branches. Then spread them all over the lawn on that lot.

As we have enough trouble with the people on that corner I figured it'd be best to walk over there and pick up said branches.

So I did. The guy helped me. There were a lot of these branches and they were pretty shredded. I couldn't figure out why anyone would want to do such a thing - climb eight or ten feet into a couple trees (I saw the stubs up there), then toss said branches everywhere. And really, really shred them.

I carried the kindling over to the deserted lot behind the officials and tossed them back there. Asked them if they saw anyone abusing branches over there.

They started laughing.

"German Shepard."


I'll have the helmet cam tape up at some point, hopefully this week.

And see what I can do next Sunday.

Meaning in the race.


Anonymous said...

Another great race report - thanks for posting these! Hope you feel better - and enjoy the new pipe!

Rebecca H. said...

I enjoy reading your race reports, and it's interesting to hear the race organizer's perspective on things. I hope next week goes better!

Anonymous said...

It won't make you feel better but I was up till about 12:30 painting the hallway. Got to put in the chore duties now before the season gets going in full gear. Speaking of gears, I still suck at sprinting. always dropping into a way too hard of a gear. You gotta help me out. When are you doing a sprinting clinic? Later on, Rob

Aki said...

soc - thx. always a pleasure to write these things up.

dorothy - thx also. I hope I can show what a winning helmet cam looks like!

rob - I'll try and hold a clinic on the last lap of the race :) seriously though, you have to do a lot of sprints in a row (say 5-7 about 5-7 minutes apart on a loop so you're sprinting the same sprint). You'll learn real quick which gears work and which don't. I also overgear for the most part. then I do a session and find 2-4 mph and use the right gears again.