Saturday, June 21, 2008

Racing - Nutmeg State Games 2008

Well now.

The short version: bronze in Connecticut, 9th in the race, no money (6 places).

The long version is, well, a bit longer. And a bit flat as I'm working on no food and some accumulated fatigue. After I post this I'm going to get some Chipotle or something. If they're still open.

The day started out pretty early because we decided to watch a good friend of ours race. Ends up that a few other people we knew were out there so it worked out nicely, but we got up at 7:30 AM on a Saturday so we could hang out with friends.

Just as we were getting ready to go, the missus saw I'd missed a call, from the good friend. She called him back and learned his car had broken down on the way to the race, and he wasn't going to make it.

Although a big damper on the day, we were committed to going because we were going to see other folks so we went anyway. We reconned the newly discovered BBQ place, got to the race, parked, and started walking towards the registration area. A racer parked in front of us was frantically getting ready for the next race.

It clicked with the missus first - it was our friend. His kids picked him up and drove him to the race.

I went into domestique mode, pumping up his tires, and the missus found her rhythm pinning his number on snugly. With smiles and good lucks we let him warm up a bit.

In a perfect world he'd have gone out and won the race but it wasn't quite so rosy. He was in contention, had a tough sprint, and ended up placing in the top 20 or so. Although a great disappointment, he seemed in good spirits nonetheless.

We went to the BBQ place after watching a few Masters races. So fast, those guys. There's a reason I prefer to race with the 3s, not the M30s or M35s or whatever they were. At this point we decided to take leave and pick up some food. We drove right past the thing because I was focused on this bright blue Camaro (69 or so), one that Hob termed "bitchin' Camaro". This seems to be a familiar theme for me, getting lost because I got focused on a cool car in front of me. We eventually got there, Hob and Mr SOC and Mrs SOC both joining us. It's a take out joint so we brought everything back to the race, where Dorothy also joined in the food. Personally I found it less than spectacular but that was just me.

I debated carrying my Helmet Cam II but decided against it, with no real waterproof way of carrying the set up. It was warm and sunny and I figured I'd need to dump water on my head, and I didn't want to ruin my setup to stay in the race. I also didn't want to drop out because I got too hot out there.

With a bit of spinning around, lots of drinking Gatorade, I got ready to race. As a last minute reinforcement for my hydration paranoia, I procured a third bottle from Hob, and after filling it with water, stuck it in one of my pockets.

The race itself was pretty uneventful. It seemed steady, not too fast, not too hard. My heart rate wasn't registering properly ("48" just didn't seem right) and whenever I looked down I was coasting (0 watts), so I never had an idea of my power or heart rate "numbers". I dwaddled midfield for a bit then dropped to the back, hot and a bit tired.

I'd been so paranoid of running out of water that I was bloated from drinking a couple quarts of fluid in the few hours before the race. With my stomach on my mind I didn't pay attention to too much else in the race. I did have the wherewithall to toss my first empty bottle, replacing it with the one in my pocket with a graceful sweep of my arm. Really that was the only significant event during the "non-exciting" part of the race, at least for me.

With five laps to go I started to move up, inching my way through the field. I had hoarded water, partly out of paranoia, partly because I couldn't drink even if I wanted to, and so I started dumping more and more of it on my head, letting the salt wash off my face. At two to go I emptied my second bottle of water, accidentally almost dumping the sugar bottle on my head.

I'd started to dream about the finish, the unfavored left-side headwind on the straight (I prefer a straight on headwind), and started thinking back from my optimal jump point. I knew I should be about 4th when I jumped. This meant I had to be perhaps 5th-7th through the last turn, overlapped to the outside (and wind side). To get out of the turn 5th or 7th, I'd have to be inside the top 20 at the top of the hill.

That's a bit far back but I felt confident I could move up on the straight going into the last turn.

I stopped thinking about it when I realized I'd totally zoned out, didn't know what was going on around me, and I'd almost ridden into the blue and yellow guy in front of me. I got busy doing the move up thing.

At the bell I tossed a second bottle after emptying it on my head. A bit cooler, I started feeling a bit antsy. I fought a bit for good position on the outside of the first stretch, getting it, and tucking in perhaps 20th in the field. At this point a break of five dangled just off the front, inevitably doomed, but a distraction nonetheless.

A big surge from a Cafeteros rider closed this gap at the base of the short hill and guys started gunning it for the finish.

It all went well until the top of the hill. The long left curve isn't consistent in radius, causing problems on the inside, so I usually use the outside. It was pretty good every lap of the race, except for this last one. A guy in front of me blew at that spot, wavering as to whether he should pull off or just keep pedaling. I was getting onto the brakes to avoid him, riders on both sides of me, the one to my outside eying the inside line, me eying the outside line, and a collision imminent.

Finally someone let out a primal scream (not me, for once), frightening the rider into simply holding his line. The guy to my outside went outside and I followed, desperately sprinting to get back up to speed.

At that moment I realized it was the first time I'd pedaled hard the whole race. Out of the saddle. Felt the resistance. Felt the bike leap forward.

And it felt good.

I shifted, keeping my rpms good, keeping my legs working, flying up the unprotected right side of the road, when suddenly the whole field shifted right.

Unwilling to waste my jump, one of perhaps two jumps I had for the race, I couldn't brake, I just couldn't bring myself to brake. Instead I took the right side exit, getting onto the grass. I started coming back when I saw the sunken sewer grate, the metal a good 3 to 4 inches below grass level. My front wheel was aimed right at it.

I cringed, imagining flipping over the bars when the front wheel pounded into it, but instead I somehow avoided it and got back on the road.

I jumped again, hard, feeling the bike leap forward again, trying to get myself into that top 5 spot in the last turn, and I almost succeeded. I flew into and through the turn, set up for the sprint, and...

I didn't do anything.

I don't know what happened. I started to jump, decided to turn off the gas, and soft pedaled to the line. No bike throw, no sprint, no shifting while jumping, no nothing.

It was the weirdest thing, it was like I forgot to sprint, but I didn't. I just didn't sprint.

Although I didn't know why I did that, I did know I was disappointed in my finish. 9th or 10th I figured, and probably totally out of the Connecticut rankings for top 3. I counted at least four Connecticut riders in front of me when I finally looked up.

There's always next year, right?

One guy in front of me passed me after the line. Another told me he thought I got in there for Connecticut. I started hoping.

I waited diligently for the results. The official started taping up the results and I started reading down the names.

I wasn't there.

"I'm not there!" I blurted out.

The official looked at me. What's your number?

I didn't know. She looked at the sheet.

"Oh, I have the wrong sheet. This is from 34th place. Could you do me a favor and get the other sheet from the guy?"

I started hoping again.

Ran over.

Got the sheet.

Found me. 9th. Started reading down the license numbers (the Connecticut ones had CT in front of them).

I was third!

The official was waiting.

"Hey, I'm supposed to be reading those numbers!"

Oh, right. I grinned sheepishly, gave her the sheet, she taped them up, and then I looked on it again.


The missus was psyched. I smiled.

Okay, so it wasn't a bad day after all.

I waited around a bit for the podium pictures, the missus anxious for me as I had to leave for the Tour of PA as soon as I got changed. And these pictures were taking a while.

Finally, pictures done. I changed, left the medal in my gear bag, took the t-shirt, kissed the missus good bye, and zipped off into the sunset.

A whole new adventure, a whole new shindig. We'll see how it goes.

First thing to do?

Find something to eat. 11:55 PM. I hope something is open. And tomorrow, Tour of PA stuff.

I have no idea what it'll be like.

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