Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Racing - Hartford Criterium

So according to the record books, I got 28th at Hartford in 2007. As far as how I've done here, not that great. Based on my training and fitness though it's better than it might seem. Personally I rate it as an "appropriate" finish.

I bemoaned my lack of fitness prior to the race. My stated goal was to stay below 170 bpm, try to coral some reserves, and make a desperate effort at the end of the race. The race went something like that.

First of all there was a 30% chance of rain. Remembering the last Hartford I did in the rain (and the guys sliding across the road in front of me in the sprint), I made sure my legs were shaved (they slide better that way), my rain jacket was packed, and my cool weather gear in my bag. As it turned out the weather was perfect with mostly sunny skies all day. Score one for the race.

I arrived plenty early, in time to watch my friend Gene finish up his third race of the day (although he finished it up before everyone else in the race did). We chatted a bit, watched the juniors, and suddenly I was hungry.

We left the course to eat - and for the first time in a long, long time I was actually nervous for a race. Sort of a tight chest, tapping feet, have to pee a lot.


This was a change. Nervous gets me either off the back or way into the race. The good part about nervousness is that I have better perception - sort of like when you're crashing and you see that the rider in front of you was in a 53x13 when he fell. I see more clearly, everything moves in slow motion, and I see gaps that normally stay hidden.

I got back to the course and I was still nervous (I thought it might go away). I changed - not much involved in warm weather, just shorts, jersey, shoes, gloves - and then we watched the Pro/1/2/3's. Very fast race, some very strong local riders, and an illustration on tactics. Or rather, how not to race.

A Canadian team tried to control things for seven laps with seven guys but to no avail. Personally I think a 40 mph last lap that used up four or five guys would have been better. Instead they just dragged everyone around for five laps and with about a lap to go Nerac, the home squad, went to the front with their sprinter Adam Myerson. He slayed all in his sprint, the Canadian sprinter a desperate third.

On the very fast cruise up to the race (the cops were taking Sunday off to prepare for Monday's hellacious traffic), we had discussed my strategy for the day. The first thing - no stupid show off moves. Second, sit in, conserve. Third, finish it off if possible.

I set up my helmet cam set up, my single waterbottle, gloves, new shoes, etc. I got my really heavy bike ready to go (PowerTap rear DT clincher, TriSpoke front clincher) - the wheels probably add two or three pounds to my ultra fast, ultra light Reynolds. But for the interest of science, I was doing the PT setup. And an aero front wheel for a long sprint. I decided if I was there at the end I'd go early. The clinchers were also a bit more stable in wet and I'd been thinking about a wet Hartford.

I went to warm up and my fiancee went with a Coke and some water for me just before the start. It really helps when you have a supporter out there, whether a significant other or a teammate. Makes things just a bit less stressful, especially when the racer is a bit nervous. I rolled up with what I thought was the minimum required to get to the finish (in this case a bottle, no PowerGel or anything with sugar). She helped me with my helmet cam, and when they said it'd be ten minutes, I did a lap or two and rolled up to the line when everyone was already there. Got my Coke, guzzled some water, a good luck kiss, all was good.

The race started and things seemed fine. The first lap up the hill I glanced down at my heart rate - 170.


I tried to coast a bit more - I found that I could coast quite a bit at times, so I did. I mentioned later that I could buy 10 beats a minute during the lap but the reality was that it was more like four. I kept checking my heart rate and the Power Tap told me 170 virtually every time.

I was absolutely at my limit, just about to go anaerobic. I tried every trick I had but the field wasn't cooperating - the problem was that the race was going just a bit quicker than I wanted.

And I suffered.

And suffered.

The helmet cam has one disadvantage (other than the few pounds it adds to my already heavy bulk) - due to its CamelBak housing, it makes me easy to pick on. So when someone to my iniside swerved a bit (perhaps because he hit someone, I haven't checked the helmet cam tape on that yet) and I moved out and in turn hit someone, I'm the one that got yelled at. As in "Hey Camel Bak, watch your line."

Makes you rethink that whole discussion about profiling.

Anyway, before the race I was thinking I'd sit in for half the race - 15 laps - and then actually race. Then I decided that I should sit in for 2/3 the race - 20 laps - and then think about moving up. In reality I started thinking of taking any free spots available at 5 to go - and to be near the front at the bell.

To some extent I succeeded. I was at the chaotic front at the bell, watching the lead guys go one way, then the other. Sometimes there were perhaps 10 guys in front of me, some other times less.

The problem was that at the bell I was looking at 179 bpm.

Waaay above any normal heart rate for yours truly.

I decided to stick it out as long as I could. I couldn't take any move up opportunities and in fact gave up spots here and there. But I rounded the last bend about 10 guys back, close enough that I might be able to do something. After all, I'd placed 3rd or 4th from worse.

But it was not to be.

I stood up to sprint, got perhaps two down strokes in, and my legs simply stopped working. I sat down and tried to maintain speed so that no one would rear end me.

And that was that.

My fiancee and I decided to stick around. We'd planned on watching the 4's as one of our virtual friends would be in that race, Mr Suitcase of Courage. Actually, we met Mrs. Suitcase first, then a couple minutes later the Mister himself popped over.

I camcorded the 4's as I had about 20 minutes of tape (and 75% of battery) left. I caught a nasty crash on tape as well as some good racing. I ended up using most of the 20 minutes and still had a lot of battery left (after 90 or so minutes of taping).

Afterwards we did the typical "post-race rehash". But it wasn't just about cycling. As we were both going through listing a house (and then looking for another one), we had a lot of immediate war stories to share. And both the Missus (Suitcase) and the future missus (mine) are supportive bike spouses, they too had a lot to share. It was great fun chatting and we had to break up the party only because we both had prior commitments.

We did some family things after (her family), did touristy things (Mystic, ice cream), and got home pretty late. The two kitties were waiting up for us and greeted us like they always do - full of unconditional love. And we settled in after a nice, relaxing day.

The next day would be another grueling day of house preparation. But for now we could relax.


Stephen B said...

If you're going to race with a HR monitor, tape over the numbers! Doesn't add much value if you start making negative and/or poor quality tactical decisions because of the numbers your seeing - remember, everyone hurts in a race!

Rebecca H. said...

It was fun seeing you and the FM (future missus) at the race; I had an "appropriate" finish too -- with the women's open pack right up to the finish line, which is all I wanted (30th place doesn't sound so stellar, but I know I was riding well for me ...).

Anonymous said...

It was so nice to meet you and Mrs. Sprinter-to-be. I hope that your cats survive the invasion of house visitors OK, and you get some great offers right away! Let us know if you need moral support. :)

Aki said...

secret - yep, it's hard to motivate when you start seeing "Slow down, slow down!" on the cyclometer. But I wanted to see if there was anything I could do to stow away some reserves during a race. I've been riding long enough to recognize the feelings of going over the edge and I wanted to quantify them. The numbers illustrated I was simply out of shape. And I like collecting data like PT stuff (if it wasn't that it would have been heart rate and avg/max speed off of my regular cyclometer and hrm)

dw - I finished 28th so in the same boat as you. I didn't deserve too much worse but didn't deserve too much better. Now to improve on that number.

debby - it was nice to meet you too. and congrats on doing 70 miles the next day!