Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Bethel Spring Series 2009 - Criterium de Bethel Report

It's hard to enthusiastically do a post when, well, things basically sucked on race day.

First off, the weather didn't cooperate. But that's not really the point. The point is that the weather was supposed to be really bad, but instead it was just kind of miserable. Sort of like expecting a knock-you-out cold and getting just the sniffles.

Translation? I came prepared for a Nor'easter, not a piddly 45 minute sprinkle. But all we got was the piddly sprinkle, and that happened, naturally, during the Cat 5 race. "Naturally" because, as new racers, the 5s are supposed to suffer and pay their dues. Cat 5 racing is like bike racing hazing, where new racers pay some excruciating dues before moving up into the more plentiful 4s. Their racing, naturally, lacks a bit compared to the other categories. No money, smaller fields, the least desirable start times.

So it's natural that it also rains during a Cat 5 race.

As soon as they stopped, the raid did too. But, unlike, say, Southern California morning fog, the sun never burned through the heavy overcast skies, and we spent the rest of the day in cold, wet conditions.

I had a lot of fun typing stuff up in the results page, posting all but the last few races "live", but the reality was that we were slow at the tent. We had 1/3 the normal turnout, and it actually made me a bit anxious because this is the first year I have a vested interest in the race (i.e. I sank my own money into it, and I took a gamble and spent more before we even had our permits).

The underlying thoughts going through my head went something like, "Well, am I paying $2000 to watch people race today, or am I spending a little less money than that?"

Honestly, I didn't know, and I still don't know. I should know a little more when I go to the bank tomorrow. I have to actually withdraw money because we basically ran out of money at the end of Sunday. Next week is a big fiscal day for the race - we'll be giving out about $3000 in prize money. I think. Plus merchandise. Primes. And any "larger than minimum" prize list increase (we step up the money with larger than minimum fields).

Whatever. With these thoughts running through my head, and the small (under 30 rider?) Cat 3-4 field, I wasn't looking forward to the race. I know my strengths, I know my weaknesses, and riding in a small field peels away all my strengths and lays bare my weaknesses.

Nevertheless I kitted up in the Leader's Jersey. I declined this the previous week for some reason. Part of it is being shy or something, part of it is the dread that I wouldn't ride up to the Jersey's standards.

I put it on, commenting sort of to no one in particular, "If I'm going to lose it, I'm going to lose it like a man." A guy registering asked if I was serious, and I told him I was. He seemed to be a bit skeptical, like this was one of my tactics to disarm the competition.

I even did a couple laps, peeled off a heavy layer (it was wet but not necessarily really cold), and suited up with my new rain jacket (I still haven't found my old one). I did all my rain-racing tricks, plus one new one, and felt reasonably warm and comfy.

The problem wasn't in being warm. It was in being fast.

And boy, when the field set out, they set out hard. I found out later one of the guys had his highest 5 and 10 second power outputs in the first five laps of the race. Figures, because on the second lap I was already coming off the back.

Now, although I made a big deal about all the guys from the City coming up as a team, the reality is that there's this kind of "Aki Mafia" at Bethel. In field sprints there are those that have their good sprints and those that don't. Since many of those that race at Bethel really are getting in some training miles (unlike me, because I'm allegedly peaking by March), they choose not to partake in the sprints.

They get bored in the race, and, like many generous and friendly racers, try to help out those who put a bit more emphasis on the Series.

One of those guys would be me.

So, although they may race on different teams, and in the summer they may do their best to break my legs in a crit, at Bethel things are a bit kinder, a bit gentler. I see friendly wheels suddenly, guys hesitating just a bit before moving up, glances back to see if I'm there. It's a bit easier to move up when, for example, someone coaxes me onto their wheel and then rides through about 70 guys and drops me off 20 back from the front.

That's all to help me. Not them.

So, in the very sparse, maybe 20-odd rider field, I probably had 10 guys who knew me well enough, or respected what I was trying to do, or whatever, that they would expend significant amounts of energy to help me.

I mention this because it makes my pitiful race even more pitiful.

I started seeing gaps in front of me by the second lap. Some guys jumped across, others took their time, giving me some protection as they closed the gap.

But I still came off.

My teammate Mike was religiously following around the guy I perceived as the biggest threat, and also the guy that Mike could probably beat if Mike just followed him around. In turn I was just trying to stay near the front because if I drifted back any I'd be at the back.

Then I started drifting back. My legs started hating the bike. And I got dropped. Guys behind tried to help, actively and passively, and I got back into the field.

Then I got dropped again.

And again, guys behind me helped me. I got back into the field.

It was the third of thirty laps of racing.

I came off again.

But this time, I'd run out of helpers. The whole field rode in front of me, and I came off. Cooked. Toasted. Done.

I couldn't really see, my glasses were all messy from the wet, gritty roads, but I could see people's body language.

"What's he doing out of the race??"

My teammate Mike, doing his best to try and earn points (so that others couldn't earn any), marked so many moves I couldn't believe he could still pedal. He found the legs to go with what ended up being the chase of the day. He looked to be in serious trouble though, riding beyond his limits. Within a few laps he'd come off too, a colosal effort come to naught.

In the end I lost the jersey to Stephen Gray, a powerful rider with Bethel Cycle. He earned it though, for sure. It was a tough day of racing, and it let the cream rise to the top.

And in the meantime I want to actually train. I've done maybe 10 hours since Febrary 26th, and that includes the four races I've done (well, three races plus three laps). I hope to do some riding this week, to get some rhythm back in my legs.

Next week the Series ends. No more pre-reg, no more packing up the van every Saturday, no more zombie-like Mondays. And next week we'll crown a new set of champions, and we'll aware a new set of Leader's Jerseys.

We'll see what happens. I'm praying for a bigger field, some luck, and legs for a good sprint.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Bethel Spring Series 2009 - Criterium de Bethel Results

Results are here.

It would have been a perfectly fine day for racing (minus the rain in the Cat 5s) - misty, overcast, but no real rain. With tiny fields reminiscent of 1993 (although back then we would have been happy), the races ended up unpredictable. Working on getting the overall up but there were some doozies today.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

How To Promote Races - The PreReg Dredge

So, it's the Friday after the Thursday that registration closes for Sunday's race. For most of you it means "Phew, I got my registration in", or "OMG why did I register when it's supposed to rain with thundershowers on Sunday?!" Whatever your thoughts, your only responsibility is to be prepared for Sunday; you have cast your die.

What's that mean for someone that, well, does stuff after registration ends?

More than I thought.

In the past, before BikeReg, I have no idea what I did. I never wrote down my steps (or if I did, the paper is gone), never took notes that I can remember, and in fact, I don't even know if I had anything to do with pre-reg at all. Like maybe someone else did it. Joe or Allan or Kevin or Rich would be able to tell me, since they were in the pre-BikeReg generation of co-promoters.

With my last co-promoter Gene, we got on the computer bandwagon - spreadsheets, laptop, the whole bit. We also started using BikeReg. It was a new thing, scary, and we had no idea what to expect. I actually never dealt with BikeReg except when I registered for my own races - Gene did all that.

He always raved about how nice the guys were at BikeReg, how they always helped, worked with him, and all sorts of other things. I finally got to interact with them this year and they've been nothing but helpful (and so has USAC, for that matter). There's a reason why we use BikeReg every year, even when we got all messed up when we fell behind in paperwork and both of us got super busy with non-Bethel life.

Anyway, now I know the "after pre-reg closes" drill. Here is part of it.

First, we download the pre-reg release forms. Since we have folks registered for the whole series as well as ones registered just for the day, I download from two dates on BikeReg - March 1 (for whole series registrations) and from the next race, March 29 in this case.

I sort by last name then first name. This results in a pdf that has all the releases sorted by last name, which we then put into a binder with tabs for letters A-Z. When racers show up at the race, they just sign their release, show their license, and take their number.

Then I download the next raceday's (March 29 in this case) registration data, in csv format. Now I have everyone's data to populate our spreadsheet. I do the following:

1. Sort by last name, first name.
2. Check for double entries in the same race, and make a note that perhaps someone paid too much.
3. Check for two+ race entries for one rider. Bold the line that has info for the race that takes place later in the day.
4. Sort by Category Entered, last name, first name
5. Copy paste into spreadsheet.
6. Every line that is not bold paid the normal one day fee ($14). I fill that in.
7. Every line that is bold paid the normal second race fee ($11). I fill that in. I also put "Yes" in a column that counts racers who are in their second or third race of the day.
8. I also paste in the Masters ages, which unfortunately is in a different column from our spreadsheet, so I want to fix that for next year. (I also want to include category and sex so that it's easier to fill in the 7 column results format USAC likes).
9. I save the document as both a Backup and Primary, and email it to myself.

Printing the pre-reg releases (on 3 hole paper so we can put them in a binder) and regular releases (on regular paper for clipboards). Our wedding book has become a heavy, stable base for the printer. We have a second printer as a backup, but this one is a nice, compact, quiet one (HP 1006).

Recently fixed Bella making sure the day-of releases are in good shape. The binders holding the pre-reg are below the clipboards. Apparently they passed inspection as Bella didn't find anything.

Recently fixed Riley checking the box of extra numbers and pins. We started the year with something like 15-20k pins. Don't waste them, I'm just saying that we try and be prepared. Riley was disappointed when I hid the rest of the rubber bands.

Typical pre-reg printout (in the back) with the assigned numbers clipped to the printout. The rest of the numbers are in the foreground. Yes, this means we only have 22 racers pre-reg. It's supposed to be raining with thunderstorms, so it'll be an epic day (for both staff and racers).

The two laptops, with one of the spreadsheets up. The stack of numbers to the left still need to be assigned to races. We buy a few thousand numbers a year, and we have an overflowing box of incomplete numbers (the box pictured with Riley is our second box of incomplete numbers). Note glass of OJ per advice of a bike mechanic (I'm still sick). High pulp, in case you're wondering.

Other tools of the trade. Chalk paint (from the officials, and I've tried to buy some for years and can't find any). They use chalk paint for the Tour finishline painting, then spray the stuff away after the stage ends. Umbrella (golf size, with anti-wind vents) for thundershowers. Extra video cable. Printer box (to transport printer in first picture). Box of pre-reg and day-of release forms.

Other stuff near my feet. Yellow numbers (now not legal for USAC). My gear bag (which reminds me, I have to go find my rain jacket). My laptop bag for the two laptops, SRM, mini camcorder, and cable/plugs for all of the above. The little black bag is my Carpe Diem Racing bag, has paperwork and stuff in it.

New numbers in front. 1000 of them right there. The overflow numbers in back with various pins, markers, etc. I leave the new numbers behind. I have about 1000 of them with the pre-reg stuff anyway. I have some Olbas stuff in there too.

All our categories. Each folder has a pre-reg list with numbers attached as well as the day-of numbers. When we do the races we put all the releases in the appropriate folders, or bunch them all up if it's too busy. Duct tape finish line for dry days, also to tape up results. Trash bags for garbage. Pens, clips, extra numbers, manuals for the generators heater etc, various other things piled in there.

Tiger (he's been fixed for a while) making sure all the radios are, in fact, radios, and not mice. They're all charging. The Motorolas are nicer, but they cost us 12 times as much as the cheapo black ones (albeit 10-15 years ago). The latter use 4 AAA batteries, and I've been moving over to rechargeable Duracells since the original rechargeable batteries are kind of iffy. My cell phone sits in front, as does a number from the end of 701-800 (I took out all of the last numbers this week for some reason). The Tumi is my clothing bag, but I may skip that this week and jam stuff in my gear bag.

I also set up the TiVO to call in to the TiVO mother planet and get the updated time and such. This enables us to record onto the TiVO on Sunday. As a backup we have DV tapes for the video camera and a cable to move tape from the camera to the backup laptop. We can then review the data this way if necessary.

During the week I managed to remember to fill two propane tanks, so we'll have two heaters in the tent on Sunday. Yay for heat!

On Saturday, today, I'll load most of what's pictured up top into the red car, along with my bike, food, clothing, various AV stuff (mini-camcorder etc).

Today, because of the expected rain on Sunday, I'll be working on the tent sides, punching out grommet holes (I never finished punching them all out, and that was 5 years ago), zipping the sides together, and preparing them to make it easy and straightforward to mount. If it works out we'll store them just like that.

Of course I have to get to the van to do that, and the van is 1.5 hours away. I also want to do it in the middle of a huge expanse of pavement (not the tick-ridden yard) and so I'll be driving to some quiet, large parking lot to work on organizing stuff for tomorrow. I figure a high school parking lot would work fine (they don't have Saturday school stuff, right?).

I also want to go find some ball-bungees, little loops of elastic bungee material hooked to balls. I'd like to get 100 of them because ours are getting a bit played. Or a lot of the actual bungee material, and I'll re-bungee them.

A bonus would be figuring out some way to set up all the electronic stuff so there is little risk of them getting wet. Printer, laptops, generators, microwave, they all need to stay dry. I don't want to zap myself or anyone else, and a smoking printer that doesn't print doesn't do anyone any good. We've gotten by in the past and I think we'll be okay for tomorrow, but it's another thing to think about.

Finally, I'll want to get a short spin in. Because if I don't, my legs will be stiff and slow tomorrow. I figure 15-30 minutes should do it, then I can worry about everything else.

You know, because, ultimately, it's all about the race.

See you out there, flahutes.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Life - Sick

Yep. Yesterday and today. Didn't go to work. On either day. Coughing. Hacking. Stuffy head.

Please make it stop.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Bethel Spring Series 2009 - Bethel CDP Gold Race Report

Ah, Spring. Balmy sun, wavy grass, bursting blooms, green and warm and nice and all the things you love about riding bikes outdoors.


I wouldn't have called Sunday morning "bitterly cold", but I borrowed my brother's brown canvas and leather winter coat to do the race. I couldn't find my warm knit hat so dealt with my camo Echo cap (prompting comments like "yo, you goin' huntin?"). My ears were cold, my neck was cold, and I felt miserable.

A couple days before I didn't feel quite right, and Friday put me over the edge. Saturday I could feel the piercing stiletto at the back of my throat, and Sunday I was surreptitiously swigging Vicks cough medicine (the kind that you don't have to show your license to get) to keep my eyes from watering.

From a promoting point of view things went well. Relatively large fields, lots of prize money given, some new primes for women forgotten (don't worry, we'll increase by 1/3 the primes for the last two weeks).

With a full "novice" crew, i.e. no missus and no Gene, the transition to the new generation of tent folks went well, with pretty much no problems. I say "novice" in quotes because one of the guys has been doing so well with his tasks that at one point I had him doing the finish line camera, day of registration, and looking after the marshaling situations. I thought about having him do live updates but then realized that might be a bit much.

It helped, of course, that the missus helped me set up the paperwork on Friday night, but all that stuff went very well.

From a safety point of view it was medium successful. A clash of wheels in the 4 race led to an ambulance ride for one rider, and there was at least one tumble in the 3-4 race. So not great but not horrible either.

My teammate John had a great race in the 4s. Last week he managed to win the field sprint, with a huge leadout from teammate Todd, behind a charging Guido Wollmann. This week, early in the race, he went noodling off the front in search of a prime or something. Wollmann chased him, they linked up, and in one lap they had a 30 second gap.

Problem was this was something like 2 laps into the race, and the field was full of fresh legs ready to pummel those that try to get away. Wollmann, admittedly the stronger of the two riders, made sure the break stayed away, with John contributing a good amount too. The field dwaddled, never committing to the violent chase necessary to close gaps like this. At the end John wanted Wollmann to win, but Wollmann wanted John to win. After arguing while holding their hands up a la "Hinault-Lemond", Wollmann got his way and John got his first win, coasting, in his small ring. I suppose that if one guy does more work but wants you to win anyway, might ss well take it!

My race went was not one to write about. But I will anyway!

I actually got warmed up, which, it seems, hurts me more than it helps me. I managed to get cold, focus on how bad I felt, and started second guessing my clothing choice. I thought maybe I should get a jacket instead of a LS jersey and a vest, but then I'd have to repin my number, and that would mean taking off my gloves, and I'm already cold, and maybe I'd get the warm gloves, but then in the race they slip a little bit in the drops...

You get the idea.

A few guys came up to me and told me they were going to do my style of warm-up, i.e. change less than 5 minutes before the race and ride to the start line. I'm thinking that I may race better that way. (After the race one guy said it worked great for him, so I may have to revert to my normal way of warming up).

Whatever, after figuring out I felt really, really, really bad, I lined up for the race. Being an absolute chicken, I chose not to wear my yellow jersey. A different year's overall winner said that it was a good thing - wearing the jersey, unless you win every race, seems to curse the wearer. Since he is my main rival (I decided that on my own), I figured that's the way I'll approach it.

We started off briskly, and on the first lap I felt a twinge of goodness in my legs - I powered up that thing like it was flat as a pancake, my (still) properly positioned bars feeling particularly delicious as I climbed on the hoods. (That first week, when my bars moved, made me realize how much I like a properly fitted bike).

On maybe the second lap a Jonathan Adler guy rocketed up the hill. Okay, I may have felt good on the hill, but this guy, he really stuck it good. When we rounded the first turn, he had at least 100-120 meters on us, and when we hit the backstretch, he was gone.

This dude was flying.

Normally someone like that explodes before you get back to the hill, but he simply rode away from us. The guy who warned me about the big break last week rolled up to me.

"This guy's going to lap us. And now no one's gonna let anyone go."

I looked at him a bit dejectedly and nodded.

A few severe slowdowns in the headwind section and the Alder guy was gone. Then, a bit belatedly, the field started chasing, in fits and spurts. Just as predicted, the field wouldn't let anything go.

I didn't have too many teammates to speak of, and the ones there would have been hard pressed to do the 10 or 30 pulls at 28 mph to drag this guy back. I just hoped that a different team would be able to chase.

My rival, with a strong team, probably could have had his team shut down the break. But he thinks like a strong man, not like a sprinter - he figured that if he could bridge, then the race would be much easier to decide. So he started launching attack after attack, trying to get clear of the field.

At some point, in my addled mind, I thought that 7 guys were 30 seconds ahead. I looked up the road and saw 1st GC (tied with me) rocket away.

No. Couldn't be.

About 10 seconds later a well meaning rival rolled up to me.

"You know that Steve just rode up the road, right?"

Yeah I guess I did. I moved up a bit, waited for the group to come back, but they seemed to be holding their slight gap. I waited another lap, the gap still there, and I realized that with 17 guys up the road (7 at 30, plus 10 at about 5-8 seconds), and a very, very strong overall contender that can TT in there, they'd be gone if there was another slow down in the field.

Therefore, I countered.

Actually I tried to move up a bit to prepare for a big counter later that lap, but it turned into a counter. As I rode up through the group (on the hoods, hence not a serious move on my part), some of the gaps started to swing shut. I accelerated through one, lateraled to avoid another rider, and suddenly I was carrying way too much speed and realized I was going to pop through the front of the field.

I kept my effort going. I thought I heard someone saying "They're sitting up!", but I couldn't hear anything clearly so I kept going. I did the big gear around the first turn and almost rear ended the 10 riders.

They'd totally sat up.

I looked back - I hadn't broken the elastic so the field had just used me to bridge up as well.

The guys in the break looked pretty fresh, and two immediately jumped away, one of them the GC rival. I briefly considered going but I realized quickly that my concern should be not getting dropped, not "how do I bridge that gap?"

I blew through the field in full reverse, almost jettisoning off the back, but a worried Andreas, a former great rival and now a friendly teammate, managed to snag me (literally) and kept me from permanent ejection.

I dangled off the back for the next five or six laps, the field in full cry for some reason. I no longer knew what was going on, except that when I bridged to that second group of 10 (behind the 7 at 30 seconds behind the 2 that still hadn't lapped us), there was no 7 at 30, and the guy off the front was solo, not a duo. I'd actually bridged up to the group that contained second rider on the road.


So... now what?

I decided I better get up there in the finish, get some points. Motivation is key in races like this, where you suffer greatly but the desire to do well is there. If this was, say, some non-peak race (I only have two peak races a year, and this is one of them), I'd have simply sat back and not cared a bit about any breaks up the road. I'd just wait for the field sprint because field sprints are the most fun thing to do.

But with a leader's jersey (that I didn't wear) on the line, I started making efforts. Andreas carefully monitored my situation, drifting back on the hill to make sure I had a wheel when we crested, and he offered to bring me to the front "whenever you tell me to".

I rarely use such an offer because I am rarely capable of following such moves (I blow up before the guy can drag me to the front of the field). Sometimes they actually work, but right after a 100% bridging effort?


I had faith in my own abilities to navigate the field though, especially in these conditions (headwind backstretch, tailwind hill). I knew that if the field slowed just a bit at the end of the backstretch I could move up on the hill with maybe 5 or 10 moderately hard pedal strokes.

I wasn't about to try and communicate this with him, but that was a moot point. We got split up since he was riding on the fringes of the field, trying to keep a clear line for me, while I was trying to find shelter in the middle of the field. Then, as I'd hoped, the field slowed on the backstretch, I did my penance pedal strokes on the hill, and I was sitting near the front as we crossed the start/finish line. I looked at the lap cards.

3 to go.


Windy, the front is. Windy and cold and lots of guys riding in such a way that they try to take wheels from you. And you try to take wheels back.

I hate wind but I love the jockeying for position. So I jockeyed, tried to go with the flow, and crested the hill in good position for the last couple laps. At the bell I still had decent position, and my hopes started going up just a touch. By now someone had let us know that there were, in fact, three total riders up the road. This means we were sprinting for fourth. Since there are GC points to sixth, I had to get top three in the field.

On the backstretch it got strangely quiet, with a few guys noodling off the front, the field sort of bunched up. No opener like last week, and with the headwind at the bottom of the hill and absolutely no wind going up it (big tailwind), I knew that it was imperative to jump before the hill, to break the elastic, to accelerate super hard to gap the field before they hit the hill. Once on the hill, because of the unusual wind, it would be nigh impossible to close gaps on a good sprinter, even for another good sprinter. I also knew that if I went first, I'd blow up half way up the hill.

Then I realized that SOC was right there, to my outside, on the edge of the field.

"Chris. Go. Chris. Go."

I tried to subliminally make him go. If someone went right now, and I was on their wheel, I'd have a top three in the field.

He, properly, ignored the request. Maybe I should have identified myself, but I'm glad I didn't, because when the sprint finally, belatedly, got under way, I couldn't jump out of a bucket to save my life. I counted at least five riders in front of me, and pulling away, and all my motivation evaporated in a heartbeat.

One of SOC's teammates, sprinting furiously, yelled at me for sitting up. I've done the same when I've gotten blocked, so I understand. And in this case I had even taken the best line possible to try and get up to those guys in front of me. But with nothing propping up my legs, I was done. I glanced over at the teammate, because you tend to look at those that justifiably yell at you. My coldly calculating mind told me that if he shifted up a gear he'd have killed me long before in the sprint. Just another thing to file away in my head.

I felt disappointed. Frustrated. Sat in the tent and sulked a bit. Which, with all the friendly folks around, wasn't too bad. I re-elevated myself and started getting things done for the race.

Later a guy introduced himself to me. He thanked me for putting on the races, thanked me for the hard work I put into the Series. I asked him how his race went, and he started describing how he had raced really hard at Plainville the day before and was cooked, but he was still in contention in the sprint. Then some overly optimistic idiot (note: my words, not his) sat up in the middle of the sprint, everyone swarmed around him, and that was that. He asked me the same question, how was my race.

I told him that I'd been frustrated with all the conflicting information I got from various friends and spectators, but in the sprint I had to get top two (my addled brain said that there were only two points places available, not the actual three), and when I realized that I couldn't get them, I sat up in the sprint. Then some doofus on CVC yelled at me. For sitting up in the sprint.

Suddenly I realized something.

He looked at me.

I looked at him.

"Um, what team do you ride for?" I asked.

"CVC", he replied.

CVC is SOC's team. Which means...

Big smiles.

"Oh, man. Of all the guys I had to yell at, I yelled at the promoter!" he said.

"You had every right!" I laughed.

Then, always trying to help, we started discussing the finer points of his sprint.

Later on I saw the guy tied with me on points at the start. He was in street clothes now, but the last time I saw him was when he went barreling up the hill in the sprint, in front of me, his distinctive style propelling him to the line. I just assumed he won the field sprint because he's that kind of rider, and that would knock me out of the overall. We got to talking and I asked him how he placed.

"Right near you."


He was being modest, as usual, but he hadn't earned any points. As soon as I looked down, he blew. Since I blew too, I didn't see him slowing - I was too far back.

Phew! I figured that would mean I'm tied with him, and whoever won would be, say, 2-3 points ahead (since he earned 7 points today, and probably had 3 or 4 more from before).

We put stuff away and I prepared for the long drive home. First the drive to drop off the van, swap cars, and load up my red car for the way home. I shoved everything inside, even had room to shift into 5th and reverse, and started on the way back.

Less than a mile later I was doing serious leg presses to push my seat two clicks back, but I managed to squeeze something out of the way behind me, although the front edge of it dug into my back. Whatever, I was on my way home.

My throat was bothering me so much I almost drove off the road when my eyes started watering, but a swig of Vicks (non-drowsy, not the NyQuil) chased the severe tickles away. I had to hit the bottle two more times, but finally I got my throat under control.

Once home I started working on the results, and I realized something when I looked at the points. I wanted to see how many points this Adler stud had going into today.

I looked again, not believing my eyes. He had to have scored points. I mean this guy rode so strong today. He had to have some points, right?


He said as much last week when we ran into each other at the local Sycamore (warning - music plays when you open site) burger joint. I saw his team jacket, remembered we had found a team vest, and returned it to him while I waited for our food. He told me that since they don't have a sprinter (anymore), they had to try for breaks.

Since they hadn't had any successful breaks... no points. And that means the overall lead stays the same.

Two more weeks.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Bethel Spring Series - Pre-Reg Slogging

I never got to finish and post anything after the first week's March 8th Bethel, but I figure this would be as good a time as any. I started writing this and something happened, I fell asleep or something, but I never finished it. Here it is, cleaned up a bit, a week later.

"It's Friday now, 11 PM, and in my spare time (evenings during the week plus the whole day Wednesday), I've managed to accomplish...


Well, if I don't count Bethel stuff, then I've managed to accomplish one thing - ride my bike for about 1 hour and 16 minutes.

Okay, now that I think of it, I got a bit more done. During the week I cooked a few batches of chicken, two pounds of pasta, and a couple pots of coffee. Cleaned some litter boxes, fed the kitties, but in the scheme of things, not a lot.

Pre-registration, something I haven't dealt with ever (is that right? What did I do before Gene helped out?), makes my brain hurt. Due to this stupid lingering flu thing, my head is still stuffy, my hearing is still sub-par, I can't focus too well, and this whole pre-reg thing didn't help me any.

But I'm happy to say that things are pretty much set, at least as far as pre-registration. I seem to have recreated a familiar stack of folders, papers, and spreadsheet stuff*.

Although I've been doing Bethel for eons, every year I learn something else, figure out some new thing to do. This "re-learning" seems like a tremendous waste of time and energy, not just on my part, but for all promoters (assuming they have the same experience). I learn and relearn things, and I'm sure that many of the promoters are figuring out the exact same things I'm figuring out, with all the attendant headaches, stress, and sacrificed (riding) time.

Therefore, I've decided to try and accomplish something, do something that puts my money where my mouth is - set up an open source "How To Promote A Race" set up.

Open source, in case you don't know, is where folks work towards the good of the group. In this case there'd be a Race Promotion Site which has tips on how to set up pre-reg, day of race reg, supplies needed, photo finish, etc etc., and have it all wrapped up in a non-profit, non-proprietary kind of thing.

It would be free, in other words. Just download documents and templates and stuff.

For example, everyone uses spreadsheets for race entry lists. But who can afford to get a real copy of Microsoft Excel? What happens when that work laptop suddenly goes away? What happens if the promoter gets audited, and they get fined for using an illegal copy of Office?

Well, you avoid such pitfalls by going to an open source version of that "work suite". In my case I use OpenOffice, a series of applications designed to allow users the ability to manipulate text documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and databases (sound familiar?). The key is that it is free to use, free to download.

With our carefully developed spreadsheet, now adapted to Open Office, we have the basis for an open source race promotion spreadsheet. I'm very proud of our spreadsheet, even if I only figured out one thing on it (auto-filling results) - the rest of it is Gene's work. It fills out rider's numbers, it figures out if riders get a second race discount, it tells us how much money we need to pay USAC, how many licenses we sold, stuff like that.

It also tells us some budgetary stuff, costs of officials, help, stuff like that. It even calculates prizes based on number of entrants, something that allows us to be generous if there are a lot of racers, but still stay in the black if the weather turns for the worse and we race tiny fields in monsoon or Nor'easter conditions.

The coolest thing (because I figured it out just last week) is it fills in the racer's info on the results page just by typing in the racer's number. Everything else is looked up and filled in automatically.

All this represents a lot of puzzling, thinking, typing, work, and reading and learning. But if we could give this to someone in one package, it would save all that time and energy, and it would make promoting a race easier.

I thought for a bit about making it a for-profit thing, and yeah, that might be good, but I'm using an open source application. Therefore, no profit allowed.

See, part of open source is sharing all modifications freely, and to give credit where credit is due. So folks would be able to update their spreadsheets, and if they want to, they can post their modifications at some agreed-upon central location (say a bike forum or a blog site).

In this manner the spreadsheet could develop into one usable for time trials, road races, stage races, dinky training series, and maybe even ProTour races.

Why do I mention all this?

Because the reason I spent so little time doing anything but Bethel stuff this week is that I had to learn all this stuff.

And it shouldn't be this hard. If I take the time to figure something out, I should share this information. If I share it with many people, then, although I may have spent 1 or 3 days figuring things out, others will spend maybe an hour.

And if that gets more races out there on the calender, it's worth it to me to do something about it.

First, though, I have to try and hold a race on the 15th. I'll worry about the turn-key race promoter package later."

Some "after-the-fact" notes:
* 1. I started printing out the pre-reg release forms after 9 PM because that's when I thought pre-reg closed. However, Bikereg accepts pre-reg for us until 11:45 PM. Hence we were missing a bunch of releases on race day. This week I've waited to print releases until the day after registration closes.

2. I also learned you could buy pre-hole punched paper. Saves me punching holes in a few sheets of paper at a time. Yet another reason to do this open source promoting thing.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Equipment - Crank Arm Length, Take 3

So... crank lengths.

This is one of my main areas of indecision, or, more accurately, making lots of decisions with different conclusions. After a long, long time on 170s or shorter, in 2003 I went to 175s (Take 1). Then, in 2007, I moved back to 170s (Take 2). But, as of about five weeks back, I'm back on 175s (Take 3).

As anyone who knows me can verify, I'm not leggy at all. I ride either a size S Giant or a 50-52 Cannondale (52 to get top tube length), sporting a (sub?) 29" inseam. (I have not measured my inseam for some time now, and I don't feel like digging up old fit notes, but I wear 30" jeans and they are long on me).

Yet I am running 175s.

Last year I trained about as much as I could (I was a "pro cyclist" at the time), doing 150 hours in about three months, just about equaling my prior year's total training. I felt good, felt lean, but I struggled to break into the top 10 at Bethel each week. I finally won one but it felt unreasonably hard, like my legs could never get on top of the gear.

I tried to take advantage of my fitness but I felt less successful than ever, failing to capitalize on a once in a lifetime year of training freedom. I couldn't shoot across gaps to bridge a break, something I looked forward to with the "faster" cranks. I did it with the longer cranks but I figured I could do it better if I could go faster. Never happened.

After something like 300 hours on the 170s, I happened to go for a ride on the Giant, a bike still outfitted with 175s (with my "pro cycling" status also came a severe lack of funds, and I wasn't about to go out and buy a bunch of 170s for my other bikes). With a heavier, less efficient bike, I did a standard training loop with absolutely no expectations, out for a slightly-harder-than-easy ride. I did the loop and checked the time (I round to the minute).

A record pace.

I analyzed my ride, tried to figure out exactly what happened. I had noted a few spots where I seemed to be going a bit better than normal, but I just chalked it up to "being enthusiastic". So as to have some good comparison data, I did the same loop a few days later. This time I took the Cannondale, with 170s, SRM, full data recording, expecting to ramp up the speed. Instead I felt that I lost speed in the harder portions (false flats, short power hills), and I made up for it on some of the faster sections (like slight downhills). I managed to go faster but it certainly wasn't "by accident" - I had to work hard to go faster than my "sort of easy" ride on the 175 equiped Giant.

So as to justify the 170s I went out again, this time to just go really hard, and blew my old record time away. I knew I was more fit but it took me a lot of doing to go fast on the 170s.

My thoughts started turning to 175s once again.

This past winter, a bit despondent over the prior year's lack of success, I decided to go back to what worked before - 175s. I'd spent a massive amount of money on the cranks and their proprietary BB30 set-up (by buying a whole bike), expecting to get a lighter, stiffer, and more reasonably priced system. I even went so far as to commit to a BB30 SRM crank (the beautiful SI cranks). The bike was lighter, more responsive, and handled better. The cranks were lighter, stiffer, and recorded power. I could use my DV46ts and still record power. My bike dropped over 2 pounds in weight. Things were good.

Except I wasn't going better.

Since it couldn't be me (of course not! It's never the rider!), it had to be my equipment. The only substantial ergonomic change I made? The 170 cranks.

Therefore I had to go back to 175s.

Mid-winter I emailed the nice folks at SRM and they confirmed that not only could I swap just the arms (why didn't I ask in mid-2008??) but that the PowerMeter in the crank spider would not have to be recalibrated.


Of course, knowing this and actually getting some 175s are two different things. I spent much of the winter keeping an eye on 175 Hollowgram cranks on eBay, thinking I would sacrifice the SRM to get the longer cranks. After the SRM email, I realized I could have just bought a set of 175s and swapped the arms. So I eagerly logged into eBay, ready to buy one of those oodles of 175mm Hollowgram cranks for less than $200.

You know what happened next because it's totally the way things work.

I couldn't find a crank. Nada. Not a single crank for sale below some absurd price ($800?). The 175s I managed to find were all carbon and not "arm-swappable", so they wouldn't fit my needs.

I twiddled my thumbs, waited a week, and checked again.

This went on for a while. I briefly contemplated bidding on one set of cranks, but some research seemed to implicate the cranks had over 10k miles on them (they seemed to have been listed on Craigslist with that info, and the pictures looked the same, as did the seller's description and location). 10k miles to me is like eons of training, and I wanted cranks with, say, less than 2000 miles on them, preferably new take-off cranks.

Finally, in February, I found a decent set of cranks, take-offs or close to them. But I was leaving for California in two days and the auction didn't end for another week.

I consulted with the missus, explained the time predicament (she already knew about the 175 vs 170 thing), and she pointed out that it'd be worth however little money I may save by doing the Buy It Now. I bought the cranks and headed out West.

(This is one of those reasons why the missus is the missus, and incidentally, she also recommended the same thing when I told her about my bike when I found it on eBay.)

I should point out that this year didn't start well at all for me, at least for training. With a lot of stuff happening outside of cycling, I didn't do my typical 3 hour trainer rides, didn't break my 5 hour trainer record, and I found myself struggling with a much more physical job than I've had in the past. To top it all off I was sick for my annual Febrary SoCal training camp, running some kind of fever for about 6 weeks total, succumbing to ultimate fatigue for 3 weeks of it.

Net result: I didn't train as much as last year, not by a long shot.

That said, my sprint is better than it was last year and I have an easier time, so far, in races that involve a short hill (i.e. the two Bethels I've done).

The only change on my bike from last year - the 175s.

Coincidence? I think not.

Actually, I don't know if I'm faster on 175s this year (I should point out that I sprinted substantially faster when I switched to 175s in 2003), but I am fresher at the end of a race and I can sprint better. I have not done a max speed sprint this year, meaning one where I thought I went fast on a flat road. So far, because of limited training, all of my jumps have been on uphills, save one or two truck drafts (but the speeds from those don't really mean anything).

Ultimately I think 170s would help when I'm really light, and really fit, like when I was young. I used 167.5s for a long, long time, successfully, and then 170s for almost as long. But realistically, I have to admit that my fitness has deteriorated over the years. "Realistically" meaning I am 25-30 pounds heavier than I used to be, and I am nowhere near as fit as before.

As such, I think longer cranks suit me better.

I have to admit that doing the whole Bethel thing (i.e. promoting) is exhausting me. It takes me until Wednesday to recover from Sunday, and that's when things ramp up for the next Sunday's event.

It also seems that I'm still a bit congested from my February cold, preventing me from sleeping well, and keeping the missus up too with my hacking during-the-night cough.

But I hope that this is temporary, that I can get back on track with my training for later in April and in May. With the local midweek training series set to start at some point soon, ditto the track racing in NH, I hope to race my way back into some kind of fitness by racing twice midweek. The local shop's rides are starting too, and with two group rides and two races every work week, I should be getting in some good riding.

Combined with races on the weekend... Well, let's just say that I'm hoping for a better year. The 175s seemed to have jump started my racing (once again). Now I need to train to keep up with my new found speed.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Bethel Spring Series 2009 - Kirche Finishline Vid

Courtesy SOC.

It was a lot closer than I thought. I looked around while I was sprinting and thought there was no one around. I didn't even throw the bike other than a casual bar toss. Goes to show that you really ought to throw the bike at the line for every sprint.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Bethel Spring Series 2009 - Tour de Kirche Report

No, no helmet cam. I wish I'd worn it Sunday but I simply forgot it in the rush to get ready.

The day started off well with the battery from Vantage Motors (Stamford, CT) starting the van up on the first try. If you need a classic sports car (say, like a James Bond Aston Martin) restored or serviced, they have restored or built up many award winning cars. End plug for good friend.

At o'dark hundred hours, a working battery took a huge weight off my mind. The missus there helped too, both for the moral support as well as the fact that her car was loaded down with Bethel stuff we'd brought down from home!

When we got to Bethel, we discovered a great thing. Not quite as great as a lost tomb or a winning lottery ticket, but close.

The Sweep Elves had visited the course over the last week, and except for a film of dust on the roads, they'd been swept clear of all that annoying sand and stuff. The Elves apparently ride bikes because the racing line was perfect, but at registration we sat in chairs sitting on an inch of sand.

With the roads swept, a full crew of helpers, and some surprising volunteers (thanks JJ!) I could hang out at the registration table to help out with the transfer of duties from the hard working Gene and the just-as-hard working missus. Gene is pulling back from the whole cycling thing, and the missus's real job has a lot to do with taxes, and it's tax season now. The young blood replacing them (some were literally baby-sat at early renditions of Bethel) did great work keeping the registration process smooth and efficient.

You'd think that such help would have let me warm up for an hour and all that, but I got busy chatting with various folks there, handling little problems, and generally frittered away that time until, hey, it was race time.

The racers were lined up and I wasn't even fully dressed, so I rushed over without finding my gloves, without my tires pumped up, etc etc. I did manage to level and tighten my bars - last week they moved twice on me when I hit the deceptively sharp manhole cover "pothole" in Turn One, and once again on a ride with an long-time friend Mike K. The bike had felt almost unrideable, but with the bars in proper position, I was back in business.

The official had been droning on and on about various things, and when he saw me roll over, he started wrapping things up. Then he saw me grab a pump nearby and started his droning again. For all those guys in the race, thanks for the extra bit of tolerance for a tardy promoter guy.

With my bike set, the official quickly finished up his speech "You'll go on my whistle!" and we were off.

I pride myself on being a good "clipper inner", meaning I get in my pedals quickly, but Sunday I thought someone was going to rear end me before I got going. Terrible. The other slightly bad thing that happened is my very pro looking shoe covers (my new favorite riding gear piece, btw) refuse to stay zipped (well one of them anyway) and then the zipper got stuck on that one. I thought briefly of taking them off but I felt like I had to maintain position so I decided to forgoe that move.

Maintain position? Yep, you heard right, maintain position.

For those two negatives listed just up there were the only things that didn't go well in the race. The wind was calm, the road was perfect (I almost tripped when my boot caught on what I thought was sandy pavement - it was just discolored from the sand but it was extremely grippy), and we had a big field (92 registered, 5 didn't pick up their numbers, so we paid 9 places anyway). It was just a bit bigger from last week and it made for some dramatic images when they were all strung out.

Prior to the race a long time friendly rival told me he thought the race would break up, with 10 or 15 riders rolling up the road. He expected it to be strung out, gaps forming, and at some point the elastic breaking. So when it started getting strung out a few laps in, and said friendly rival went rocketing towards the front (we were at the back), my Spidey Sense started tingling.

I couldn't rocket up to the front like him so I had to steadily work my way up, difficult when it's strung out, just as difficult when the field ended up packed tightly. But, eventually, I made it towards the front. I even poked my nose into the first few riders, following a surge by a rider down the backstretch. A lot of wind compared to even a few riders back, but I got a taste of it.

If it came down to a sprint it would not be a late jump sprint.

I drifted back a bit and spent the next few laps slotted in about 20 or 30 riders from the front, far back enough to get shelter, somewhat close to the action, and able to respond if something threatening suddenly brewed up.

On the hill my 175s made a huge difference (at least in my mind), letting me climb seated in either big or little gears (I usually went up in a 53x15 or so, sometimes as low as the 19), or stand if I felt the need. And my properly positioned bars made standing on the hoods a great position. With all the flying, traveling, and such, my bars end up tilted a little too high, a little too low, but my last adjustment (done on the trainer, while I was riding) was really good. My bike finally felt "great".

With about 15 laps down, I started getting tired. I'd been constantly surfing the surges, staying close to the front (well, like 20th), and I figured that if the lap cards said 15 to go or more, I'd drift back and try and recover a bit. The pace was pretty hot and I was getting a bit tired. I strained to catch a glimpse of the lap cards, the first time I'd look at them this race.

5 to go.


Distracted and worried by a potential move off the front, I'd spent at least 15 laps patrolling the front. No chance of drifting back to catch a breath - it took me about 3 or 4 laps to move from the back to the front, and I didn't have that time any more.

Saturday evening, on the trainer (and adjusting my bars) I decided that I'd follow the aforementioned friendly rival in Sunday's race. He led out the sprint, he is almost always in excellent position, and he's typically much stronger than me overall. I reiterated this thought when I went to bed a few hours later, and I reinforced the idea after quizzing him briefly on the unfolding of the sprint the prior week.

So, with the laps counting down quick enough that I only glanced at 2 to go to make sure I was counting right, I set off to find him. And from 2 to go to about half a lap to go, I followed him, moving up the outside when he did, protecting position in the field when he slid back in.

At 2 to go I felt a bit strained, but nothing like last week. I felt strained in expectation, not in struggle, and I had to constantly balance between moving up (expending energy) and holding position (building up reserves for the sprint).

Keltic put a lot of guys at the front around this time, led by their extremely strong Bill Thompson. They lost their front position a short time later and a few guys shot out of the field, trying to do the big break to the finish.

As the surges kept moving up, it seemed that the field was steadily accelerating, shutting down attempts just to move up. I'm sure that it was possible to move up, but I felt some satisfaction that I sat at the front end of the field. Last week I'd have been 30 guys back and starting to panic.

We hit just over 31 mph going into the slight headwind at the bottom of the hill, and the field was pretty bunched up, everyone trying to move up. I lost a few spots to guys going around the outside, but I knew that I wanted to do the hill in the middle of the road, drifting left with everyone towards the top.

Sure enough, as we climbed to the ringing bell, the guys to the outside (left) got shut down, we all drifted left, and I crested the hill only 10 or so riders back.

It's weird, the closer I get to the finish, the less sure I am of the outcome.

The worst is getting led out by teammates. Here are guys killing themselves, just drilling it, for me, and I have no idea if I'll get swamped at the line.

The second worst is being in good position, like 8th or 10th going into the last lap. That's a spot ripe for being swamped, for being boxed in, for sitting up a few hundred meters as the field buries you for even thinking about a good race.

So I tried to think about maintaining my place and not about placing in the race.

As we rounded the turn one guy was way off, maybe 10, maybe 12 seconds away, but I figured we'd catch him in the sprint if nothing changed. A field going 35 mph covers a lot of ground in a hurry, but it'd be touch and go. Two more guys were trying to bridge, but they were a couple seconds back from the solo guy, and I thought that either they'd win or they'd be history.

The somewhat coordinated leadouts seem to have disappeared, but I don't know. Nothing really stood out because I was just groveling on the wheel, trying to ride the surges, trying not to get boxed in.

I chose the middle inside down the backstretch, trusting the wind to handle those on the outside, and the curb to control those to the inside. The field charged on, but I couldn't even see the solo break guy. We were sprinting for second.

Then, at about 300 meters to go, with form just like Nico Mattan in the 1996 Ghent Wevelgem (can you tell that's one of my favorite tapes?), a tall, slim rider launched a strong, fully commited jump. He later told me he found himself at the front, realized it wasn't going to be his race, and jumped really hard.

"I knew I was helping someone out when I did that."

He certainly did.

The field, bottled up just a touch, blew apart. The guy on his wheel did a similar launch, and I followed that second rider. The leadout guy hauled ass, actually gapping the second guy as we started rounding the mirror building bend, 200 meters to go. I, in turn, was not quite on that second guy. The field, I'm sure, was on my wheel.

I could see the two man chase up the hill, and in front of them, the solo break guy, but I quickly forgot about them as I focused on the sprint.

Slightly gapped, hands on the drops, fingers on the shifters, I wanted to do a "good" jump. I'd experimented with my jump in California, albeit while sick, and found that I jump best at 90 rpms. I also found that my jumps in training are much, much stronger than the ones in racing, mainly because I never mentally set up a race sprint. You just can't do that, at least not me, because I have to react to the race situation, not to my sprinting whims.

So with a slight gap to the guy in front of me, and another gap in front of him, and a smattering of riders in front of them, I figured I had a brief moment to collect myself, to look at the SRM, to see what my cadence was, to prepare myself for the sprint.

You know, I wanted to do a proper jump.

Okay. I jump at 90 rpms. Am I going 90? No, definitely too slow, maybe 80. I better shift down, but then I may over spin. Maybe I should anyway...

Aw, eff it, it's the freakin' race and I gotta go NOW.

I shifted BAM, jumped as hard as I could, shifted BAM, jumped again. I got around the two guys in front, then started the left bend to the finish. Tall skinny blue guy. Where did he come from??? He was on the yellow line, drifting left, dying. In the past I'd stay to the right, taking the long but safe line, but today I glanced down and left, saw nothing and went to his inside, cutting short the corner just a touch.

Then I saw the solo break guy. He was dying a thousand deaths, trying to hump it to the line before he got swamped. I died a thousand and one deaths, debating whether I should shift down a gear to pass him. I didn't because my right hand had no idea what "shift down a gear" meant, and I kept slogging the gear. I rode by him too.

I crossed the line clear enough that I didn't throw the bike, and I was coming undone as it was anyway. Although I regret it now, I immediately stopped and lay down on the grass, the world spinning its way around me. I should have kept going, but what's done is done.

Incredibly for me, as I review the data this morning, I jumped at over 100 rpms, and I maintained 110 rpms for a good 5 seconds, even as I shifted. I guess 80 rpms feels different when I'm racing, because it's really 25 rpms faster. The flat 110 rpm plateau surprised me because I normally overgear and sprint at something like 70 rpms. Okay, maybe 90, but not 110.

Although I wasn't sure if one of the two chasers had escaped the clutches of the field, someone confirmed to me that I'd won the sprint. Okay, that I knew, but it wasn't until a minute or two later that someone else confirmed that there were no breaks.


Good bar position, a short spin the day before, a little less sick, and voila, good things.

Maybe getting sick in SoCal is the key. I dunno. But I'll take this day in exchange for all those sick days.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Bethel Spring Series 2009 - Ris Van Bethel

The alarm went off in the pitch dark, a low moaning alarm (we were at my dad's and we don't "know" this alarm). I had a flash of "I'm never doing this again". I guess it was the combination of daylight savings, being just plain tired from yesterday, and the daunting vision of 12 or 14 hours of stressful "I'm responsible" work.

Luckily for my sense of responsibility, the flash went away after I closed my eyes for about 30 seconds.

After loading up the van with some minor stuff, I tried to start the van (the dome light went on so I had juice). Two short attempts later (and maybe one low strained "whir"), I was backing up my red car to jump the van.

After stressing about this for a while, I'm convinced the battery just happened to give up the ghost. Many years ago the battery came out of my green car when I decided to replace the battery "just in case". Then a couple years later, the morning of a Bethel (of course), the normal enormous battery in the van was dead (courtesy yours truly leaving on some light). The only battery around? The green car battery.

Then, because I don't use the van too much, I never took that really old battery out of the van. And Sunday morning I paid the price.

Of course there's always a benefit to things, the way I look at things. And this was a perfect time to learn left foot braking on an automatic. See, if I revved the engine, it wouldn't stall because the alternator is working. But if I let it slow to an idle then it would die. So I left foot braked, popped it into neutral every time I had to stop or go down a hill more than a few seconds, and constantly had my foot tapping the gas pedal (no tach so I had to hear and feel the engine revving).

My traditional backing out of the driveway took a few muddy ruts for the worse, and my first few slows were more like panic stops in the middle of the road. But by the time I got to the race course, safe and sound, I felt pretty good about my newly learned technique.

That's when I looked around and saw all that sand.

One local swears up and down that the town doesn't plow - they just spread sand. And although we got a lot of snow last week (on Monday, after the canceled race, not Sunday like the forecast said), we didn't get that much snow. But there was a lot of sand. Lots.

With a full crew of helpers, we set up, with the missus and the stepping-away co-promoter lending two additional experienced hands, we got things under way. I took up my traditional duties as street sweeper, using the Echo powerbroom, a regular broom, and a wheeled leaf blower.

For the next 2-2 1/2 hours I swept and blew and swept and blew. To the others' credit I didn't get too many radio calls - everyone handled things fine at the start/finish and registration. I didn't realize this but we had no cop this week as no one volunteered for our particular job. Other than that things went well.

At some point someone did radio me, and to my horror I couldn't even depress the talk button on the radio. I'd become so focused on sweeping I had no idea what my body was doing, and I was absolutely and totally exhausted. I decided to trudge back up to the registration area and take a break, but I saw so much sand I had to leave again, this time mainly using the wheeled blower (which I don't have to carry).

I managed to catch up with a few folks, talk to others, and generally didn't do much until just before my race. Then, in full panic mode, I dressed and got ready, just in time to ride my bike to the start line.

With no warm up, an optimistic short sleeve jersey, shorts, and a wind vest, I suddenly felt cold, kind of hungry, and really tired. I sat at the back of the field and tried to figure out if my legs were okay, if they were bad, or what. I couldn't feel them load up ("bad") but they weren't responding to my every whim ("not good").

I did weigh the bike before I tossed it in the van. 19 pounds fully loaded as I rode it in California. With the carbon clinchers, 16 pounds. And with the tubulars, maybe 15 and change. The bike definitely felt more lively, more tossable, and I liked waggling the rear of the bike climbing out of the saddle.

The 175 cranks, too, made a difference. I felt like I had these really long levers that let me drive big gears up the hill. I usually find myself unwilling to shift down, thinking I was already in the 23T, but then I look and I'm in the 15T or something. So I looked down, and yeah, I was in the 15T or something. I could sit and spin in the 21T or 23T, but the spinning got uncomfortable as I got tired so I'd stand and push more.

I had a few teammates in the race, quite a few actually, and though I'd spoken to a couple of them, we really didn't have a plan per se. One guy, who led me out for a field sprint win last year, made it clear he was doing the race for training and would be willing to lead out the sprint. Another guy, ostensibly working for me but typically much stronger than I am, also made it clear he was working for me.

Of course there are the "friends in the field" too, long time friends whose loyalties lay with friendship, not with teams or such in a race not important to their team sponsors. I didn't talk with any of them but I did manage a hello or two.

I forgot how many laps we were to cover, and after not looking for as long as possible, I looked, praying we'd see a nice low number.


Not that low. Not 22 for sure, but not the 7 I thought I'd see.

I groveled more, counting each lap, sitting at the back, sometimes momentarily sliding off the back on the hill. No warm-up, not enough rest, too early to rise, and lots of physical effort equals a not-very-energetic me.

At 10 to go a one time supreme rival rode up to me and asked if I wanted to tag along when he went to the front. Since I was seriously contemplating dropping out, I politely declined. I also knew he was strong enough to move up on the outside in any wind in virtually any field, and I wasn't strong enough to follow such a move, and I didn't want to get sawed off the back trying to follow someone in the wind.

He nonchalantly rolled up to the front of the field.

At 7 to go I was dangling off the back, a long time friend nearby. Sporting my old Carpe Diem Racing colors, he had already done the M40 race, and he entered this race to get some miles in and, I suppose, to give me one effort.

He goes back a long way. He worked (really hard too) the first 5 or so years of Bethel, volunteering his van to lug various big things to and from the race. He showed up every year, no complaints, volunteering a long day without a touch of complaint, for many, many years. He told me one year, apologetic, that he just couldn't do it anymore, and for the next few years, as I lugged all that stuff around, I was amazed that he did it for so long.

He's one of those good guys, one of the guys that makes amateur grassroots racing possible. If everyone did 10% of what he did, we'd have a plethora of races to choose from.

I digress...

He drifted across my front wheel ever so slightly, looked to see where I was, and touched the pedals just a bit harder. He told me long ago that no matter how bad I looked, no matter how bad I felt, all I had to do was to get towards the end of a race and I'd perk up, finding immense reserves of energy from who knows where. So here he was, trying to dig into that untapped reserve.

He found it.

I moved up to his wheel, and without a single word, not even a glance at me (just at my front wheel), he slowly ramped up the speed, knowing my fatal weaknesses, understanding what I needed to get to the front, but that he'd have to balance effort and results to get me there.

He moved up the side, always aware of my need to find shelter, leaving too much room to his side so I could slide up to his right pedal, finding shelter from the vicious wind while still moving up on the outside. He never drilled it, nor did he ever change pace or line suddenly. He just rolled along, calmly, just fast enough to bring me into 20th or 25th position, and then, finding a little pocket of open shelter in the field, he rode next to it, making a little box for me to fill.

I rolled into the box, he sat on the windward side of me, and as we climbed the hill and away from the wind, I murmured to him.

"No problem."

Now it was 6 to go and I had been gifted position without using up my reserves. I felt obligated to fulfill my part of the bargain, to fight for the race.

Though small breaks had been going off all day, and sometimes even threatening groups rolled up the road, nothing seemed to stick. I couldn't do anything about them anyway, but everytime someone rolled off without a teammate, I prayed that they'd come back.

And they did.

I learned something on those few laps, metering my energy so preciously. With the stiff headwind on the backstretch, the field would bunch up there, but it would surge on the hill, and if would string out on the first straight. If I made efforts at the right time, I could situate myself in the same spot every time we hit Turn 1, holding my position without hitting too much wind.

The laps counted down.

At 2 to go (well, at 1.5 laps to go because we were on the backstretch) my legs threatened to betray all my efforts. I contemplated sitting up and quitting the race because I had no idea how I'd be able to sprint feeling this bad. But about 100 meters later I figured I better just finish the fricken race.

A few moments later my teammate rolled up to me.

"Aki, this is my finishline?"

We were just passing my favored jump point.


He surged away, on a mission. My legs deflated. Wait. Wait for me. Wait for... hm. I'll have to find him. 30 guys passed me. Hard to find someone that's 30 guys away.

We crested the hill, specatators cheering, screaming, my legs screaming, at least a bazillion guys in front of me. I reinforced my faith in the backstretch headwind. It would sap the strength of all the eager sprinters, zapping their legs. Only the strongest would make it to the front as the course turned away from the wind, and I figured the first three would win the race. I figured the rest of the field would be collectively blowing, having been in the wind too long to maintain their forward position, and there'd be a huge exchange of position as fresh legs in poor field position went flying past the excellently positioned tired legs.

We hit the backstretch and I was towards the right side of the field. The left side surged. I thought about my headwind theory again, and hoped even more that I was right. I managed to move a little, I'm sure, but my brain didn't save this bit of the race too well.

As we started the right bends to the bottom of the hill, I had almost given up. With 25 or so racers in front of me, a wide field, and no surges or holes, it looked pretty dismal.

Then the Red Sea parted.

Guys on the left (windward side) went left, guys on the right went right, and a big lane opened up in front of me.

Without even thinking I was shifting and jumping into the gap, flying through guys slowed either by wind (left side) or by overzealous moving up and boxing in (right side).

I examined my SRM data and I actually coasted for 4 seconds (!) as we rounded the bend at the bottom of the hill. I don't remember this but I must have had to slow to avoid rear ending the guys spread across the front.

I do remember watching one guy lead it out strongly, with two guys on his wheel. "1, 2, 3..." I thought, "let's see what happens when this gaggle of riders breaks up a bit.

I jumped when I had the chance, went through that gaggle of riders, and passed the one target I had in my sights (he was leading out the remanants of the field on the left side). Then I exploded. The three guys in front were untouchable and the guy to my left was also blown and not about to come back to me, and with no motivation to sprint, I didn't. My SRM data told me that I actually slowed during the whole sprint, that my jump merely maintained speed, and as I tired I slowed. I did a fake bike throw at the line, really a stretching of my legs, and sat down hard.

Well now.

What a turn around.

I started and promptly dropped out of the P123 race, my hands shaking, my brain working in molasses, cold sweat, bonk, everything all at once. I sat perfectly still in a chair - any movement caused air to move across my skin, but if I sat still I felt warmer.

I never saw my friend after the race, the one who brought me up, but I'm sure he knew what happened in the race. To be honest I saw very few people afterwards because I was totally cooked, but it'd been worth it.

The rest of the afternoon and evening was a blur. Another van jump (this time the missus disconnected the cables), another left foot brake practice drive (to my dad's) which included two curb strikes and about four curb rubs due to my deteriorated mental state. A nice dinner at a diner. A long drive home in the red car, paced by the missus. Posting results online. A 90 minute talk with a long time friend and former teammate.

Then trying to get to sleep. It was about 2:30 AM before I fell asleep inadvertently while reading about the Tour and letting various cats snuggle up to me, the missus waking me up at some odd hour like 5 AM or something to bring me back to bed.

Next week, another race.

Oh, and happy birthday to my sis. Happy Birthday!

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Bethel Spring Series 2009 - Pre Ris van Bethel

So it's Saturday afternoon, about 4:30 (5:30 on my watch, since I already set it ahead, hint hint), and I'm here at my dad's. No one is here except me, though, since my dad and bro are delivering a car to my bro in Maine, and my sis-in-law is out somewhere with the three kids. Or the three kids are out, and so is my sis-in-law.

Something like that.

I got up kind of early this morning, trying to get myself into the mode for tomorrow's ridiculously early wake up call. So I was up and around at about 5:30 AM, checking one of our kittens, letting the others snuggle, feeding them a bit, and reading about the 1984 Tour.

But my pep petered out at about 7:30 or something, and I came back to bed and fell into a delirious REM type of sleep, one which the missus kept interrupting to wake me up. She realized that I was delirious so waited until I seemed different, and got me at an oddly cohesive moment. I sprung out of bed, about an hour and a half after I dropped into it.

I spent what had to be 3 hours figuring out what needed to go into the car for the drive down to my dad's. I managed to get in a 30 minute ride on the trainer, realizing things like, well, that I hadn't tightened the bars when I assembled the bike, but that the seat was in the right place.

I had to bring a few things back home from last week's aborted race, like my bike, my gear, and some electronic stuff. Since I scattered all that stuff over the last week, I had to go around and gather them all up again. I ended up with something like the following:

- clothing for non-cycling
- toiletries, including stuff that I'll leave at my dad's so I don't have to bring them again
- gear bag with cycling stuff, including BOOTIES! (I packed them with my summer helmet when I went to CA, and I never used it, so I sorta forgot where they were, and I was starting to panic a bit)
- laptop bag with two laptops
- wireless router from home, to network the two laptops. I just used our home router, plugged it in upstairs to verify it would work, it did, so it went into my bag
- Carpe Diem Racing business book. I'm tracking expenses and such in it.
- Coat in case it's cold. Scarf, gloves, hat, etc.
- Bike. With carbon wheels. Can't find my carbon brake pads though, so will ride without them. Race wheels I left in the van.
- three folding chairs
- ream of paper
- Bin with TiVO, cables and remote for same, all the radios
- USB cable for the mini camcorder
- 4 pin to 4 pin 16 foot firewire cable for finishline camera in case TiVO doesn't work
- WD-40 for cleaning my drivetrain

Also, since we have a bunch of kitties at home, I did some preparations for their day and a half on their own. We have 2 adults, 1 fixed male kitten, 1 just-fixed female kitten whose incision I checked a few times and it seems fine, 1 unfixed male (due in a couple weeks), 1 unfixed female (ditto), and 1 fixed female cat (she's just under a year old, so about 5 months older than the others) who is a guest for the moment and isolated in our "cat guest room".

That's a room that's so far been used primarily for cats in isolation (seriously). We've used it for cats that haven't gotten checked for diseases, that are new to the house, etc. The kittens were there until they could get tested for feline HIV and such, Mouse (the glue trap cat) was in there until she went to her new family's house, and now we have Estelle in there, a black long haired cat.

Anyway, I had to make sure the cats would be okay till Sunday evening. This meant filling their water bowls (about 1.5 liters), filling their bowls with food (1 scoop per cat per half day, so 18 scoops), and cleaning out their litter boxes.

Estelle gets treated separately and she has food, water, and a litter box of her own.

Since I was shuttling stuff out to the car, I'd grab a bin of new litter on the way in, and this way I brought in 210 pounds of new litter. I hope the floor is strong enough to support them all.

I drove the non-highway way to the highway and regretted it. Folks really take their time on Saturday afternoons, and the other way would have been much better. Note to self - next week, take the highway way.

After an agonizing drive down to my dad's, I steeled myself for doing some sweeping. I jumped in the van, stuck the key in the ignition, and...


Not even a click. I checked the lights (off), the glove compartment door that has a light inside that stays on if the door is open (glove compartment was shut), interior lights (off)...

Then I looked down at a couple specks of dirt moving across my hand.


Suddenly the van seemed a distant worry.

Yes, they were ticks. No, I'm not overreacting. Well, not now anyway. At the time I went bug-eyed (I refrained from screaming, I don't know how), jumped out of the van, and desperately wrung my hands at the driveway. Then I tried to crush the one tick I could still see. The other one must have flown off in some other direction.

(I'm still randomly feeling a slight itch or something on random places on my body and of course it's a tick or three in my mind).

Since my dad got Lyme it's no joking matter, but at least I could see those ticks. Ticks you can't see give you Lyme, which is a bummer because I can't see any ticks that I can't see.

I jump started the van (it worked, so the battery was reasonably okay). After a few minutes I realized that it just doesn't like to idle anymore. So I gotta take it back to the garage and see what's up with it, because I don't feel like looking at it. I mean, yeah, I looked at the engine when the hood was up, but I like when I can look over the whole engine, not peer into a tunnel with an engine in it.

I called the guy that was going to help me sweep because with the sketchy van, I didn't want to drive over to the course and strand myself on the way. Tomorrow morning the missus can follow me so I'll have backup.

So now I have all this time to do things like figure out some of the expenses so far for Bethel, check the spreadsheet for any other problems, and see what there is to eat around here.

Hopefully I haven't forgotten anything. Hopefully the weather cooperates a bit tomorrow. Hopefully the van makes it to the race.

Lots of "hopefully's". I'm hoping it all works out.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Bethel Spring Series - Pre-Sweep Day (A Week Later)

I started writing this post last Friday, but I never got around to posting it. Then, after Saturday, I got really, really sick, and basically dropped out of sight, virtually and in reality.

With my health starting to bounce back, I figure posting this today is appropriate because, although the Sweep Day happened, the race didn't. So without any further ado, here is what I wrote last week (in italics), and some of this week's thoughts following it (in normal font):

"Apparently I'm still not well because I slept away the morning. But I got my butt into gear to get ready for tomorrow's sweep and Sunday's race. Weather permitting, of course.

Today I picked up two quiet Honda EU2000i generators, one for the start/finish area, one for the tent. These are so quiet you could put them under the table and still talk normally, so they'll be a huge improvement over the jackhammer-loud generator we had before.

I made another stop to pick up two power brooms, supplied by Valley Home and Garden Centre, a great hardware store in Simsbury, CT. They're Echo PAS systems, one with a brush attachment, one with a paddle. The paddle is supposed to be kinder, like for sweeping sand off of grass. Since I've had to do that before, I figured it wouldn't hurt. The brush is just a brush, like having six brooms sweeping at once, Gatling gun style.

I also picked up the van - it's been at the garage in Tariffville for, oh, like 3 or 4 weeks. As things kept breaking I kept thinking, "Well, I can squeegee the inside of the windows, I don't need to be able to aim the air at the window", but when the fan blower stopped working completely that was it. Without heat the van would be miserable to drive, miserable to change in, and really not all that much fun. Plus, when it gets warm, not having AC would be equally unpleasant.

So the van went in to get the "where the air gets blown" thing fixed as well as the blower motor. The garage gave a high estimate of $1000 to fix the directional thing (it's buried in the dash). This way I wouldn't have a heart attack when I picked up the van. I added on a tune up, oil change, belts, some other stuff, just because, well, might as well do it.

I picked up the van today and mentally held my breath when they gave me the bill.


Oh. Okay, so they're nice. And they even drove the van back home (I gave the guy a ride back to the garage).

With the weather as sketchy as it is, I almost called it off, but a quick check with my friend Gene convinced me to wait until tomorrow afternoon. Don't blame me, blame him.

So, tomorrow is Sweep, at 10 AM. I hope it takes less than 3 hours, 2 hours would be nice. Because it won't be a several hour marathon (like it has in the past), I'll award free races on the following schedule:

One hour = one week of free racing, up to 6 weeks.
Rain = 1 more free week of racing.

No refunds on free races (sorry!) but if one week is canceled you can use the race on a different weekend. And of course I reserve the right to increase the "award rate". I won't decrease it, so don't worry about that.

Anyway, this means I have to pack the van. And that means... a lot. To mentally write things down is one thing, to type them out is another. So to remind myself I'll start typing a bit:

- radios, both versions, charged
- battery charger
- chargers for Motorolas
- surge protector strips

- printer
- printer cable
- printer drivers to install

- two laptops
- wireless router
- (make sure new network is good)
- spreadsheet on laptop
- chargers for everything - phone, camera, laptops, printer, etc.
- cables for same

- tables - two folding, a few non-folding
- chairs (?)

- two generators
- leaf blower, wheeled and handheld
- gas cans, 5 gal x 2, 2.5 gal x 1, 1 gal x 1, 2 stroke x 1 (leave the 14 gallon one behind)
- 2 stroke oil
- gas stabilizer

- tents (2)
- sides to tents (7?)
- ropes etc to tie sides to tent
- gloves for workers
- extension cords just in case

- grate covers (all)
- cones, tall and short
- microwave
- checkbook
- cash drawer
- some cash for the drawer

Oh, can't forget:
- bike
- gear bag with shoes, clothing
- extra wheels
- pump
- thermos
- SRM and charger

Hmmm... I just finished packing the van, sort of. I have two more bins - radios, chargers, printer, mainly electronic type stuff. I forgot a LOT of stuff in the list above, but wandering around the garage, moving the blue car and poking around in front, I realized, "Oh, I need this. Oh, I need that."

So to the list above:
- propane tanks (3)
- heaters (only have one left?)
- camera tripod
- lap cards and holder
- white duct tape for finish line, just in case
- ANNUAL and ONE DAY LICENSE forms (that would have sucked if I forgot those)
- release forms (but someone else is bringing them, I'm just sayin')
- gas cleaner stuff for the van itself
- TV
- TiVO
- cables for above

And since it's kind of late, I'm going to bring the bike unbuilt. Just add race wheels, pump... I better get that stuff before I forget."

The van drove nicely, and it's pretty quiet when it's loaded down (it bounces around a lot when it's empty). I could even exceed 55 mph, something that it didn't like doing before, so that was a good sign.

Sweep took about 5 hours. At a week of racing per hour, that means the guys that helped out get a full Series of races, all of them, even the one that left early because he was about to get into trouble with his missus. And the guy who showed up late but refused any credit, I'll try and keep an eye out for him and force some race credit his direction.

Unfortunately, after all that work last week, I canceled the race. This week we'll give it a shot again. The weather seems to be cooperating a bit more, with temperatures expected to be higher than normal.

In the meantime I've built my bike, and I'll test it out tonight. I have to re-gather my bike stuff since my shoes and some other goodies are in the bike room.

Tomorrow morning (Saturday, March 7th, to be clear), I'll be checking out the course for sand and such. If it's wet I'll probably skip doing too much, but if it's dry, I'd like to try and get some sweeping done.

And then Sunday, hopefully, we can kick off this year's Series.