Friday, May 29, 2009

Training - Pedal Speed

Recently a few sights made me realize that my pedal stroke needed a lot of work.

1. CRCA/Empire rider Eric Brownell demolishing the field at East Hartford. Although he may not have lapped everyone in the field twice, he lapped many of them individually more than twice, including me. I kept coming off the back, waiting a lap, jumping in, and then getting sawed off again. His fast, smooth pedaling style really impressed me.

2. Giro stage yesterday - I caught the last 5k or so on Universal Sports. I watched McCarthy and my favorite unheralded pro Danny Pate go after the stage. McCarthy had an even faster and smoother pedal stroke than Brownell, and that was after hours of racing. Very inspiring.

3. I also realized that, at the track, guys with much lower gears than my monster 90" were going much faster than me. Obviously their pedal strokes were much smoother, much faster than mine. I just watch in disbelief when they tear around the track in tiny gears.

Therefore I decided to work on my pedal stroke.

A day off the bike Wednesday, a pretty sorry day on Tuesday, and a day off Monday meant that I could relearn my pedal stroke. Usually I need a few days off, but today I felt motivated, and I figured I could start the process with just one day off.

Tricks to relearning how to pedal:
1. Use low gears. I used a 39x15 or 39x17 on my Cyclops Fluid trainer. This translated to 25 mph at 120 rpm or so, about 300 watts in the higher gear.

2. Work on smooth by using a combination of higher and lower pedal speeds. I bump my rpms up to some uncomfortable speed, try and keep my pedal stroke smooth, then drop back down 20-40 rpms to, say, 120 rpms. Suddenly 120 seems pretty slow, because I just did a stint at 140 or higher.

3. Whenever I felt like gearing up, I thought of the image of pedaling samples 1 or 2 above. This kept my motivation high, with an image of what I wanted my pedal stroke to look like in my head.

4. Play music that has a 120 beat-per-minute rhythm. For me it was my brothers' music (Shovel Full of Dirt) and Paul Oakenfold stuff. Pedal with the beat and you'll zone out for a while.

5. No visuals - I didn't watch a race tape or anything. I wanted to focus on form so I watched my body, my hips, my back, my legs, in the mirrors around me. I tried especially hard to keep my hips from moving too much, up/down as well as any kind of rocking. That is, I looked when I had my eyes open. Much of the time I wasn't seeing anything, just feeling the pedal stroke.

6. Experiment with fore/aft position on the saddle. I can spin much faster sitting forward in the saddle, and that's natural, but I tried to slide back a bit too, so I could practice technique while in a "sit in the field" position. I found that I could pedal quickly by altering my pedal stroke just a bit. Well, I re-found that little tidbit, I just had to rediscover it again.

Focusing on pedal stroke made the time go by quickly - suddenly I was tired, thirsty, and an hour had gone by. It felt good though, to pedal fast. With no races this weekend, I can continue this "form refresher" right up through till Tuesday. Then the crit in East Hartford Tuesday night. Then the track on Wednesday.

That's when I hope to see a difference.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Bethel Spring Series 2009 - Proof Pics

There are a lot of links but Matt Stuart has put up what amounts to be the proofs of the Bethel Spring Series. Lots of good pics, you'll have to sort through them all.

March 15, 2009, Tour de Kirche:
Set 1, Set 2

March 22, 2009, Bethel CDP Gold Race:
Set 1, Set 2

March 29, 2009, Criterium de Bethel:
Set 1, Set 2

April 5, 2009, Circuit de Francis J Clarke:
Set 1, Set 2, Set 3

The last one includes all podium shots, including my favorite:

What's wrong with this picture?

Look carefully: Guido (on the right) and myself are Photoshopped into the picture, hence the weird angles. I asked Matt to make it really obvious but his definition of "obvious" and mine are two different things. I wanted jagged cut-outs but I think his professional pride prevented him from doing that.

Check back, I'm trying to get the two "halves" to post the before and after.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Racing - Whoa, Embarassment

Sunday's Hartford semi-fiasco seemed bad enough. It's hard when you don't do well in front of others, especially folks that aren't bike racers (the missus had two non-racing friends in attendance). Although a spectator can easily see the effort if they look at the racers up close, it's virtually impossible to see that when you're more than, say 15 or 20 feet away.

It gets more tricky when you have good riders who can make hard efforts over and over again. They raise the bar for everyone else, making it seem normal to launch attack after attack after attack. Then the spectators look at you and wonder, "Hey, why can't he do that? It doesn't look that hard..."

You can see this even watching the pros. I watched a good portion of the stage of the Giro that Sastre won, and watched in admiration as Scarponi took the race to the others. He looked strong, smooth, and unperturbed, at least until he exploded spectacularly. One minute he looked good, the next, wasted.

So in Hartford, I'd gotten to the fighting part of the field with the bell ringing, but a few seconds later I exploded. The missus's friend actually stood near the finishline with her camera, waiting to take a shot of me winning the sprint.

She stood and waited. And waited. And waited.

At some point she must have turned to the missus with that, "Where is he?" look on her face.

I came over the line, well behind everyone, a bit sheepishly. Hard to tell, with my face beet-red from heat, but yeah, it was a bit embarassing. But it was okay.

I suppose I got over the whole "I screwed up" thing when I played the violin.

Talk about a pressure pot - standing in front of an audience, no music stand or lectern or even a tall potted plant to hid behind, playing a squeeky instrument with no frets, with every tiny finger misplacement painfully obvious to everyone present. I screeched my way through many of these recitals before I realized that I could mess up a bit and the world would still be in one piece.

I'll never say it got easier, but I started focusing less on being scared and more on trying to play music. It got to the point where, towards the end of my recital-playing career, I felt disappointed when I finished playing. Given my druthers, I'd have kept sawing away at my fiddle (as my teacher would knowingly and incorrectly call it) for a few more pieces. Only the first minute or so seemed nerve-wracking, but after that, I felt confident in my fiddle-playing ability, comfortable that, really, if I messed up, it'd be okay.

Therefore I could play with my heart and soul, and that's what made it fun.

I suppose it helped that I was, towards the end, a Cat 2 level player. Decent speed, good form, and usually spot-on intonation. The latter is key with an instrument with no frets - everyone knows if you're a bit sharp or flat.

Anyway, a dozen years of fiddle-playing taught me a lot about being on stage, about trying hard even when things are collapsing around me.

Last night, at the Rent (Rentschler Field, or E-Haw as a donkey would say), I felt like I was back in kindegarden again.

I warmed up a bit, not enough. Definitely not enough to realize that in late May, if the temps are down in the 50s, I need knickers.

What, you say? Knickers when it's not icy out? Where's the flahute in you?

Long gone. Heck, I don't even train outside when it's too hot or too wet or even too cold, at least not for a while.

Anyway, the weather's been weird and it threw me off. 50s at Bethel in March? Shorts. 50s at the Rent in May? Knickers.

Last night I was in Bethel mode (overcast, threatening to rain, chilly), not May mode, and I rolled around in shorts like a first grader not realizing that he really can't play his recital piece too well.

At least not until he starts playing it.

We went about 50 yards when I realized my legs were ice cold. Slabs of frozen meat, moving up and down as my warm core tried to share its heat energy. I even sort of pulled, pathetically, for a pathetic distance, trying to force some blood into my legs.

In larger fields I'd have launched a little attack or something, relying on having time to recover before the tail end of the field flies by me. In the smaller Rent fields, I wouldn't even have time to soft-pedal before I was off the back. So instead of attacking, I pulled just a mite bit.

Then some of the warmed up riders started going fast. The guy doing most of the damage was Eric Brownell, a strong rider no matter how you cut it. He looked totally at ease in shorts and a short sleeve jersey (I, on the other hand, had a short sleeve, long sleeve, and a vest on).

A lap or so of that and I could feel my individual tendons strung between my cold muscles and my aching bones.

I finally sat up, a few laps into the race.

It is a training race though, and I figured I'd recover, let some blood flow into my legs, and be ready when the field lapped me in two laps or so.

I latched on, my tendons let their presence known, and I knew I had no blood in my legs.

I came off.

This time I let them lap me twice. I used the excuse that I was on the sheltered outside and I didn't want to interfere, but if you watched the race you would know that my excuse was, at best, totally invalid.

The strong, powerful group passed by me with at least 10 feet clearance. I watched them ride by.

The next lap I accelerated onto the back and clung there for a bit.

I came off again.

It took them maybe a lap and a half to pass me again, and this time I felt really determined (not) to hang in there. I did maybe two more laps and that was it for me.

I sat up, again, and decided that I'd head back to the car.

I think I'd been "racing" for only 20 or 25 minutes.

The missus, supportive as always, had been watching, and she greeted me with some concern on her face. She realized quickly that this wasn't any major disaster, not like when I got shelled at New Britain in 10 minutes, or on the first lap at Prospect Park, or in the first four minutes of a Bethel long ago.

I cleaned up a bit, warmed up, and we went off to dinner. I got to talk to my sister, but had to go when we got seated, telling her I'd call her when I got back home.

Apprently the cold had really sapped my strength though - I realized that only when, checking on Estelle (our hosted cat that's up for adoption), I lay down on the floor and fell asleep.

At some point the missus called me, I woke up, and stumbled to bed, delirious with fatigue.

I'll have to call my sister back today.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Racing - Hartford Crit

Well, at least it didn't rain during the race.

Other than that, not much went well, at least not racing-wise.

I felt hot going into the race. Not hot like "Dude, I'm gonna rock this race!" or hot like "Man, it's hot out!" but hot like "I feel feverish."

Since I've misinterpreted various allergy symptoms for colds, I decided that this latest iteration of the "cold that won't go away" was just another allergy symptom.


With sweat pouring out of my body, we set off to Hartford. We picked up some friends of the missus on the way, and we got to the race in good order, in good time, and even took a short route to our secret "just behind the start line" parking spot.

We set out our picnic stuff, but with my race coming up, I went back to the car to get ready.

That's when things started going south.

First off, when pumping up my front 440, I managed to unscrew the valve out of the tire. Since it's a really tall rim, the valve actually disappeared from view behind some plastic sheet material that Zipp used way back when. I couldn't reinsert the valve properly - the plastic sheeting got in the way. I pumped up the tire, but it seemed to go soft kinda fast. Finally, after pulling the pump off, I could hear the air hissing out of the tire.

On to the back up front wheel - a freshly glued DV46 Vittoria CX combo.

This tire, thankfully, inflated normally, and I stuck the matching rear wheel into to the bike. I gathered some Powerade (blue, to match the kit) and water (clear, because that's the color of water) and set off to warm up a bit.

Oh, but before that, I set up the helmet cam. New batteries - ultra light Lithium Ion - took probably a pound off the weight of the set-up, and I taped the other stuff together so I could jam the camcorder in one pocket, the batteries in another. No more Camelbak. I left the batteries in for the ChaseCam (on the helmet) because the batteries ought to be good for 12 or more hours. I kept the ZR100 off since that battery lasts something like 90 minutes - I'd turn it on just before the race.

There were two of us with no teammates so we warmed up together - Hob and me. My legs loaded up right away, I felt awful, and I dreaded the start of the race. The camcorder seemed a bit heavy but nothing crazy, and I felt only a touch of the weight bobbing.

I felt a bit better after a few minutes of cruising around, but nothing snappy, nothing jumpy like some of the others I saw sprinting up a short rise in the standard warm-up loop.

Then, with just a few minutes before the race, I made sure my camera was on, refilled bottles, drank some more (I probably drank two bottles while warming up), got gloves, and got the SRM head on the bike.

Then, totally unmotivated, I rolled to the line.

I realized something the other day - that I rarely get nervous in races, rarely get that adrenaline rush. I mean, yeah, I used to get them all the time - one of my teammates called me an "adrenaline junkie" - but after years and years of racing, it gets to be a bit rote. The challenges remain predictable, my weaknesses always obvious - I'd need to hang in, conserve energy, and hope that I had a sprint at the end of the race.

The missus and her friends were there supporting me, but I didn't feel quite right. Usually, if nothing else, I'll be excited (not nervous) about racing, happy, but instead I felt too heavy, too slow. I think it was the combination of the humidity, the perceived heat (I thought it was overwhelmingly hot, although not too many others agreed), and whatever this allergy thing does to slow me down.

Nonetheless I set off when the start sounded, reasonably motivated, and started exploring the course all over again.

The first turn had gotten much worse, a single line available on the inside, otherwise I had to go wide.

The backstretch was just as bad as before, with long, wide, jagged cracks running down the middle of the lane. I think I hit every single one of them in the first few laps, but after a while I found that I could either stay 2 feet to the right of the yellow line (which turned dotted white) or to the right of the solid shoulder line.

The wind really hit hard at the end of the backstretch, literally taking my breath away the first time I ran into it. I studiously avoided the left side after that, apparently missing a good spot for moving up.

The hill wasn't too bad, but I knew it'd get worse as the race went on.

With 25 laps of a 0.8 mile course, we'd be racing for something like 45 minutes, but, man, did it seem like an eternity.

One guy in blue, riding with locked elbows, would swerve dramatically around every bump and pothole. After watching a few guys almost get hit by his rear wheel (everyone started avoiding that rear wheel, knowing it would suddenly dart to the side by a foot), I decided I had to say something. I rolled up next to him and said, not too loudly, "Dude, you gotta ride through the stuff, not swerve around it."

Apparently I said it pretty loudly because both Hob and SOC heard me say it, as they reported to me after the race. They hadn't realized it was me though, just that someone was reprimanding someone else.

The guy was strong, at least stronger than me, because he seemed to be in front of me all the time. But his erratic riding was enough that I didn't notice any other erratic or unusual riding habits. Well, one guy with moaning brakes, but he seemed to know what he felt comfortable doing (and not), and so he was fine.

Hob and SOC both pointed out that they saw some significant contact, but that nothing came of it. Since both upgraded from Cat 4 recently, they found this refreshing. Apparently the Cat 3 field at Hartford seemed much better behaved than a typical Cat 4 crit. Better be, right?

The race stretched on and on, endless, and I regularly slammed into cracks, potholes, manhole covers, listening to the wheels banging around. I thought I'd flatted at least once, I hit so hard, but the tires held up. Tubulars rock.

A few times I found myself in big trouble, but the pace would ease just before I got sawed off completely, and I'd claw my way back into the race.

I used all the tricks I could. Sometimes I stood on the hill. I shifted into lower gears on the backstretch, sometimes higher ones. I sat on wheels like a limpet mine. I eased to let others get a spot that would allow me to draft them, instead of fighting needlessly for position.

None of it helped. I never felt my legs come around. I felt like I was pedaling in slow motion, churning through a thick vat of butter.

Finally we started seeing low lap card numbers. I swear that I saw 6 to go, then, two laps later, 5 to go, but it was just my overheating brain, numb legs, and building delirium responsible for that, not any officials or anything.

With three to go I was still far back, hoping I could salvage some kind of race for myself, for the missus's friends. I wondered if some miracle would happen, if suddenly I'd have some legs.

With two to go I got desperate, and when a guy in blue (not the aforementioned one, but I think a teammate) shot up the right side on the backstretch, I did a little move to follow him. I had to ease when I hit the wind, letting a few guys come in and fill the gap.

That move killed me.

It's like a thing I read about kicking a guy in his privates. Some martial arts will teach their disciples to launch a furious counter-attack if hit in the private because such an attack takes a second to sink in. The theory is that you have to attack before the pain hits, because once it sinks in, it's over.

Well, my move up the side was the kick in the privates.

The meter started running.

A few hundred meters later, the meter went "Ting!" and my legs exploded.

I did manage to make it to the bell, but when guys started going, I couldn't. I got around the first turn and sat up, letting a whole bunch of guys past me.

Finally, I heard someone pleaing, "C'mon Connecticut, don't sit up! Keep pedaling!"

I heard a response, "Dude, forget it, the race's over."

But that cry got through my addled brain and I started pedaling again, actually keeping some kind of pace with the field.

I followed them down the backstretch, around the last turn, and watched the guy in blue, who'd attacked a lap and a half earlier, finally pull off the front of the race.

Immediately everyone started sprinting.

"Boy," I thought, "I wish I was that strong."

I rolled up the hill, way behind the field.

A guy rolled up next to me.

"Sorry about yelling at you. It was just... well, you know." (or something like that).

I grinned, or tried to grin (it might have looked like a grimace).

"It's okay."

The announcer said my name, saying something about me. I think it was about the helmet cam.

I crossed the line.

Hot, tired, exhausted, I flopped onto our picnic area. Turned off the camcorder. Undid one of the Lithium Ion batteries (to turn the actual helmet cam "off").

Hey, at least I got some helmet cam footage.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Training - Exhaustion & Training Diaries

It's hard to remember what happens from year to year, especially at specific times of the year. For example, it's difficult to pinpoint exactly how I felt physically, mentally, and emotionally a year ago. It's hard to recall what I did, other than broad images or events.

With the Hartford Crit on for tomorrow, I was curious exactly how I felt going into the race.
So, although I may know that I went to the Hartford Crit last year, I don't know exactly how things were around that time.

That's why I keep a training diary (and so should you).

I was wondering how I was doing last year because, frankly, right now, I'm totally exhausted. Like tired down into my bones. I'll check to see how my race went last year because I think I went there but I don't remember what I did. By the way, although I've used physical diaries in the past, I've been using WKO for a couple years and it's nice that I can easily add up different months of training etc.


Last year I sprinted a lap early at Hartford. Oops.


Reading about 3-4 weeks of entries briefly, I can summarize my life back then.

1. Unemployed.
2. Riding extremely consistently.
3. At that point 142 hours of riding for the year, 158 for the season, and I didn't keep track of a bunch of SRM-less trainer rides (wrote them in elsewhere), but I had 150 total hours going into March, so figure another 30-40 hours of training by the end of May. Let's say 190 hours of training for the season.
4. Fresh. Doing intervals and such, a slightly organized training schedule.


1. Working a relatively physical job, 50-ish hours a week, 8-5:30 during the week, 8-5 on Saturdays. Coming home a total zombie on certain days, including this one.
2. Riding somewhat sporadically, although motivated to do Mon, Tue, and Wed rides when weather and energy levels cooperate.
3. Just under 78 hours for the season. Add 6 for track riding, but basically about 1/4 the time as last year.
4. Extremely fatigued. I'm talking I just woke up from a 6:45 PM nap at 8:30 PM, and I could barely keep my eyes open on the 2 mile drive to the place where we ate tonight. I skipped a ride last Monday because I was totally and completely exhausted.

In fact, I decided to skip my pre-race spin tonight. Too much energy for not enough benefit. Not only would I have to ride and shower, I need to bring the bike up and down stairs to get it to the trainer, and, really, I just don't feel like riding at all.

Heck, I'm struggling to get something to drink.

So I'll do my pre-race spin tomorrow morning, sitting on the trainer.

Hopefully I'll be able to find some get-up-and-go. Right now I don't know how it'll happen, but I hope that I "freshen up" a bit overnight.

Anyway, I wanted to make the point that it's important to keep a training diary. If you're just starting out, you can use a Weekly Reminder of some kind. I find them the best combination of size, available writing area, and ease of reference.

With a Weekly Reminder, you can sum up the hours each week, write it in the corner (I circle it, like an elementary school teacher might circle a test score), and it'll be an easy way to see how your hours varied over the course of the season. Races appear in the bottom corner (Sat/Sun), and there's enough room to write stuff like "2:00, did the Loop 2x, felt great, 53x15 up that roller, chased a bus on 2nd loop, 75 deg, shorts + ss jers, no cap"

I tried a Daily Reminder but I found it harder to find broad patterns because I could only see two days at a time (left side of book and right side of the open book).

Monthly Reminders, although cheapest (and therefore used during college and other lean years), have almost no room for writing. I wrote in tiny letters in those things, and if I screwed up something, or wrote illegibly, I had to sacrifice another day's space to correct things. Races would take up 1 1/2 days consistently.

Or, in today's modern era, you can use a computer program.

I happen to use WKO+, Cycling Peaks, whatever it's called. I don't explore it too much, and my review ends up reading Summaries through the Calender View. I use the "Time and Distance in Last 28 Days", select a date range, and make it 365 days to one data point to see total time and distance (one point for a year, basically, so it summarizes it for you).

But, at some point, I'll want to revive the physical diary. Installing and importing all this training data will require extra work, and I don't train scientifically enough to really need to use software.

(Okay, who am I kidding? I don't train scientifically at all.)

It's much more fun leafing through old training diaries anyway, and the hours/day and circled hours/week is pretty much all I check. I like the race descriptions. Just a few words will let me recall the race in vivid detail, at least the important parts. I think that's all I need.

Well, that and notes like "Tired" or "Rest" (where I don't ride at all).

Today would be a "Rest, Exhausted" day.

Let me type that into WKO. I gotta go to bed.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Equipment - Riggio Plans

Recently I updated the Riggio, swapping out the crank and bottom bracket combo.

However, I really feel the need to update the wheels on the bike. My big gear tendencies, along with a poor one to three minute threshold, meant that aero wheels should help a bit. They'd allow me to maintain the same speed at a lower wattage, helping me either stay in the race (first goal) or have the strength to do stuff when it counts (second goal). I also want to replace the heavy front wheel.

Based on my current "inventory", I have a couple choices.

First I can go "light".

I have a nice 32 hole Sun M17 tubular rim (340 grams on the scale, I checked). I'd previously built the wheel and then promptly unlaced it because the pinned seam was so bad. Well, bad for braking. For the track it shouldn't be a problem. I never rebuilt it, so it has about an hour of tension on it, max.

I also have a matching 19mm tubular tire. See, the M17 rim is 17 mm wide, and it was designed for a 19 mm tire. I have such a combination in the rear, and it's working fine. These wheels would be great for the hard accelerations required in races like the Chariot or Match Sprint.

A couple weeks ago I disassembled an old front wheel - Ultegra hub, Araya ADX-4 rim with an extra hole in it the size of a sheet rock screw - to salvage the hub. And with the trio of Japanese standard front track axles I just got, the hub will become a track axle.

Okay, either that one or the Dura Ace hub'ed wheel that is still intact. I haven't decided, but since the DA wheel was rideable and only recently built, I felt kind of bad taking it apart.

But writing this has made up my mind. That DA wheel, as it exists now, will perish soon.

Either way I'll need 300 mm spokes to lace up the M17 rim. I have to check my stash for what I have left, but I'm pretty sure I have either 299s or 300s in there somewhere. I have gobs of spoke nipples so it's just a matter of putting things together.

If I don't have the longer spokes, I'll look into a 2 cross pattern. I don't want to go radial, not with the weak flanges of a first generation Ultegra hub, and one cross seems a bit pointless.

I just have one rear wheel, the aforementioned M17-rimmed wheel. A Suntour Superbe Pro hub sits in the middle, a beautiful hub even in today's standards. Except for possibly relacing the wheel with 2.0 Revolution spokes (to reduce weight) and possibly tying the spokes together (to increase stiffness, which, on the bumpy track may be counterproductive), I'm happy with the wheel.

The other way I can go is "aero".

And I have everything for that, both front and rear wheels. The front is a circa 1994 Specialized TriSpoke wheel, threaded for a freewheel. These are the ones that can be converted to a front wheel easily, needing only a normal front axle set for a Suzue cartridge bearing hub. Luckily I have that set up, and with the addition of the second of the trio of track axles, the TriSpoke will be reborn a track wheel. I'll need to glue a tire (a take-off Conti that's too lumpy for the road will be fine) and voila, instant aero track wheel.

For the back I have a circa-1995 Specialized TriSpoke rear freehub wheel. These cannot be converted to a front wheel, but, hopefully, they can be converted to a track wheel. I bought a conversion kit made by Surly, and if it works out, I should be golden.

If not, I'll be looking to either unload the kit or find a hub that works with it. For example, if the conversion kit makes the wheel sit off center in the frame, I can't use it. On a spoked wheel I could just re-dish the thing, but with a TriSpoke I lose that option (it's a rigid three spoke wheel).

For now I've decided to stick with the 50x15 big monster gear. It suits me for now, and I'll eventually get a spare wheel with a much larger cog for warming up and working on my spin.

Of course, I could always work on, say, smoothing out my pedal stroke or even (gasp!) working on fitness.

For pedal stroke stuff, I figure I'll get a bigger cog, maybe a 16T, maybe even a 17T. I'll stick that on a wheel for warming up, focusing on crazy spinning. I want to figure out how to get the bike stable on the trainer (it wobbles like crazy) and how to shorten the wheelbase on the Kreitler rollers (the front axle is about an inch behind the roller axle). That'll give me the option of riding the track bike on a day other than Wednesday evenings in New Hampshire. I also do much better with technique experimentation while riding indoors in a controlled environment. I have a feeling I'll need to lower my saddle some, and I want to confirm this in some kind of semi-controlled manner.

I'll also be working on specific efforts, namely the ones that make me falter in a race. These include doing smooth, steady efforts after a jump (like chasing down a break), high level 1-3 minute efforts (2-6 lap efforts), and, of course, maximizing my top speed.

The latter I want to do "just because". It's the thing I least need to work on but it's a whole lot of fun going 100% on the track. I just want to zing the speedometer and see what it hits.

The first two efforts will take some doing, especially motivating myself mentally, but I think I have a good idea: I'll helmet-cam a day of racing and use the resulting video as a timer for my efforts.

I also want to install a cyclometer with cadence because it'll give me an idea of what works for me and what doesn't. If I hit the same top speed in a 48x15 as a 50x15, but I can acclerate faster, I'll know to use a 48x15. If my top speed drops dramatically, I'll know not to do so.

Finally I want to do some more sprints while at the race. Not just in races, but in the "between" periods. Being able to wind out the Riggio is a lot of fun, and "saving" myself for just the races limits me to perhaps one or two sprints a night. By blasting out 6 or 7 sprints during warm up and warm down, I can get in a much more intense evening of riding. I learn a lot about myself and how I interact with the track each time I go, and I don't want to dwaddle during the evening and let some precious potential lessons fritter themselves away.


Maybe I can get some of that stuff done tonight. Equipment stuff, not the training stuff.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Racing - Why Upgrade Equipment For a Cat 3?

(Note: for the track I should say "Cat 4" because that's what I am on the track.)

Since last week, when I picked up the parts for the track bike, I've been thinking of exactly what I wanted to do with the Riggio.


Why bother with equipment? Don't I know that bike racing potential is ultimately determined by genetics?

Yes, I do.

Nothing I can do (legally) can improve my body for bike racing beyond a certain point. And getting there would be painful in a different way - socially, relationship-wise with the missus, etc. Although I had such an opportunity to be a full time cyclist, I learned pretty quickly that I plateaued pretty quickly. I've decided that I know my lot in life, and I'm not too far away from being as good as I can be.

This means that, if I'm getting shelled in the fast B races on the track, I'll be getting shelled in the fast B races later. Okay, fine, I may be able to improve a bit, since the track is new to me, but you get the idea. Maybe I'll do some A races, but I won't magically become a 4:15 pursuiter or a 53 kph hour record holder.

Think of it this way - I won't be trying out for the National Team this summer.

So why put all this time and energy and focus into building wheels with no budget or major goals or whatever?

Because I want to perform to the best of my ability on race day.

I want to be as good as I can be on the Riggio next Tuesday. Because it's not my life, or my profession, or my vocation ($3 for a win won't go far in paying the mortgage), I can't sacrifice everything for it. But regardless of my work schedule, regardless of what I've eaten (or not), when I roll onto the track, I have only two things with me.

Me and my bike.

Tactics for most track racing is pretty basic. The single gear limits the speed differential to a certain extent, and therefore you have a two by two matrix:

(Low Gear / High Gear) x (Can Jump / Can Time Trial)

I have a High Gear and I Can Jump, so I have some top end, I can accelerate pretty well, but I can't hold anything for long. Most of the other riders have a Low Gear relative to me and they Can Time Trial. Ideally I need to use the high gear to keep my revs down and save my jump for the important bits of the race.

The reality is that when the Can Time Trial guys go to the front, I can't do much. I hang on for dear life and pray that I make it to the end.

(The Madison is different, but it's so complex that I can't get my head wrapped around it yet, so I don't count that yet.)

I can't really change my body, not at this moment. That's already done. I mean, yeah, I could have ridden tonight (for example, but I decided that it wasn't as important as doing some other stuff I wanted to do.

Fine, just before the racing starts I could drink a Coke or something. I did last week, but it didn't help. Sugar, caffeine, electrolytes, water, they all help. And, yes, I have more ideas for next week on this.

But I can optimize my bike.

I won't go hog-wild and get a Cervelo ($3k for a track frame through Excel!) with all crazy good parts, but I'll focus on the position, gear, and wheels. I have yet to put a speedometer on the bike so I have no metrics right now - I'd like to race next week with a speedo at least.

This way I can experiment. For example, I have yet to do a true flying 200 for any kind of baseline. I figure that I'll be faster with aero wheels than not, but without some kind of quantitative measurement, I don't really know. A speedometer will help prove this or not.

On the road my gear illustrates this idea of "fulfilling current potential" vividly. I have essentially a $8-10k bike. It's light, responsive, measures power, and it's way more than I need in a bike.

Yet not only did I buy it, I tried to improve it. I swapped out some parts for fit (post, saddle, bars, stem) but put on the Reynolds DV46 tubulars for races. And then, to top it off, I built up a Zipp 440 front wheel to make the bike even faster.

Am I a Cat 2 now? Will I be signing with a pro team?


I can't even stay with some local yahoos in the Tuesday Night World Championships, at least not the attack and break guys.

But man, it's fun.

It's fun training on it. It's fun bombing down descents with absolute confidence in the bike.

And, of course, it's fun racing on it. It's fun to bury myself with effort just to be able to stay on wheels. My whole world simplifies, narrows down to a singular focus - to get on that wheel in front of you, to sit just to one side of it to get maximum shelter, to not getting dropped.

For me, far too often, I watch a tiny gap grow until it looks like a chasm opened up between that wheel and me. Those are the painful moments, the disappointments.

In return I get to experience some better races, those where I manage to hang on, where I start counting laps so I keep track of when to sprint, as opposed to counting laps because "I'll do one more and then drop out".

It's those better days that, with a few laps to go, I find some "get up and go" from somewhere deep in my body. Suddenly things seem possible, little bursts of energy become available, and, magically, hopefully anyway, with 150 or 200 meters to go I'm sprinting for the line.

If a slightly faster wheelset gets me a bit closer to the front, so be it. If it lets me make 60 extra seconds of effort over an hour, sign me up.

It makes racing more fun for me.

And therefore it's worth it.

(Once again for those RSS subscriber types, I apologize for the premature publication of this post... I blame again the touch pad again although technically it's the nut holding the keyboard that really set the publication of the post into action.)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Dateline: 20:31, 20 May 2009

"Hey, how's it going? Um, I was wondering, could I install a crankset right now? ... It's okay if you don't have a free stand, I'll do it on the floor. When am I riding? Um, in about three hours... The track? Yeah, it's about, um, three hours away."

That was me talking, at the local shop.

With that I started my final task before I headed north for some NEV action.

I thought my frame was French threaded (with an Italian name frame, what was I thinking?). Well, the 26.6 mm seatpost threw me for a loop, making me think the frame was built along French standards. And my bleary eyes saw "38" on the bottom bracket cup instead of "36". Today, with clearer eyes, I saw that, in fact, it said 36x24.

Italian thread.

Therefore the crankset I ordered would fit, or, to be precise, the bottom bracket cups I ordered for the crankset I ordered would fit. I'd have pictures but I was in a hurry. I'll take "after the fact" shots though.

Suffice it to say that I figured out a way to uninstall the fixed cup without a fixed cup tool (use a vise to hold the cup, turn the frame), extracted the BB, and installed the cups for the new BB.


So I switched the left and right cups (Italian BBs do that, English ones don't because one side is reverse thread). Installed the cranks. Installed the shiny silver BMX chain. Thought about switching out the 48T chainring for my 50T. Looked at my watch. Nix the chainring swap.

25 minutes later, I left the shop with a virtually new drivetrain on the bike.

Note: I also had new brake pads on the blue car - and, curiously enough, the slight grinding noise while braking suddenly went away. I, of course, installed them today just before I left for the shop. I also managed to do some laundry - including the team kit in my gear bag. I did some dishes too, including the bottle in the car. And, of course, every time I walked by the window with Riley sitting on the sill, I'd pet her because she wasn't her normal skittish self. Of the other cats, Hal was most active. He just followed me around, meowing about all the things that cats meow about.

I got to the track with just a bit of time, maybe 20 minutes, before we gathered for the national anthem. Then it was off to the races - for me, it meant the B's - a Scratch race, a Snowball race, a Madison (!), and then some Match Sprints.

On the warm-up I realized the 48x15 felt much easier than the 50x15, but I was amazed that some of the good riders were using even lower gears (one a 48x17!). I figured I'd be good even with the change from the 50 to the 48 - I'd still have a bit taller gear than some guys.

The Scratch race is just a normal 15 lap race. We started off, me following this guy Will for a few laps. I remember him because last week he pointed out he was using a 48x14. I thought my 50x15 was big, a 48x14 is huge! This week he and I both rolled around on 48x15s during warm-up. Anyway, in the race, when he pulled off, I did a lap at the front, pulled off, and realized that my legs had difficulty spinning the 48x15.

Then someone attacked.

I went shooting off the back.

I simply couldn't spin the gear fast enough. My 175 mm @ 90 rpm road style didn't fit well with the 120 or whatever rpm I had to maintain to stay with the attacks, forget about launching one myself.

About 6 laps in I'd pulled off the racing line, and a lap or two later I was at the car. By the time the guys had sprinted for the finish, I'd removed the 50T ring from the old crank (luckily I did all that work on the way to the track, else I probably would have left it at home). Before the As finished their race my new crankset had my old 50T on it.

I felt a bit better now. At least I felt like I could hang onto the back of the group, if nothing else.

Of course, that's when someone pointed out, "Don't you want the lower gear for the sprints?"

Hm. I think I jump better with big gears. I'll stick with what I know.

The Snowball is an interesting race. It's sort of like an amortized points race. Only the winner gets the points, and on the first lap, there's only one point up for grabs. On the second, there are two. Third, three. And so on, up until 15 laps, where you can snag 15 points if you win that last sprint.

One guy went early and snagged all the "inexpensive" points, but his effort made him pull off the racing line once he got caught (he still got 4th or something). Then two more guys duked it out for a few laps, with me shadowing them, waiting for something, I don't know what, but something.

Then the guy on my wheel shot past me. I tried to go with him, out of the saddle and everything, but he'd gapped me good, and I started to explode, even with my 50x15. I looked back to see who else was there.

No one.


I sat up and one of the two guys duking it out earlier rolled by me, maintaining a nice, even pace, one that was absolutely unsustainable by yours truly.

I pulled up the track and stopped.

It seems I'm good for maybe a couple laps (they're typically 25-30 seconds a lap), but when the guys start plugging away for 4 or 5 laps, 2 or 3 minutes, I'm totally cooked.

I spent the next bit of time talking to one of the regulars. He pointed out some of the riders, their strengths, their focus, stuff like that. One guy that impressed me in previous weeks (in the A races) with his staying power had actually been focusing on the Match Sprint the prior year. He definitely had some get up and go, but apparently he decided to do a more rounded program for 09. Still, though, he had this cool as nails disk wheel.

On to the Madison. My training partner from last week wasn't around, so I did some practice slings with the aforementioned Will. But we didn't mesh well with the slings and I almost pulled him off his bike or something. He declined doing the race, so I teamed up with one of the other guys I know there, Scotty.

Now, although Scotty is a good racer (we duked it out last year), we hadn't practiced a single sling, and therefore it was kind of sketchy. It's pretty easy being the slinger (the guy racing up to that point who slings their partner into the race). It's harder being the slingee (the relief rider who gets whipped up to race speed in about 10 feet). It's even harder when you're supposed to be racing other teams while you're slinging one another all over the track.

We got totally annihilated.

I didn't help much - at least Scotty could hang with the boys. I couldn't go more than a lap, but it takes two laps to catch your relief man, so I'd lose us a good half lap each time I got into the race. One lap, fine. Two laps, trouble. Again, that jump from 30 seconds of effort to 60 seconds killed me.

Still, though, we got in some good slings, and neither of us crashed (actually no one crashed). Chalk it up to experience. I figure it'll take a good year or two before I get it down, and I'll need to have a time-trial-y type of rider to complement my very sprinty type of riding.

I just have to figure out how I can sling my relief partner in after just one lap. Or extend my usable power time up to 60 seconds minimum.

Finally we had some match sprints. Nothing too organized, just some semi-random triplets assigned by Tony, the track director.

The first sprint saw me matched up against the guy who could go forever in the Snowball race (he was chasing the winner) and a young rider who was apparently using some low gear. My 50x15 was a huge advantage over the younger rider, and when the other guy jumped, he couldn't go with the move. It took me a few pedal strokes to get on the Forever guy's wheel, and my jump let me go around him on the back stretch. I drilled it to the line but Forever had sat up.

I watched a few sprints while I caught my breath, including one really entertaining one where the resident pro-type rider Kirk actually playfully head-butted a guy trying to pass him as the bell rang. Then he rode his two opponents up away from the sprint lane (the fastest lane, and once you're in it in the sprint, other riders can't be in it next to you). Finally he dropped down to the sprint lane and went for the line. I forget how he did, first or second, but it was great fun watching a good rider having fun on the track (he was another that used a super low gear, so he had to use his guile to help make up for his lack of top end speed).

Then Tony, another good rider using a low gear (and the guy in charge of the track), had me, him, and the aforementioned disk wheel guy go at it. Tony had that low gear so I knew I had to keep the pace higher, but the disk wheel would give the other guy a speed advantage. My only hope was that they'd be using lower gears than me, and I'd be able to get some top end speed that they couldn't hit.

I rolled at the front, aware that Tony's low gear would make it hard for me to match a jump. By keeping the speed higher, I hoped to keep Tony at bay. Then it'd be me and the disk wheel guy. I figured it'd be him or me based on Tony's low gear (and my strategy to use my big gear to my advantage, i.e. keep the initial pace high enough so I won't bog down when I jump).

Sure enough, Disk Wheel went, I went with him, and, no, he wasn't using a big gear. I jumped on the backstretch, passing him on the right. Incredibly Tony was there too, I felt him just behind to my right. Disk Wheel fought back pretty hard, but ultimately I managed to get around him.

I felt better about the second sprint because the one guy focused on sprinting the prior season, so the "win" felt more honorable. Honestly, though, I have a feeling that if Tony had any kind of normal gear on his bike, he'd have walked away with the sprint.

So a few things I learned about track racing:
1. There are Three Three Word phrases that you have to remember:
- Don't stop pedaling
- Stick, Stay, Rail
- Um... I forget the last one.

2. Good riders can spin little gears ridiculously fast. Big gears are a crutch for lack of "souplesse" or pedaling smoothness.

3. You have to practice slings to be able to do a Madison.

4. I like Match Sprints.

We'll see how the rest of the summer goes.

At this point, this week, I have two days of riding, of which two days were racing. My legs feel pretty normal after the wrecking I gave them Sunday. Next up on the riding agenda - the Hartford Crit (Bike Reg link here), coming up this Sunday.

(For those of you with RSS feeds, my laptop touchpad made me publish a post, so apologies for that)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Racing - East Hartford 5/19

Although we had a frost scare last night (I even took in our flowers), the day turned out awesome - almost 70 degrees, a powerful sun that let me work in a short sleeve shirt.

This meant, among other things, that the Tuesday Night Race at Rentschler Field would finally take place.

During my lunch break I dragged my bike out of the basement, packed some gear, and staged everything in the still-cool garage. Then, about 20 minutes early, I cut out of work, rushed home, collected the missus and my bike stuff, and off we went.

About 10 minutes away I realized I left all my race wheels in the still-cool garage. But, hey, it's a training race, so I'd just have to deal with heavy, box section, 32 spoke wheels. What a rough life, right?

We got to the Rent and, man, it was breezy. I thought only Bethel had weather pattern anomalies, but obviously Rentschler Field does too. Instead of funneling all the area's wind down a valley, the Field is smack dab in the middle of a huge cleared flat area, a place where they used to be able to handle 747s on their runways. I guess wind swirls around it or something.

So, yeah, it was windy.

But with the nice weather, there were a lot of racers out there.

I needed to get some blood flowing through my legs - they still felt wobbly after my spontaneous 5k run on Sunday - and I quickly dressed and got on the bike. The wind sapped any will to do efforts so I toodled around for a while.

I did do one thing - to avoid any accidental un-clips, I cranked the tension down on the pedals. Much, much better.

We got going, and after a lap or two of nothing, guys started going. And then someone on a Cervelo just ripped us apart. This guy lapped the field (where I sat) twice, the powerful chase group once.

By himself.

When the chase first went I looked across the field, just like everyone else. Later, I realized the folly of this act, and pointed it out to one of the guys that understands how I race.

"You know, I look across the course at the break, like everyone else, but there's only one difference. I can't do anything about it. Like, what, I'm gonna go bridge? Who am I kidding?"

I actually did think about bridging for a lap, but by the time I got up to some reasonable spot in the field (like not the very back), the break had gained another quarter lap. A bit far for me, I thought, so I gave up the idea of bridging.

I drifted back in the field.

I started looking at my watch, wondering how long 45 minutes would take. Then, finally, I saw the guy start fumbling with the lap card thing, so I started moving up. Next lap - 5 to go.

I tried to move up discretely, a bit dizzy or something because I came close to making contact on both my left and right side. Contact avoided, I kept trying to move up.

Things got tighter as the laps started counting down, and I had no clue what to do for the sprint. The wind felt vicious everywhere, and I had to keep moving left and right to find shelter on each successive section of course. I didn't know if I could go from a long way out or if I should do a short sprint. I simply couldn't get a read on the wind, but I knew it'd kill me if I got stuck in it.

So I just kept my options open in the last couple laps of the race. Something always seems to pop up - it's just a matter of having the legs to seize the opportunity.

Heh. Seize the opportunity.


With about 3/4 of a lap to go, I saw my opening. A guy surged up the outside, no one on his wheel. I rectified the latter statement, quickly jumping up to speed and tucking in behind him. He made a couple moves to get near the front of the field, then, with someone yelling at him to go, he went.

I went too, trying to stay to his right, where I could get shelter on the crosswind mainstretch. We were both too late to catch the guy who won the field sprint. But, with some riding reminiscent of the track, I surged in the saddle, spinning up some speed, then stood up as I slammed the bike into a higher gear.

I almost caught the guy who won the sprint, but, of course, we were sprinting for something like 9th place, having been lapped at least once by a bunch of guys. It was all good, though, as I wanted to see how I sprinted after a couple days at the track.

Answer? Decent. Not great.

Afterwards I talked a bit with RTC, and he made an interesting comment, something like, "It's amazing what adrenaline will do."

I thought about it for a moment. I realized, whether it's a good thing or not, that I had no adrenaline rush in the last two laps. I had a main task (sprint well) with a bunch of sub-tasks (move up, jump at the right time, etc). I simply did what I needed to do, but with no special feelings.

In the past I'd have proclaimed myself "burnt out", but now, with a bit of thought, I think it's more that, in a twenty or so rider field, I feel comfortable. I trusted the guys and gals that were racing, and I was okay making whatever moves I made. They came automatically, without much thought.

I think it's like playing the violin in a recital. When you pick a piece to play, you pick one that is so easy that it's almost boring. Then, in the actual recital, you feel less stressed because at least one thing, the technical part of playing the violin, is a non-factor. Now you just have to deal with playing in front of a crowd, on a stage, etc etc.

I'm pretty sure I get adrenaline rushes in other races - Bethel, Nutmeg, for sure. But in other ones, it's gotten to the rote stage, to the recital stage. It doesn't mean it's easy physically, but the field maneuvers feel normal. Fun, yes, for sure. Exciting, sort of. Scary, no. Fear, none.

Okay, I've felt some fear in some races, but usually they're the biggies and I get nervous that some sketchy riding could take me out.

Hm. Something to think about.

In the meantime, tomorrow is track day. And I'm tired. Time for bed.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Life - The Wild Tabby

Tabby up front, Grey in the background.

On Mondays and Thursdays I look forward to feeding the kitties under the building. With only one day off, the folks at the store typically forget to feed them (on the other hand, they feed them regularly if I'm away for more than a day or so). This means the cats, Grey, a wild Tabby, and sometimes (rarely) a Hal/Riley sibling will get much closer to me than normal.

Grey, in fact, will saunter within a few feet of me, and, with a few worried glances my way, chomp down some food.

The wild Tabby (we never named it) would follow a minute or so later, encouraged by Grey's lack of concern.

This morning Grey seemed unusually distant - like 40 or 50 feet away, not 6 or 7. I looked around their little habitat I'd built - both food bowls had been tossed around, one bed overturned, straw everywhere (I put straw in three shelters plus two beds).

Something didn't seem quite right.

After I put out some food and clean water, Grey still wouldn't come close.

So, for some reason, I did something I rarely do - I crawled further under the building to check inside the three shelters. In the middle one I found the Tabby.

I had another guy check it out (I couldn't) and it seemed relatively unscathed. It showed no marks, no blood, no signs of fighting, but it had been dead for more than a few hours. It could have been a car, maybe poison, but whatever it was, the Tabby knew where it would be safest.

Where ever it was when it realized it was in trouble, the Tabby returned to his bed and curled up one final time, curled up in its straw-lined shelter.

Rest in peace.


The Friday before the Monday. Tabby and Grey in front of two of their shelters.

Double-walled, insulated, with straw inside. I checked the shelters during the winter, to see if they were using them. They had patted down the straw into a circular pattern, and the straw felt warm to the touch when I've checked them with the watching cats nearby.

Tabby apparently felt most comfortable in a third shelter, between the two, made from a box lined with Styrofoam.

Tabby eating on that day.

Looking a bit pensive.

A regal pose.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Training - Semi-Annual Run and Team Tactics

I walk tonight with sore, quaking legs. The result of a terrific pace in a race earlier in the day? Or perhaps I did twenty or so sprints, warming up the legs for the summer to come. Or I did an unthinkable, riding some road race loop, complete with hills and such. What exactly did I do?

I (fake) ran a 5k.

See, late Saturday, the missus and I trekked down to my dad's with a bunch of tasks in mind. First off, we wanted to see the family (check). Second, we wanted to ride the tandem in a local ride (negatory - poor forecast). Third, we needed to drop off a bunch of promoting gear at one of the club member's house (check).

We managed a few bonus tasks too - we managed to empty the van enough that I felt comfortable driving it back home (we don't like storing it up here if there's too much good stuff in it).

And, finally, the bro's wife took us to the gym.

Actually, I drove my brother's new SI, so that was cool. One necessary acceleration meant bouncing the tach for a couple gears between a conservative-for-this-engine 4k and 5k (it doesn't even start to breathe until 6k and redlines at 8k), but otherwise I simply enjoyed the swift handling, beautiful shifting action, and the enveloping seats.

Okay, car stuff out of the way.

The last time I ran was, well, the last time the bro's wife dragged me to the gym, so it was about 6 months ago. Then, too, I did some absurd little self-test, running 1.5 miles about as hard as I could run. This time I wanted to see how long it would take me to run a 5k. Actually, when I started on the treadmill, I didn't really care, but when I saw "5k" on the list of automatic programs (i.e. you push the 5k button and it does a 5k thing for you), I couldn't resist.

I pushed the button.

Okay, first I stopped, watched my current run's stats (I'd hit "Manual" before, and just loped along at 6 mph), and then I hit the button.

Nothing happened.

I mean, okay, the timer started counting, but treadmill went to all of 0.5 mph. I wanted to go a bit faster than a 120 minute mile pace, which would correspond to some six hour 5k time. I quickly bumped up the speed to 6 mph, the 10 minute mile pace I'd been running before.

Time started to drag a bit.

I started thinking about how much more interesting riding would be, although the chilly overcast view out the window didn't make me rue leaving the bike behind.

At some point I grabbed the heart rate handles, and after a warning message, saw 138 bpm. Low. I decided that I'd accelerate as I went on.

After an eternity that took ten minutes, I'd run a mile. I bumped up the pace to a 9 minute mile. My thumping style smoothed out a bit, the treadmill shaking less. I felt a lot better. I tried not to lift my feet too much (I read that in some magazine somewhere), ran about 110 steps a minute (similar to a 170mm crank arm cadence), and tried to keep from being too bouncy.

My treadmill had some issues - broken TV screen, broken fan - so I focused on the red dot (me) going around the 440 yard course.

Another eternity, this one taking nine minutes, and I'd run two miles. I checked my heart rate on the grip things, waited for the "don't use the grip heart rate things while running as fast as you're running" message to scroll past, and finally got my HR - 158.

Not that hard, even for me. Heck, I do that during training rides. On the flats.

I decided I'd push the pace a bit. I bumped the pace up to some mid-8 minute mile, but as the remaining distance shrank, I kept hitting the Up arrow, finally settling in on a 6:40 pace for the last lap and change.

I got a bit distracted and didn't know exactly what I'd done for my fake 5k, but it was in the 27:30 - 28:00 range. Nothing world shattering - quite slow in fact - but I felt totally spent. Soaked in sweat, I couldn't even do 6 miles on the wildly optimistic computerized exercise bike (I was averaging 170 watts or so).

We all went back to my dad's, I showered, and we set off to drop off promoting stuff with the van. Luckily the van started (thanks to a 2 month old battery), there were no ants (I parked it in the driveway, not in the woods), and the van was pretty neatly packed due to the efforts of all the folks that helped out at Bethel this year.

A short time later and we were headed back home. The van seemed so empty that we decided to bring it back with us, with a "must stop" at a former local haunt named Ash Creek. We used to go there all the time - before the missus and I were even official, we went there because it happened to be between our two abodes. We kept going there since we ended up living only a couple miles away, and they have some smashing good burgers (although the guacamole burger disappeared, the bacon cheeseburg wrap is to die for).

After a couple good burgers (hey, we ran earlier in the day), we set off for home. I told the missus she could head on out as the van limited my top speed to just over the speed limit. I knew I'd be in the slow lane for much of the way home, and I didn't want to cramp her style.

However, supportive as she is, she went fast enough only to catch me (she got caught at a light just before the highway). After that she cruised at my speed, slow.

After following her through a few obstacles - clumps of drivers, last-second mergers separating us, and hills that, ironically, slowed me down - I realized something.

She and I were driving like teammates.

Okay, fine, we're married, but that's not what I meant. We were riding like racing teammates. We both knew our strengths and weaknesses, and we both tried to help each other out.

For example, she knew that I couldn't merge as easily with the ~5500 pound, 20 foot long van, so she'd change lanes first (behind me) and then let me into the lane in front of her. Or, if she dropped me on a hill, I'd try and catch up on the downhill, instead of her slowing too much on the hill. Naturally I used large vehicles for their draft, and followed such large vehicles closer than little ones (the van doesn't stop on a dime, so I have to be much more careful with slowing or stopping distances).

Just like riding.

All these adjustments happened somewhat automatically, just like they do when you have experienced teammates working together in a race.

We even had those riders, er, drivers, who cut between us, clearing the two of us by only a couple feet. Yet, without panicking, we worked together, using their tendencies against them, making them do what we wanted just by giving them the room to do it.

I hope that tomorrow my legs recover a bit, enough to let me do the group ride from Granby without embarrassing myself. Too, I hope that my legs then recover enough to do the EHaw race at the Rent, the first day the forecast looks promising. And finally, I hope that my legs are good for Wednesday up at NEV - I'm looking forward to practicing Madison stuff.

I better go eat some protein or something.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

How To - Link to "Think" by Josh Horowitz

I like this article. A lot.

It's easy to understand the author's frustration with his peers, if you can call them that. Fellow cyclists, maybe? Unfortunately I can relate to his frustrations.

A short time ago I went on a local group ride. At some point we slowed, the front half of the group uncertain where to go, the rear half just far enough behind that "Go right!" sounded like "Stay right!" (or something like that).

The result?

The front half slowed, fanning out just a bit, the rear half blended in, and then we had a mess of riders and bikes blocking a small intersection. One car, a Jeep, slowed, pulled wide, wide enough to clear any errant cyclist toppling over, and proceeded around the group. I thought it a sensible, cautious move, one that felt neutral. No anger, no slammed gas pedal, just a slow, cautious bit of navigation.

One joker in the group, though, thought differently. He actually yelled out loud, "Why are you driving in the middle of the effing road?!"


Maybe I'm taking this wrong, but the reason why the guy was driving "in the middle of the effing road" is you. And me. And the other riders in the road.

(I lump myself with all the riders, but in fact I stopped about 50 feet away, away from the intersection, away from the turn, and right on the shoulder of the road. Still, though, in the driver's eye, I was just another "biker" clogging up the quiet road.)

Until then I'd been trying to be subtle about respecting the drivers on the road. I stayed to the right of the rider in front of me - folks were leaving so much room to their right that I could easily and comfortably ride to their right. And that isn't even using "Cat 3" distances - non-racers felt totally comfortable with me riding to their right (albeit a bit puzzled).

I'm not the ride leader, nor am I even a secondary leader. Sure, I'll yell, "Car back!" and stuff, but everyone should. The guys from the shop, the guys who are helping run the shop's group, they're the leaders. But, although they seem to respect the drivers around them, they don't seem comfortable in the leadership role, at least not the more difficult "admonishment" role.

Usually riders bunch up when they're talking or they're engrossed in something other than riding. I remember last year one guy trying to talk up a woman on the ride, ignoring the car on his rear quarter for at least a minute. I finally yelled at him to move over, and his response?

"He didn't want to pass."

Well, no sh*t, Sherlock. You were in the way, and unlike your attitude towards him, the driver actually had some respect for you.

The active solution, if I were a ride leader, would be to tell the riders to single up and such. Set expectations before the ride leaves. And to foster a constructive, professional atmosphere where something like "Car back!" means move over, pronto, and to do it in a safe way.

Heck, such moves teaches you valuable racing skills - when the course suddenly narrows, it's hard to merge unless you've done it before, under duress. And moving over to clear the road while holding up another person, to me that's merging under some self-imposed duress (is that proper English?).

I can't take over the ride though. It's not mine. I can (and will) make some suggestions to the leader, but that's an active move. I can't do that, not at this time.

I can, however, act passively. I know, I know, nothing like a passive-aggressive to really screw things up.

When riders stop focusing on riding and start focusing on talking, chatting, or checking out so-and-so's butt, they get careless. They do things like run off the road (seen it), run into ditches (seen it), even take out teammates (been taken out).

With an even more cautious car stuck behind us, I had to do something.

On that day, with a group of mainly non-racers, I used a simple passive solution - ride faster. I went past the group, eased to tempt them to get my wheel, and picked up the pace once riders latched on. Incredibly I didn't explode like I normally do, which would then lead me to my other passive method, dropping off the ride altogether.

But, since I wanted to ride a bit, I rode. The group started splintering, the pace uncomfortable. Riders started focusing on wheels, on the shoulder. Riding side by side became uncomfortable for some, impossible for others, and they either singled up or dropped off the pace. The ride became business-like.

Suddenly the group rode in a respectable manner. They were single file, out of the way of traffic. The cautious car, now faced with the less daunting prospect of passing three groups of five or so riders instead of one huge field of "racers", leapfrogged his way from group to group. As the car approached me in the front group, I started waving it on (I could see over the crest of the hill, he couldn't). He cautiously waited until he, too, could see over the crest of the hill, then passed me.

A good, safe, risk-averse driver. A good, safe, respectable, risk-averse group of cyclists. Good things.

A business-like group works efficiently. Its expectations are clear. Riders take responsibility for the group.

In these days, it can be difficult to pin responsibility on the one that should shoulder it. I love this article on the whole credit card thing. Ultimately the cardholder decided to ask for a loan. No bank forced them to do it. Yes, it's wrong to have banks change fees or hide them or make them unclear, but I can read the credit card offers I get in the mail and it's clear - application fee, annual fee, interest, late fee, over-limit fee, it's all there.

Likewise, when you ride your bike in a group, take responsibility for your actions. Don't let the group dilute your sense of right and wrong.

"Car back!" means move into single file, if you haven't already. If you're in the front two riders, it means estimating how far out riders need to be to clear any near future obstacles (grates, branches, gravel, etc), and to hold a position to clear said obstacles.

Call out road hazards. Although many experienced riders deride verbal warnings ("What is this, a Cat 4 ride?"), they work extremely well. The riders can keep both hands on the bars, ready for something unexpected - you can brake, steer, even bunny-hop if necessary. A long time ago, on a team ride, a little hand gesture pointing down became "Holy crap!" as it became clear that the stick was, in fact, a 2x4 in the road (we all managed to bunny hop it safely). For this area I verbally call out grates, holes, glass, and sticks. The first three can cause a flat, and sticks can rip off a rear derailleur in an eyeblink.

Incidentally, you do have a spare dropout in your saddle bag, right? And a tube, multitool that includes a chain tool, a pump, and something to temporarily patch a cut sidewall?

Because that's another group ride responsibility - Be prepared to make minor fixes on the road. Nothing sucks more than a guy who flats but doesn't have a tube and some inflation device. It forces others to give up their spares, their CO2, when the original flatter could have easily had his own tube and inflation device.

Signal. If you're going to turn or slow or stop, signal. Not for the other riders - for the cars. I know that it must be illegal to use your turn signals where I live because no one uses them. I can't think of any other reason. However, until I get ticketed for signaling, I'll signal. It makes your intent clear, and that goes a long way towards peaceful car-bike interactions.

You'll know when you're in a "professional group". You can ride fast or slow, but you'll find the "good" group rides have some similar features.

1. You'll find it less necessary to point out obstacles. This is because the first rider makes gradual adjustments to his/her trajectory to clear said obstacles, and since everyone is following in close to single file, the first rider acts as a pathfinder.
2. If you ever need to point out an obstacle, you'll vocalize it so that no one else has to take a hand off the bar. If you're third or fourth in line, extending your fingers on the obstacle side works too.
3. Strong riders will work where their work benefits the group most - on downhills (most beneficial) and on the flats (second most beneficial).
4. The pace adjusts on the hill so that the group climbs at about the weakest rider's pace. Since drafting counts less on hills, the weakest climber can lead or sit second, and the others ride with that rider's pace in mind.
5. A flat tire becomes a two minute delay, not a ten minute one.

And finally,

6. You'll rarely get honked at for any valid reason.

See you out there.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Dateline: 20:12, 13 May 2009

Yep, at it again. I actually don't need to lower my average speed tonight - I think I'm at about 65 for the average (the car says I've been doing 63, but earlier it was reading north of 70).

Anyway, this means I have another day of track riding under my belt. I could treat it like skiing:

"I did 21 days this year."

Or, for me, relating to the track:

"I've done six (or maybe seven) days so far."

Today's foray seemed less successful to me. Although I didn't race as well, that's okay - winning or not, ultimately I go to work hard, to explore limits. Today, though, I lacked pep. Felt flat.

We started with the Scratch race, as usual. I learned that this isn't a coincidence - it's designed to be a nice intro to the evening's racing.

I rolled out with everyone else but simply couldn't get into the pedals. I must have been fumbling around for a good 20 or 30 seconds, finally engaging the cleat on the backstretch. A bemused A racer, following the group to warm up, looked on with a slightly horrified look on his face.

With a big crowd, maybe 15 racers in the Bs, the pace should have been high. Instead, it seemed a bit flat. And after a couple riders had some contact (my first experience seeing two riders touch hard right in front of me - and without brakes, it was slightly perturbing), I moved up from my tailgun position.

Then, with a few gaps starting to appear, I moved up even more.

Eventually two guys went off, with a few others chasing. A few riders decided to sacrifice themselves to try and bring back the two man break, but as the laps wound down and the sacrificial riders blew left and right, I realized that it would take a hard effort to make it across, not just a bunch of pulls.

So at 4 to go, I jumped. Bridged. And managed to hide for one turn (the sun wasn't throwing down any illuminating shadows).

The next turn the two guys were looking across the track to check their advantage, and the second guy glanced down and saw three shadows. He quickly looked back, then to his right.


I was too tired to wave but I really should have. As it was, the two had been metering their efforts, and as we approached the bell, they drilled it.

I shot out the back.

With half a lap to go I felt like a group of three chasers would swamp me at the finish, so I swung up the track, ceding third through fifth.

Next up - the Miss and Out. Like I said before, it's good to be slightly uptrack (to the right) of someone, then making sure you're in front of them at the line. I did this reasonably successfully last week, running into trouble when we were down in numbers and I couldn't sit on a wheel while sitting one row up the track.

The group rode pretty steadily, in tight formation. I should have sat there and waited out the race. I should have waited for the inevitable break, then bridge up to it (just not as hard as I bridged in the Scratch race).

Instead, I attacked.

Now, unusually, I was on the inside, pretty boxed in, when I went. I never really thought about attacking - my legs suddenly went, I veered into the only opening in front of me, and, as I squirted out into the open, I heard an surprised "Oh!" as I went by someone.

No contact, no weirdness, just some hollering to chase me down.

For the first time in many, many years I can say that I went off the front for two laps. 318 meter laps, but still, two laps. I looked back, trying to count the riders so I could get an idea of how many laps I had to survive, but after counting the last three riders thrice, I gave up.

(Hint - if doing a Miss and Out, count how many start the race before the race starts.)

Four riders separated themselves from the group, and with four riders the cut-off (meaning once four riders were left, the race stopped, and after a couple rest laps, they'd sprint for first through fourth), they were anxious to keep it to only four.

When I got caught, one of the protagonists from last week's racing yelled out, "If you get in after that, you better work!"

Little did he know that I was totally blown. I tried to hang in but couldn't close the gap, and finally, agonizingly, I had to sit up. The two guys on my wheel attacked each other, and the four in the lead rode away.

After that a guy from CycleLoft gave us some Madison lessons. The Madison, done right, looks something like this:

But that's now how we did it.

The important part of the madison is when you throw your teammate into the fray. Since that can be sort of dangerous, it's important to get the basics down. So we started working on that. I paired up with a guy who'd done this before so he was pretty good.

Me, on the other hand, I felt... not so good.

First we worked on sort of a sticky throw, meaning we didn't let go. It was a bit comical, watching guys fling one another forward and backwards. The idea with the hand sling is that one rider gives his momentum to the other, with a slight arm boost thrown in for good measure. Our illustrious instructor mentioned the example that one rider would go from 30 mph (race speed) to 20 mph (relief rider speed). The relief rider, getting tossed into the race, would go from 20 mph to 30 mph.

If you don't let go, though, it doesn't look very interesting. It's like watching kids learn how to play soccer - it's just a rumble around a ball. We yo-yo'd fore and aft, not unlike two guys on a railway hand car, until we had accelerated up to some unmanageable speed.

Next we actually let go. I felt less comfortable with this. I could toss him up to speed fine, but I wasn't smooth getting ramped up. Holding the drops and getting a hand sling didn't jibe well with me. We did a few extra practice throws for me, and then we stopped so they could get the A race Madison under way.

Apparently I looked pretty good though because the announcer, Dick Ring, asked if I'd be doing the actual Madison race. I smiled and declined.

Good thing, too, because I realized at some point that my left crank arm was wobbling around the bottom bracket axle. Jamming an incompatible crank onto said BB was, ultimately, unsuccessful.

I also realized that the frame is French threaded (!!!). French?! What were they thinking? I don't know, but what I do know if that the Italian BB I ordered won't fit. Arg.

Anyway, with that unfortunate revelation, the mosquitoes swarming, the temperature plummeting, and the light fading, I decided to call it a night.

The high point of the night - one of the four in the break in the Miss and Out (actually, he got fourth) called out my name.

"Nice move. Threading the needle."

Wink and a finger point.

I couldn't help but smile.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Racing - Ee-Haw*

*Ee-Haw = East Hartford, or "The Rent" as they call Rentschler Field.

The East Hartford Tuesday Night World Championships (boasting rights good for one week) start off... well, they were supposed to start last week. But they cancel if the tarmac is wet, and last week it was pouring.

This week it's supposed to be 30% chance of thundershowers, or something like that. In Connecticut that means it could be pouring rain with thunder and lightning, or it could be a bright sunny day.

If you're looking to do the race, you can follow their Twitter account, Tuesday@TheRent. They'll update with any misgivings "T-storms predicted... keep updated here to find out if the races are happening on the 12th".

Since this is Day Two of my M-Tu-W training block, I hope the race goes on. If not, well, it'll be a sufferfest in the basement. Or something like that.

I think next year I'll twitter the Bethel Spring Series status. What a great idea.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Track - Notes and Stuff

A pic from the first race at NEV. Since they were taken by the Cambridge Bike crew, they prominently feature... the Cambridge Bike crew. However, here's the one I like:

Second wheel in the Unknown Distance race. Dying a thousand deaths. From here.

The key here is that the bell ringer is taking the picture. That means we aren't sprinting for the finish on this lap. Cambridge has a guy up front, another one on my wheel, and the picture is during the two laps where I didn't pull, just before the bell rang. To recap briefly, the guy at the front didn't want to pull, I didn't want to pull, and when he pulled up, I went up too. The third guy (another Cambridge rider) went by, dragging the fourth rider with him. Then the two of us dropped back down, at which point I was sitting in fourth. I managed to win, though, and it was my only win for the night.

The day after the NEV day I woke up feeling sore. And I mean sore. I hadn't done so many sprints in a day in forever. My whole body was sore. Legs, sure, but also arms, shoulders, sides, neck, everything. I figured that this was a good thing because I've decided that this is now my pre-build up to the 2010 Bethel Spring Series.

Eh... what?

Yep, from May 2009 until about October 2009 I'll be focusing on building form for the winter. Then, after a proper winter break, I'll be ready to build on this pre-form form so that I can kick some serious bahuniaks at the 2010 Bethel Spring Series.

See, I figure I regressed so much in form that I'm in that "Year 2" of the "3 Years to See How Good You Are". That's the theory that it takes three years to get to your first serious racing plateau. Since my 190+ pound days in 2003 ("Year 1"), I've rarely gotten down below 175 (end of "Year 1" type form). Now that I'm semi-consistently below 170 ("Year 2" form), I hope to build on that and get into some "Year 3" form.

For the record, that would be consistent sub-160 pound race weights.

Anyway, to build this pre-form properly, I'll be doing a local group ride on Mondays, the Tuesday Night World Championships, and the track on Wednesdays. If I can find a race for the weekend, great, but, believe it or not, I feel the weekends are less important than the M-Tu-W rides.

The reason? I end up riding about 2-2.5 hours on each of the M-Tu-W rides. This is an enormous amount of hours for me.

In contrast, I rarely break an hour on a weekend race. If I'm doing 6 hours a week, that's a huge improvement over my normal weekly schedule. This would go a long way towards building pre-form form.

A nice thing about the M-Tu-W rides is that I don't need any special equipment to do them. Race wheels? Optional on Tuesday, and the only wheels I have for the track bike are, well, race wheels. Mondays are definitely training wheel days, although I may venture out on the carbon DV46 clinchers just because I can.

The track racing, last week, was the first day I actually rode my first M-Tu-W triple - I didn't do the Monday because I thought it'd rain (it didn't), and it really did rain on Tu and the promoters cancel if water sits on the tarmac.

The track, though, worked out. And I'm happy because it's really fun racing out there.

Having said that, my track bike is a bit lacking. I've lamented the wrong gear I have and the lack of any "nice" wheels, and I'm working to remedy that. Not for this week, but maybe for next week.

On the way home from work the other day, I dropped by the local bike shop and ordered a few front axle/nuts combos and a Surly Fixxer. This should increase my track wheel repetoire by two or three-fold - TriSpokes front and rear (Fixxer and one front axle set), a 440 front wheel (another axle set), and a light tubular front wheel (yet another axle set).

I ordered a lot of front axles for some reason.

But wait, there's more!

Today, after the ride there, I also ordered a few chainrings. That'll get me the lower gear I need - a 48T and a 49T to complement my 50T. Then, after noticing a crankset costs the same as a chainring, I canceled one of the rings and got a crankset instead, as well as some BB cups.


I just realized that I may have to rethink the order since I may not need to get the crankset because I can use my 135mm BCD Campy arms. But if I do that I'll need to get 135mm BCD chainrings. And get an Italian threaded Campy 102mm square taper BB, which costs as much as three of the 130mm BCD chainrings, or, more precisely, two chainrings and a whole crankset and bottom bracket from SRAM.


I think I'll leave the order as is. If I get good at track racing I'll deal with any equipment deficiencies then.

The rest of the bike is fine. I made a few changes before the first race. One significant thing was that I swapped the seat and post for a slightly more durable, slightly heavier Titanio saddle on top of a Thomson post.

The Thomson post is a story unto itself. Last year I learned the hard way that my frame takes an oddball 26.6 mm diameter post. Since I thought it took a 26.8 mm post, I ordered one. I thought I remembered it took that size because, frankly, it couldn't have been a 26.6 because that's an oddball size.

When the 26.8 came in, it wouldn't fit. The frame, naturally, took the 26.6 oddball size.

So, in a fit of despair, I left the post where it was. In the blue car. Which I then garaged for the winter. So 4 or 5 or 6 months later, when the blue car finally rolled out into the sunshine, I found my expensive 0.2 mm mistaken Thomson.

Then, I saw a bike forums post that made me sing. "Can I put a 26.6mm Thomson into a 26.8 frame?"

I immediately offered to swap posts. But the poster didn't have the post, he saw one on eBay. He offered to buy mine, and I sold it to him for $54.95, shipped (I paid retail for it, at my own insistence, so it was a relatively big loss for me). After PayPal's cut, I got $53.03 or something like that.

Since the eBay listing looked sort of dead, and it had been sitting at $10 for a while, I told the original poster that I'd give him the difference if I got it for, say, $20.

I told my boss at work I needed to buy this post, and I need to snipe the auction. Since I've done the same for the store (in internal corporate auctions), she smiled and let me play the game. I stood around anxiously at the computer, refreshing constantly. I decided $55 max, and got ready to bid that (it sat at about $33). My boss covered the front and left me alone.

Then, with 2 seconds to go, I pounced.

Bam, bid, refresh.


I bought the post. And, with shipping, the post came out to $52.98. Five cents off what I got for the 26.8.


Now my karmatic post holds a slightly heavier Titanio seat, one with proper titanium rails. I've changed the bar and stem, too, in order to unweight the front a bit.

Really, though, my bike's the same as before. Same heavy frame. Same rear wheel. Same cog and chain. But it doesn't matter. It's a track bike.

Anyway, until the ordered parts come in, I'll feel like a little army that's lacking a few vital pieces. When the supply line finally connects, though, I'll be ready to do battle.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Dateline: 21:49, 6 May 2009

So I'm at some rest stop on the Mass Pike, trying to get my average speed down a bit. You know those tolls where you "get a ticket" then you pay when you get off the highway? I'm convinced that one day they'll hand out tickets.

You know, something like this:

"Hi. So... you got on at 495? And you're here... in 30 minutes? 40 miles in 30 minutes... let's see, that's 80 mph. So your total here will be $1.95 for the toll and $425 for a speeding ticket for averaging 15 over the limit for 30 minutes."

It's not happening, but I tell you, it will.

So I'm here, going 0 mph.

I'm up here because I was up further tonight, at the New England Velodrome (NEV). I came here last year, but I was doing the C/D races, the beginners. Tonight I raced the Bs and watched the As. A little different.

Over the winter I imagined myself getting a nice Jamis Sonik, or at least an aero front wheel, maybe a 49T chainring. I have a 50x15, and it's a monster gear at this particular track. Most guys run a 48 or 49, and they look smooth compared to my monster mashing style.

I didn't stop on the way up to the track, worried about traffic in the late afternoon, and with EZ Pass, I won't know if they're doing my speeding ticket thing until I get a statement next month. My worries ended up paranoia - I got to the track about 40 minutes before the racing started, giving me plenty of time to get ready.

I made one change to the bike so far - I installed a level stem (14 cm flat, not 14 cm pointed down) and one of my precious crit bars. I haven't measured the delta in position but it's significant. I did one practice sprint, and I barely had any rear wheel skip or unweighting. With my weight further back, the bike felt much more stable.

We did a bunch of races tonight - a Scratch race to start, then a Chariot race, a Miss and Out, an Unknown Distance, and finally a Points race.

The Scratch race should be ideal for me - it's a race where the first across the line wins. So it's like a crit on a 318 meter course with two turns. And you can pedal through the turns. I've been undefeated in the two Scratch races I did last year, and Scratch races make for good warm-ups, so I looked forward to doing this one. Unfortunately my legs didn't respond too well (perhaps my day off yesterday had something to do with this) and I sat up at some point just before the line, the race totally lost.

The Chariot race is a one lap drag race. Since I have the monster gear, I typically can't accelerate too well, so I figured this would be a short race for me. Surprisingly I managed to keep in contact with the leaders, but I didn't have the track to come around - we were five wide in the last turn and yours truly was waaaaaay up the track. I sat up for this one too.

The Miss And Out was interesting. I remembered my mentor (albeit for two days of track racing) telling me that you gotta be on the outside in a Miss And Out. You can keep a guy to the inside, then surge past him at the line. The inside guy is automatically boxed in, so he's in a weak position.

So I kept a guy to my inside, surged a bit, and found myself in a group of four. I'd been in the wind for a lot of the race, hanging to the side, and my body started to disintegrate. Tongue parched, legs going wobbly, upper body going numb, I had no idea what was going on. I sat one one guy's wheel and suddenly the other two sprinted around me. I was eliminated (but in 4th place) and the three guys went on to do a match sprint.


I like match sprints.

At this point, being sort of alone all day, for the 2.5 hour drive, and then in my own world prepping for the race and then racing, I started doing what alone people do - talk to myself.

I actually said, out loud, "Something's wrong. I have to get a good sprint in."

And so, during a short neutral period, I went high on the banking, got out of the saddle, and positively cranked on the bike. Out of the saddle accelerating, then back on it, pedaling furiously around the last turn. No swinging wide, no problems holding the low line.

Gasping, I sat up and let the bike slow down. I got in another lap, trying to recover, and they called us to the line for the Unknown Distance race.

I wondered, a bit belatedly, if it was a good idea to do a full out, 100% sprint, just before the start of a race. I figured the others were wondering the same thing too, like, "Who is this joker?"

The Unknown Distance is exactly that, a race where suddenly they ring the bell. With more people they have longer races, and I think we had 10 or 14 racers. Not only that, they'd also ring the bell for a prime. My mentor said that Unknown Distance races were tough, and usually you gamble on a lap and just go for it.

However, with a prime lap, I knew there'd be at least one lap to go. Not only that, they forgot to put someone at the bell for two laps, so I knew it was okay for each of those laps. In other words, I could relax a bit.

Nonetheless, I tried to monitor the front. The three guys who won the Miss And Out were obvious targets, and I guessed that they'd ring the bell for the finish shortly after the prime, when everyone was struggling.

At some point the bell rang for the prime, three guys went, and the rider in front of me left a gap. I closed it quickly, waiting to pounce if they rang the bell again. They didn't, but the three guys kept it going, and along with a guy behind me, we pulled away from the rest.

A five rider race is much easier to handle than a 10 or 14 rider race.

We shelled one guy (well, not "we" since I could barely pull, so the other three), so it was down to four. I pulled through once, but then an A racer rolling around said that I shouldn't work, not with two guys on one team in the group. Basically we should let that team sacrifice one guy, and the three of us would sprint.

So when I was supposed to pull again, I declined. Since the guy in front pulled up the track, I followed him, and the two others dove through the big hole we left. As the guy in front of me dove down, with me on his wheel, the bell rang.

Fourth in line, and if someone really drilled it, it would be tough. But I think the guy in second, who I figured was the strongest of us all, he wanted to wait to jump. I had no choice - I had to go early because I was so far back.

I jumped on the backstretch, pulled up to and past the second guy, effectively boxing him in a la Miss and Out. The guy in front was dying, and as I went into the last turn, the race was mine to lose. Second guy finally got out from behind the dying leadout guy but it was too late.


I guess my leg opening sprint worked.

I was hoping for something in the Points race. We did 20 laps, sprinting on every fifth lap. Since the last sprint is usually worth more, I decided to sit and watch the first sprint. I did, and a little group detached. It was the two teammates again, from the UD race, plus one of the guys that made that final group in the same race.

I was dying though, just dying. The Second guy from the UD race, one of the two teammates, took off just after the second sprint, dragging another with him. This left me and Second's teammate fighting for third place points.

I heard one guy say that whoever comes out of the last turn first will win the sprint, but the guy I was with looked pretty cooked. I felt cooked too, but I know I can sprint a bit even when I'm cooked. So when he jumped past me on the backstretch, I waited, figuring I'd pass him just before the line for third place points. I'm pretty sure I pulled it off. I actually pulled up to pull out of the race, but he slowed so much that I rolled back down and followed him. He didn't react so I think he thought I swung up because I felt like it, not because I wanted to quit.

Again, an A racer rolling along said that I shouldn't work, so I didn't, not really anyway, for two laps. I let him move me to the front with 2 to go, and led until we both jumped. I led at my speed, good for my monster gear, good for my style of jump. He should have tried to break my rhythm but I think he really was cooked. I led out from the backstretch and took the third place points for the last sprint.

Unfortunately the last sprint wasn't double points so I wasn't top 3, but that's okay. I learned a bit more with my two sprints, more than I knew before today.

All in all a decent night. I was on the bike for about 2.5 hours in total, racing maybe 10 or 15 minutes. I got in some decent sprints, learned how to take the turns better.

And I want to be much smoother. Watching the As, wow, they are "smooth like butta", as one guy once described his bike to us.

So goals for the future: build a lighter front wheel for my bike using parts I have laying around. Buy a couple Campy track axles so I can use my Zipp 440 and a Campy Record Crono tubular wheel I have in the garage. The latter would be a great track wheel - the braking surface is damaged, but the wheel rolls fine.

And get a slightly smaller gear. And learn to spin it well.

Time to get back on the road.