Sunday, July 13, 2008

Racing - New Britain Crit 2008

Ah, yes. July 13th. Virtually the end of the race season in Connecticut, if you can believe that. At least that's what I heard racers murmuring while cooling down after their races today at New Britain.

Okay, maybe that's not entirely accurate - there's the race in Naugatuck next week and the Tokeneke Road Race up in Barkhamsted, but since I won't be around for the former and the latter, well, let's just say it would be a cruel joke on me to enter the latter.

(I should point out that the best wheel change I ever did might have happened at Tokeneke but I can't rightly recall if that would be exactly accurate, if I could recall where it happened at all.)

There are two other events, both of which I've never done. One is a hill climb in New Haven, the day before Naugatuck, and the other is a road race in September.

Yesterday, in a fit of patriotic fervor, I went to see a bunch of fireworks down by the sub base in Groton. Due to some nice connections the missus and I got to sit on a relatively large and comfortable boat anchored a couple hundred yards away from the firework barges. The short cruise before the pyrotechnics led us past both Electric Boat as well as the naval base. Suffice it to say that I've never seen so much expensive hardware at one time - if you thought bike racing was expensive, wait until you try and play with one of these.

With the help of a retired crewman (he worked on those unmentionables and happened to be on the boat too) I got a nice education on these boats, both from an official ("Those are about 350-400 feet long") and unofficial ("They give these unofficial awards during cruises including...").

I got to see a bunch of things, a couple of other things, some guns, and a bunch of other things.

It was really cool.

I can't tell you about anything in detail since that would be revealing secrets and either I'd have to kill everyone who reads the blog or I'd be arrested or something. It's sort of like this: although there are tons of public and private buildings overlooking both locations, there are huge signs out that tell everyone to put their cameras away.

I'm sorry to say that I have no pictures of the various things I saw, but take my word for it, it was all impressive.

All sorts of things ran through my head while I was in the area, driving around watching fireworks, even eating breakfast the next day, all sort of fantastic "what-if" type stuff. It's sort of like me dreaming of racing at Philly, very "what if", but if anything comes of it (or doesn't) I'll share when it's appropriate.

So, with the fireworks and all sorts of other things to keep me going, we drove up from Groton to New Britain. Beautiful day, 80s, dry, sunny, breezy.

Really breezy.

Like on the river breezy.

Last year I made it about 10 laps in the hot and breezy New Britain Crit before I got sawed unceremoniously off the back. This year, well, this year I hoped to make it a bit further than that.

The missus got me thinking about the right end of the race by asking me what my plan was for the finish. I had a couple good ones, but one took the cake. Unfortunately it depended on a particular racer being there, so the missus asked the natural question.

"What if he's not there?"

I had my Plan B, essentially to be as far up front as possible coming out of the last turn. At the Nutmeg State Games I made a couple big efforts in the last half of the race and ended up balked in the sprint. I hoped to avoid the balking but otherwise make the same moves today.

I also carried a less than ideal interpretation of a "cool" idea I had, but after I dropped a bottle by accident, I had to bring my cool bottle (it was ice) down and wait for it to melt so I could drink it. Next hot race I do I'll be doing things a bit differently, but I know what I want as the net result.

I also did my first race in a long, long time without wearing a cap. I wore a Halo headband and my S-Works helmet (not my Decibel). My head felt a lot cooler and my eyes didn't get sweat in them. Two good things, no bad things.

The Cat 3 race went without too much incident. I was maybe 1/3 back for a while, inadvertently moved to the front, pulled at about 350 watts for a couple hundred meters, and immediately went to the back and groveled for 10 laps while I tried to recover from my massive 20 or so second effort. At least I pulled through the start/finish, not in some anonymous place, but unfortunately that was where the course had a tough headwind.

I decided not to do anything like that again.

I had been trying to hydrate and felt generally successful. An unfortunate side effect (especially when I skip taking my allergy medication) is that my nose produces a lot of mucus. Okay, technically that's not what happens, but the mucus comes out of my nose so that's how I'll describe it. At the front I had very little choice but to motion a bit before clearing a nostril, but at the back I had the luxury of being able to look around and pick a clear spot to do the same thing.

I guess someone appreciated it because he came up to me and thanked me for it a couple laps later. I couldn't respond very well because I was still in my groveling state, but it felt good to be appreciated.

I decided to do my "move up at 5 to go" thing. For some reason I got lazy, moved up on the outside, and burned some precious matches doing that. By two to go I was getting a bit cooked, by the bell I was pretty fried, and I hit the top of the backstretch hill looking for a miracle.

No miracle, no sudden wave of energy, no nothing, and 300 meters from the line I sat up.

Of course I felt fine within a few minutes. Pain has no memory. Or is it memory has no pain? I forget.

I went and made a $30 donation to do the P123 race and got a race number in return.

I lasted my 10 laps there. Well, I think it was 13, but who's counting? I felt fine for a few laps, but as the serious attacks started, "fine" went to "not too great" went to "hanging on for dear life".

Being at the very back of the field I had a nice view of the front of it as the pack meandered around the park. At about 11-12 laps into the race I saw that some friendly rivals (i.e. guys I'd work for but they are not on my team) had missed a break or something. I figured I'd go up there, offer my help, maybe take a "monster" pull, and drop out in a somewhat more dignified manner.

I moved up three spots before my legs exploded.

Yeah, so much for that idea.

I tried to be courteous and pulled forward enough to give the two guys on my wheel some extra shelter. Then I pulled off.

Much nicer than just pulling off and leaving a six foot gap, at least that's what I figured.

I think one of the guys (Yale rider, based on what I could read on his butt) finished the race with the field, so I hope that my little effort helped him out.

The missus and I hung out for the Cat 4s where we had a couple friends in the race. One in particular was concerned with his form as he'd had a bad day yesterday, was crampy/cramping heavily, and didn't know what to do. I thought about how I approached those days and started feeling the cramps I had just a few days ago. I offered to warm up with him as a bonus, and we chatted and rolled around for a bit.

For me the whole idea when you have crampy muscles is to avoid doing efforts. Just warm up nice and leisurely, don't spin, get the blood flowing to the muscles while doing as little as possible. The longer the warm up the better, and the easier it was the better. Once warmed up you can start asking your legs to make efforts without them cramping immediately, and as you get more warmed up, you'll find that you may have gotten rid of the crampiness completely.

"Easy" is the key word and I had to tell my friend to ease up a lot within a few minutes of warming up (I had to hit 250 watts to stay with him). He looked astonished at how easy I wanted him to go, but sufficiently chastised, he eased pretty hard. And we spent a while, pretty much the whole women's race, warming up nice and easy.

Now, medically I have no idea if what I advised made any sense, but I know it works for me. Just a few days ago I finished a ride that started out extremely crampy but ended with me feeling just fine. So, in support of my friend, I sat on a borrowed trainer watching the Cat 4s race. When I hit the 3 hour mark for pedaling my SRM I hopped off the bike, and then, properly anchored to the ground, tried to yell advice out to the guys I knew out there.

I guess it all worked for him as he got a top 6 finish, got points on his license, and walked away with a bit of prize money.

Although my two races, from a pure result perspective, were failures, I felt like I'd made a difference in that third race. I didn't pedal one stroke in it but I'd tried to help my friend ride better for himself. He performed beyond all his expectations and thanked me afterwards for my help.

And with that I consider my day a success.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like you had a great day, all things considered. Sorry we'll miss you at the Naugy crit.

Anonymous said...

Great post - I really enjoy your blog. I must admit - you inspired me with some of your helmet cam races - so I've been posting some of my own - over here at Superweek (the international cycling classic). Like you I'm one of those pariah sprinters- hanging on for dear life and trying to put it together at the end. Thanks for the inspiration and if you ever want to see the view from the front end of another sprinter's bike go to I'll keep reading - you keep writing (and more helmet cam!)

Aki said...

soc - so it seems the Yarmouth crit is up here this weekend. I should have checked the schedule before I left my bike behind!

john - thanks for the note on the blog. I wish I had more helmet cam clips but my new latest greatest cam setup is not working so I have to fix things before I get any more clips up. And for sure I'll check out your blog.