Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Racing - Tuesday Night, Again

I alluded earlier to a desire to build some fitness for the later part of summer, early part of fall. I also hinted at a return to contributing to the economy.

The two, as I quickly realized, don't mix very well.

Monday evening I was totally and utterly exhausted, unable to do much except stare blankly into space. As one of the two owners said at work, "You'll sleep well tonight!" At least my neck wasn't sore. I managed to drop a really large bag of feed (for horses, believe it or not) on my head. Normally that might be a bad thing - that's what ran through my head as I realized this thing had just let go - but instead, when it hit, I felt this crackle ripple through my neck. My neck felt a LOT better.

I can see it now:
Free chiropractic adjustments. All natural. We use straw and molasses, no added water weight.

Yes, the feed has molasses in it - I guess it tastes better than plain straw, and the straw is sealed in plastic wrap.

I had a concoction called a Snakebite to ease the aches and pains other than my neck (since that was fine). This worked to some extent, getting my stare even more blank. I justified the drinks (plural because I had a bottle of each, mixed) because it helped my blood circulation, enabling me to recover quicker for Tuesday.


Tuesday dawned nicely but the Snakebite effects seemed to linger on well into the morning. By noon though I was starting to feel better and started hoping that maybe, just maybe, there'd be a race tonight. The forecast called for some heavy thundershowers but as the day went on, the skies started to blue up a bit. When I came back from lunch I even left the car windows open (on purpose), it was that nice.

At about 5:00 PM one of the folks at work reminded me I needed to leave for my race, telling me "Go win!" as I left. I grinned to myself - non-racers just don't know what that means. But then again she's a soccer player/coach, a swimmer, and general all-round athlete. So maybe she's just using some of that coaching stuff on me.

I drove over to the race in my race car (more on that some other time, my accidental "post" notwithstanding - I hit the touchpad just wrong and I published a post which I then immediately unpublished, so those of you on email alerts now know what happened), enjoying some sinful driving on the way. In past lives that would mean some combination of speed and risk, but nowadays it means something completely different - "inefficient driving".

So instead of trying to squeeze more than 35 miles out of each gallon of gas (the car is rated at 21/26 MPG), I focused more on listening to music (loudly), taking good lines through ramps (and, yes, that did involve some speed), accelerating briskly (normally I accelerate so slowly I almost get rear ended when I shift veeeery slowly from first to third), and generally driving like an oil consuming hog.

You know, like a normal person.

It helped that I've been driving my car a mile at a time and my tank's overall mileage sat at about 18 MPG on my meter. When it reads 35 MPG it's much harder to push the gas pedal more than necessary, or to actually use all the gears as I shift up, or to pass someone on the highway. FYI after I got back from the race, even with my brisk accelerations and all that, it sat at 24 MPG, so I managed to get something like 30 MPG despite my inefficient driving.

Anyway, once I got to the race, I talked with a familiar guy as we warmed up. We share war stories, funny stories, and it's fun seeing things from someone else's perspective, especially one that once asked me what gear I used when I jumped. Plus he's a good guy with no attitude and it's good talking with a good guy with no attitude.

My goal for the day was to NOT do anything flagrantly stupid (always a good goal, but I'm talking from a tactical point of view) and actually race for 45 minutes plus five laps. I also wanted to see some decent surge speeds so I could work on my speedwork. Of course the fact that I'd be racing for 50 or so minutes would help my aerobic fitness and all that too.

After a quick but needed stop at the green portapotty (I had a Boost for dinner, in the car, on the way to the race, and those things make such stops necessary) I was ready to go. Yeah, I know, a Boost isn't much, but that's another goal, to make sure I don't overeat.

Contrary to my thoughts earlier in the week, I didn't bring my Giant. I thought I'd have to since I broke a spoke in my Reynolds DV46c (clincher) and I haven't rebuilt them yet. Plus I had my lights and such on my Cannondale, and although I'd ditched the NiteRider (the heaviest of the three I have), the other stuff was still on there. I did have my race DV46 tubulars though, so that was fine.

I decided this would be a "Surge+" workout, where I'd be dragging along a few extra pounds of stuff.

My warm-up partner looked around after we eased to a stop at the line, side by side. He pointed out there was no upside-down 13 guy, one pro type, and a few Cat 2s. It would be less than impossible today.

When I rolled up to the line I did hear "Primero!".

Ah. Secondo was here.

We rolled off the line and got under way.

Eventually a big-ish break went up the road. Individual guys chased it pretty hard, including SOC (who just won the prior race), but when those guys collectively blew up, the break disappeared up the road.

Like a good boy, I sat in and didn't scamper after the break, didn't do anything to get myself dropped.

I did delay some acclerations a bit, forcing myself to close small gaps. These were my surges, and unfortunately, I found that to get above a certain speed I had to stand up.

Not good.

Surges (at least the ones I wanted to make) need to be done without altering the body's pose, so they need to be done seated. Standing up and sitting down takes energy, reduces smoothness, and alerts folks you're doing something. Seated type efforts make it seem like you suddenly "surged" away, no obvious outward announcements preceeding the sudden rise in speed.

I filed away the fact that I need to work on my surges.

Another thing I learned is that when I focused on staying on the drops, I'd see double when I looked up. This meant two things. First, I was looking down. Tired racers look down, or those checking gears. Since I couldn't tell you what gear I used when (I just use what I need), I can tell you that the gear checking excuse wouldn't fly for me.

The second thing is it means I'm either too low or not used to prolonged efforts. I've been fine on the exact same bike with the exact same set up at much harder races like Harlem (the only other totally flat race I've done at a super hard pace) so this means I'm not used to prolonged efforts.

I filed these facts away as well.

I looked up for the break regularly, hoping to see a bridgeable gap, hoping to see it disintegrate under the impetus of the pro (he made it, of course). One lap I looked up front. No break, but my vision was doubling up and some lamp posts looked sort of like tall riders. I looked a bit to the left, which would mean they were about half a lap up (looking across the course). Now details of the stadium looked like racers. I blinked and looked again. Apparently I was looking around for a bit because the guy I warm up with, sitting just to the side of me, poked his finger in the air, pointing sort of behind us. I looked to our 8 o'clock. Eight or so guys in a row.


They were about to lap us.

I started thinking about maybe doing some efforts to keep them from lapping us. I mean, might as well, right? Work on surges, work on holding my head up, you know, get some form.

Then a red-faced Horst guy came flying up on the inside, followed by a bunch of other red-faced racers.

Nix that whole "work a bit to keep the break from lapping us" bit.

Secondo had managed to infiltrate the break, and he was the second guy to fly by. Some of the other break members decided to sit back a bit after lapping the field - the sprint was not as important as the workout, and to risk a crash while duking it out with the lapped guys didn't seem necessary.

For a few of the break though the sprint was important, and Secondo was one of them. Secondo was conspicuous in the fact that he never dropped back more than five or six positions from the front - it was obvious he was feeling good and that he wanted to do something in the sprint.

We wound down the last five laps, and I started thinking of surges and leadouts and all sorts of stuff that hurts a lot to do but would help me in my quest for more fitness. But as I repeatedly thought of things to do (and then promptly discarded them), I ran out of laps. With half a lap to go I was slightly off of Secondo's wheel and decided I'd sweep his wheel a bit.

The finger poking guy (who apparently doesn't have this double vision problem when looking around for a breakaway) was on Secondo's wheel, and since he hadn't made the break (obviously, since he pointed out the break's position to me), he too would act as a sweeper. Not intentionally, but still, a sweeper. I also knew that both of them liked long sprints so I knew that they would go kind of early. My shorter, jumpier sprint would normally love a long leadout but I wouldn't take the wheel today.

Sure enough Secondo jumped at about where a leadout guy would have just gotten going. I played nice and didn't move. The guy on his wheel ended up bouncing his chain in his pulleys and almost tore off his derailleur - luckily for him he managed to stop pedaling. Regardless of what was happening behind him, Secondo was busy putting meters between himself and the field.

After the chain bouncing guy managed to save things, I saw that other guys were going, guys to the chain bouncer's left. This was a bit too much for me to resist so I started to go kind of hard. Jumping from the front into a more-headwind-than-tailwind is definitely not my style, but I managed to get the bike rolling. I never came close to Secondo, not even closing up any of the gap, but I did go all the way to the line.

I think we'll have to switch names.

Okay, I can still meander through a field comfortably. No adrenaline whatsoever from field riding stuff, a twinge of adrenaline when they held out 5 to go. Then the careful counting of laps to avoid the one-lap early sprint.

But surges, double vision, and taking risks physiologically (i.e. making efforts)?

I need to work on those.

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