Monday, March 03, 2008

Bethel Spring Series - Ronde de Bethel 2008 recap

March 2nd was an utter and total collapse of all of my expectations for the coming year. Let's recap my preparation for the race.

First, I swore I'd train more in late 2007. Because of this, I felt comfortable committing to purchase all sort of equipment that will help me race, train, and track my riding.

Since I had Reynolds DV46 tubulars, I decided to buy matching clinchers for training. Same handling characteristics (especially the brakes), same feel, great back up race wheels, etc.

More training meant less reliance on long cranks to get me over the hills. So the 175s went out to be replaced with the 170s SRMs - lighter, stiffer, and they record power data (and the associated computer tracks heart rate, speed, cadence, etc.)

I bought an enormous gym thing so I could lift more regularly.

I bought a new bike (actually, the way it turned out, I bought an SI SRM and got the bike for free), a Cannondale SystemSix, to replace my mushy Giant. In the process I cut two pounds off of my bike's weight.

I lost my job in December and start training somewhat fanatically.

I did a two week training camp in California and rode much more strongly than I ever did before, even after a 4 day battle with a terrible stomach bug, one that seemed to affect the Tour of California pros.

I'm within a few weeks of matching my entire 2007 year's worth of riding - and it's the first week of March. And that's not counting the riding I did in December as part of my 2008 year.

I brought food and coffee to the race so I could eat during the morning. I had hot food, nuked in a microwave, and eat plenty of it.

Then I raced.

The start was a little frantic as I'd miscalculated how long it would take to get the helmet cam working. As it was, I forgot a homemade piece which protects buttons from being pushed (like the stop one). I taped things gently and hoped it would all work out.

I started having heart palpitations about 5 or 7 laps into the race. I don't remember exactly when it was but those around me would remember - it's when I went shooting through the field backwards like my wheels just rolled into wet concrete. This went on for much of the race. Although disconcerting, it's a familiar feeling, one checked out by doctors (I carry a copy of my EKG on his recommendation), but whatever the "non-effects", they make it hard for me to race hard when they pop up. I haven't had them pop up in a while but they happened to make an appearance Sunday.

Fortunately they subsided with about 7 laps to go, and after catching my breath, I started spending a lot of bike racing money to move up.

In California I'd ridden a bit with Julie and we talked about things like metering out efforts. I likened the immediate efforts (anaerobic and thereabouts) like spending money. The bigger the effort, the more money you're spending. You can only spend $400 at a time because that's what the cash machine limits you when you make withdrawals.

You can return to the well though and keep making withdrawals. At some point your fitness (your bank account) runs empty and BAM, that's it. End of the line. No more cash machine, nothing.

You have no bike racing money left.

I heard Julie mumbling about "$400, $400, $400" when describing one of the hills on our big ride. Obviously she was digging deep into her reserves.

I'd spent quite of bit of cash moving up, following a guy who'd eventually rock both the 3-4 and P-1-2-3 races, a familiar face in the field who I'll call... Bryan.

He had looked over at me on one of my cash poor laps, dangling at or off the back, and said jokingly, "Man, you're such a liar."


"You know, California, all that crap. You didn't go there. Training. Right."

And here I was thinking he was accusing me of faking my suffering as I laid out another $400 of racing cash to stay on the back of the field.

Well, when he got around to pedaling up to the front, I promptly got on his wheel. He brought me smartly to the front part of the field. On the way we approached a guy busy wiggling his way down one of the straights, drinking from his bottle. Bryan made it by him fine and I followed his razor straight path. BottleDrinker looked down to put his bottle back in his cage and promptly wiggled right.

Bumps me.

"Hey!! Watch your line!!"

That was from him, not me. I did a quick sanity check. Yep, still about 5 inches left of Bryan's rear wheel. His wheel is about 18 inches from the curb. No wiggling here.

I guess it was one of those little early season "Oh, I forgot how to race my bike" moves. Little bumps, wiggles, squiggles, i.e. not straight line stuff. Ironically, as that incident illustrated, it's usually the guys protesting that are causing the problems. I'd actually watched this exact guy wiggle around before and thought about saying something to him. But then I decided that might be construed as Obnoxious. And I try not to be Obnoxious. So I refrained.

Next time I'll say something.

Later, as if to prove this point about the complainers being the wiggly ones, in the P-1-2-3 race a guy spontaneously moved right about 8-10 inches, bumping into the guy to his right. He yelled at the guy to the right to hold his line. It seemed so wrong that I had to make the call and I yelled (from behind the two of them) that the swervy guy seemed to be the one swerving, not the other guy.

The other guy looked back sheepishly and raised a "Thanks" hand.

No problem.

Anyway, with 2 laps to go in the 3-4 race, I had maybe two big withdrawals left. I was a bit afraid of using them up and metered my efforts, looking for the big opening, the miraculous Moses-like "parting of the peloton". I inevitably find something, and even if I don't, I can blow all my money in the sprint and pass a bunch of people.

That's when one of my teammate came up to me.

"Yo, is it two to go?", he asked as we came up to the start/finish line.

The bell started ringing.

"Um, bell."

That was about all I could say. He rolled by me and I automatically slotted in right behind. He started pedaling furiously, looking back to see if I was on. I was so he went even faster.

I came off.

$400. Right out the window.

I tucked into the field, probably 20 guys back, and wondered what to do.

The field never slowed down and no openings showed up. We came to the bottom of the hill, up to my favored jump point.

There were riders in front of me.

They started sprinting. Or rather, they stood up. Because sprinting implies going faster but these guys, they slowed down. And I was stuck.

Disgusted with everything about my race, the lack of energy, the heart thing, feeling uninspired, the difficulty, and finally sitting impotently behind these two guys, I sat up near the top of the hill, never having sprinted. One guy in front of me sat up. I yelled at him, uncharacteristically, to keep "effing sprinting" next time. Sorry dude.

The other guy got 13th.

I should have kept pedaling.

I shed the helmet cam, checked the camcorder. It'd stopped after 28 minutes. All that and no tape. Not something I wanted to learn, when my heart was still racing and I had no race result, no sprint, nothing to show for 2 months of intense and solid training.

I mentioned the helmet cam failure to my very fit leadout guy.

"Good. You don't want this race on tape."

So true.

We went on to start the P-1-2-3s. We started up and immediately about 5 guys went hammering off the front. The whole field strung out and I thought I was going to make one of my second lap exits. Instead I found myself feeling somewhat comfortable, cruising up the hill, no palpitations. I felt infinitely better with no helmet cam setup, like I could actually breathe. I started making efforts during the lap, closing gaps, moving up on the hill, burning up cash. Maybe this was the way it should have been.

Suddenly my body started protesting. I was running out of funds.

One final effort about a third of the way into the P-1-2-3 race and I closed a 20 foot gap to the field that I'd let open for 100 meters.

My funds ran dry.

I sat up, waited for the field to catch me, did a lap or two at the back, and then called it a day.

My leadout guy finished in the top 20.

Next week I'll rest more before my race. Eat more.

And not carry a helmet cam.


Anonymous said...

Aki - Racing is so hard but thats what makes us all come back for more. See you Sunday. By the way, how much time was there between the 3/4 and 1-3 race? Plenty of time to refuel and get ready?

Aki said...

The races started pretty much on time the whole day. According to my SRM data, the 3-4 race lasted just under 60 minutes. We started a few minutes late because of me (and my helmet cam). Still I had 10+ minutes between the two races to drink up, fuel up, get rid of the helmet cam, and feel disgusted about my first race. lol.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Aki - Now I will definitely do both races (try to finish the second). I was worried I would be doing the old 30 second number switch at the start of the second race.

Aki said...

I'm pretty sure the officials have scissors. Pin both on, they'll cut one off. But you should have time. I had to unpin the 3-4, pin the p-3 number, because didn't have time to hold both while holding up the whole 3-4 race.

Eddy A. said...

Hang in there Aki. From what I've been reading about your training to date, it's been mostly long steady rides with a few sprints. Time to throw in the longer higher intensity stuff. Of course, you probably already know that.

Anonymous said...

No worries Aki - it's the first race of the season, you certainly had PUH-LEN-TY on your mind with getting everything up and running so everybody else could have a good race, and you still insist on carrying all that extra weight of the helmet cam (though I know I'm not alone in enjoying the videos!). One of the best things about racing is "there's always next time."

IMA said...

Hear hear! No worries. I drove 2-1/2 hours just to get dropped after 7 laps.. then I tried again and dropped again after another 7 laps. I have almost 2000 miles since mid November, 125 hours of training..
But it is possible to be at a point in the cycle where you're building up, you're not well rested, and you've been stressing the system hard for a few weeks. This describes me on Sunday.. I have more fitness than I know what to do with, but it's one week of rest 'below the surface'.
There's also something I like to call "Too many minds" a la "Last Samurai"..
I had my wife, my kid, my father in law and his wife there on Sunday- a huge distraction! You no doubt had similar issues with being the one who orchestrated much of the event.
Check your Powertap, if you used it. the numbers might tell you something you don't realize. Look at your CP10 for Sunday and compare it against your best ten minutes of 2007. If you're anything like me, you performed better than you thought Sunday, DNF or not. Cheers.

Anonymous said...

Even with all those heart palpitations shooting you off the back of a 23mph avg field you are still able to hold a "razor straight line." Impressive... Also classy move freaking out in the sprint like that. most guys on the right side of the road just sat up, but your tantrum was way more pro. BTW, Check out my blog:

Anonymous said...

To Wow Said...

you a total DB. Where were you in the race. 23mph average with 40mph winds is not that easy. Aki is a class act and puts on a great series so take your negativity elsewhere.

Aki there is always next week.


Aki said...

It's okay, no need to fight.

I did yell at two guys in the sprint because I got boxed in - my fault really. I've won sprints from that spot so I knew there was some potential but no dice Sunday. One guy I know but the other guy I didn't, and I feel bad for that because he's on a real team that puts on real races and my past interactions with them have been fine. I'm sorry for that pre-finish cussing.

My personal rule is racing stays on the race course. After that we're all friends. The stopped my cussing at strangers by the time I crossed the line.

I'm only guessing at who might have posted under WOW but there were only two times I pointed out specific instances of poor bike handling combined with poor etiquette (my sprint tirade would be a third one but it's not as specific to an individual).

I'm posting thinking that it's one of the two riders I singled out that day.

Three points of constructive feedback for the guy who moved into me while he was looking down to put his bottle away. If I was your teammate or friend, I'd be telling you the same thing because I'd want you to be a better bike racer (don't we all?).

First, watch your bars when you ride (you have white tape, your teammates with darker tape seem fine). You wiggle the bars pretty regularly and the bike moves back and forth perhaps 3-4-5 inches. I don't know the cause but you may be steering more with your bars than your hips. Try either weighting the bars more to see if that helps, and try not to put steering input into the bars - steer with your hips.

You also tend to veer left or right relative to everyone else and then (over) correct. Sort of like a lane wandering driver. Don't know the cause but I observed this each time I saw you, maybe 4-5 times during the race. Check it out when you ride. If you hone your line better you'll be able to ride closer than a couple feet to either side. This will save you energy in a race, help you feel more comfy in a field, and generally help you race better.

You can also work on following wheels closer. I noticed you'd leave 3-4-5 feet between you and the next rider. You were very strong to hang in while leaving such gaps. You'll race a lot better if you can keep that gap to a minimum.

If you're uncomfortable with closing the gap completely, move to one side or the other (preferably the side without wind). Try and stay within 1-2 feet to begin with, then work down to 6-12 inches. Stay to one side (6-12 inches to the side works) so if the guy you're drafting does something sudden, you have an out. This is critical in a windy course like Bethel and will help you feel more fresh at the end of the race.

A third tip, practice putting your bottle in without looking. In a tight field you may not have the luxury of looking down. This makes it unnecessary to "clear the field" to take a drink (as you'd done with a few laps to go). It might help you hydrate more during a race and let you finish stronger.

The P123 guy made one wrong move, yelled at the guy next to him for the wrong reason, but that's it. Otherwise he was a fine/normal rider. A lot of people did the same type of move (i.e. turning in a bit much in one of the curves), normal for a new year, normal for a windy Bethel, normal in a tight field. Difference is that they never yelled at anyone for their own mistake or move or swerve. We all make mistakes but if you yell at someone because you made a mistake, that's not right. So I called the rider on it.

btw I'll also call out anyone that I see dropping a wrapper, peeing somewhere in public, etc. and I've done so in the past.

These etiquette/riding tips apply to everyone that rides in a group, anywhere they ride in a group, and that includes me. The "racing is for racing, life is for life" (i.e. no cussing at strangers after the race) should apply for all racers too.

btw WOW next time have the courage and dignity to post under your name. I won't delete your comment and I won't ban you from the race unless you do something so Internet-rude that I can't imagine it at this point. It would have to be some really big line you cross. In fact, I may have given out some tips unnecessarily but I was trying to cover the only two guys I singled out Sunday. I wanted to take the chance to give the wiggly rider some solid feedback.

Hope to see you all next week.

Aki said...

eddy a -
My sprint was a non sprint, and in fact, I've been doing a few jumps here and there. I'm definitely missing some high end stuff as I can't do that on the trainer.

murat -
Unfortunately I've tapered quite heavily in the last couple weeks. My body seems to respond to physical stress pretty well so I'll pick it up again.

I looked at my SRM data to see if there was anything unusual about the work I did. I found nothing too odd. I did work harder in the 3-4 race than the P-1-2-3 race. My heart rate seemed pretty normal, power normal. I think my "issues" in the 3-4 race didn't help, and in the P-1-2-3 race I have no explanation - I simply got blown out of the water.

Aki said...

soc -
It seems that even with some pluses with running the race (more time, more help, smooth registration, microwave, etc) there were some minuses (forgot certain things, helmet cam debacle, longer drive to get there and back). It all balances out. I certainly hope next week is better, but from a promoter's point of view, things were fine. I am going to ditch the cam for now, at least until I find some alternative way of carrying it (or if I have a much smaller/lighter one). If it's the latter it won't be in the near future.

Anonymous said...

I try not to read your blog(as it is a lot of reading sometimes and I have a short attention span, lol), but I find myself peaking every once in awhile because #1)you have a great blog, but most importantly, #2) you crack me up!

Here is my thought, your heart issues stem from the fact that you had alot on your plate this past weekend and basically you were having anxiety issues. Very common considering your high expectations all around.
Take a deep breathe, as all is not lost this year, you have many months more to make an impression.

As far as winter training is concerned, forget California and go down to Miami for 4-5 days and get some easy speed work in your legs(no hills involved)! Plus, great pack riding every weekend. It will not stress your body out to much like going to Cali, it's always warm and it is alot of fun! The rides leave from Coconut Grove and proceed over to Key Biscanne, ask any local racer for more info...?

I am surprised that you went from 175cm cranks to 170's...quite a jump? Not that it would have affected your race this past weekend, but all the same, what happened to 172.5's? True, you get alot of quickness out of shorter cranks though.

Now, as for all the yelling going on...unexplainable? Really now, people must get a grip since it is only the first race of the year. I already forgot who won? Not to belitte anybodies win. Have fun with it. It will all come around by mid May/June...perfect for the important races.

Aki said...

I thought for a bit that the Coconut Grove meant the poster was someone who once called me "Mister Condiment Man" after I liberally coated my breakfast and coffee with salt, pepper, half and half, and sugar (not all on the same foods of course). Now I realize it may actually be someone else. So I don't know who it is. I think the FL flatlands have a place, and when I went to Gainesville it was a lot of good riding, but this year I was limited in my options. Maybe next year...

Anonymous said...

I am just keeping an eye on your progress, as you seem very passionate about this sport. Every once in a while I will pop up to fill in a comment or commend you on your accomplishments...thus, my previous comment on your heart palpation issues thinking it could be related to anxiety. Best, Robin Zellner