Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Racing - @TheRent, June 30, 2009

For the past week or so, the weather forecast for the area has been sort of similar each day: 10 more days of scattered thundershowers. The percentage chance of precipitation varies from 30 to 50%, and weather.com has ominous pictures of grey clouds with lightning and such, but with the sun peeking out from behind it.

Welcome to Connecticut in June!

Although we've had some bad weather, including an unusual tornado touching down nearby, the weather hasn't followed up the forecast very well in the past 4 or 5 days. Okay, I admit we got dumped on for a while, but Sunday, for example, turned out to be a great day. Same with Monday. And Tuesday.

And that brings me to Tuesday@TheRent, or EHaw, aka The East Hartford Training Races at Rentschler Field.

I came into the day a bit tired, with a race on Sunday and a longish group ride on Monday. The latter included some relatively significant climbing, one hill extending for 10 or so minutes of leg-breaking, steadily declining (500w -> 220w) effort. I also made some significant short efforts, trying to learn how hard I can go after a way-anaerobic effort. The hardest was a jump after a string of slower moving cars, did an extended hard effort, then tried to make it up this kicker of a little hill. I managed to turn the pedals over until I could breathe again so that was a good sign (first time I could do that on that hill).

After two harder days on the bike, I feel either leery or expectant. Leery because my legs are shot, or expectant because I'm starting to feel good.

This time I felt expectant.

As soon as I got home from work, the missus and I packed up and rushed off to the race. I scarfed down a banana, drank some Gatorade, and hoped that the pasta I had at lunch would hold me through the race until dinner. I hadn't "unconfigured" my bike from the Monday night ride, so it still had my seat bag, tail light, and Down Low Glow light setup. Although I took the tail light and bag off later, I'd leave the DLGs on while I warmed up.

I grabbed a brimmed cap, a "training cap", because I like the look of a brimmed cap under a helmet. For racing I usually use a brimless cap because then I can see forward while my head is in that "I'm hurting" looking down pose. Today, though, was more for training, so it was brimmed cap time.

At the race I used a recycled Bethel number (I'd been assigned 286 for the Rent Series so I found an unused 286, cut off the Bethel references, and am using that number), using 9 pins (!) to hold it to my jersey.

Which reminds me, I want to do a post on pinning. But that's a different topic.

Anyway, I registered and went warming up with some of the guys I met and raced with on Sunday. One of the guys was SOC, the guy who I tried to help that day. He seemed as cheerful as ever, and he wanted to do a good ride at his second (?) Rent race for the year.

Just before heading back to the start line, one of guys rolling around with me asked me what those silver tubes (the DLG) were on the bike. To illustrate I plugged in the battery, lighting them up. And since this was a flat race, and therefore battery weight really doesn't matter, I decided to race with the lights on.

(Note: I've raced with the feathery weight lights themselves since prior to the CCC Crit at Bethel. They're kind of a pain to take off so I've just left them on.)

The usual threats, Aiden and Tim, were there, but the third leg smasher, Eric, wasn't. This gave me some hope that the race would be a bit more suitable to someone like me. When the three leg smashers start smashing legs, I fall victim pretty quickly. When one is missing, the other two tend to smash a little less, and that lets me actually race a bit.

In this case Tim launched a hard attack at the start, literally standing up on the pedals for something like half a lap. After two or three hard laps he finally sat up, and the cursing field sat up with him.

Except for one of SOC's teammates, who promptly launched a counterattack.

He got a gap pretty quickly, tempting others to bridge, but with his team CVC literally everywhere in the field, it'd be up to one of maybe 8 or 10 riders to make the effort. I did a little pull, closed a little gap to a group of four racers, but nothing significant as far as the race was concerned.

For me, though, bridging that little gap was pretty significant because I went hard to do it, promptly got caught, and then managed to hang on when the pace picked up again.

Of course, as luck would have it, I timed it all wrong. With attacks and counterattacks collectively tiring the fields' legs, it was an ideal time to launch a muderous attack.

And when it finally came, it came just as I got caught. Of course it had to be Tim. He took with him two or three riders, quickly got a 40 or 50 meter gap, and then one of SOC's teammates bridged.

After a lap or three of pulling, the break sat well clear of the field, reshuffled to include just Tim, one of Aiden's CCNS teammates, and one of SOC's teammates.

I groveled in the hurt pit for a while, hanging on. At about this time I started regretting choosing the cool looking brimmed cap. I couldn't see well without lifting my head up, but I was so tired I didn't want to lift. So I shoved my cap up, helmet down, trying to rearrange stuff, but nothing worked. I had to keep peering up to see what was going on.

Note to self: use brimless caps in any race situation.

When a few of SOC's teammates rolled off the front, I felt obligated to chase, or, as I prefer, bridge (brimmed cap or not).

See, if you chase all the time, you're only helping the field. Great if you're trying to help someone in the field (like a teammate or a friend), but usually it's just a collosal waste of energy.

Instead, I like the Bridge. This involves launching a somewhat hard jump, like 2/3's of a sprint, then following it up with a leg-searing (for me) 450-500 watt effort. With a Bridge effort, you gap the field, not drag it along, so anyone who wants to go with you has to make the same initial jump effort.

And no one else benefits from your work.

By now Tim and his two break companions were well up the road, about 1/2 to 3/4 of a lap clear. I hadn't seen SOC for a few laps so I figured he may have flatted, or, after the race Sunday, and doing a little instructional racing in the earlier B race, he had sat up. I still felt obligated to race though, and I decided that if he wasn't in the field, I'd race for myself but take more "effort chances", i.e. bridge and stuff. You know, test my legs and such.

SOC's teammates, numerous as they were, did an honorable thing - instead of blocking and blocking and blocking and blocking, they decided to do a parallel pursuit type effort, keeping the pace high enough to discourage attacks but low enough that they didn't chase down the break.

They actually set a pretty hard pace, one that got guys in difficulty. One by one guys got shelled. I sat near the back, struggling a bit, but when the guy in front of me let a gap go, I couldn't do anything about it. I should have, but my stupid cap was in the way and I didn't realize what was happening until it was too late. I did one of my "periscope" checks, saw pavement, and immediately kicked myself (mentally of course) for wearing the brimmed cap.

One guy rolled around me, and I realized I was in an Australian Pursuit like position. I was sitting on a guy's wheel and I had to calculate when I should go, balancing three important variables: recovering, wind direction, and the escaping field. The more I sat, the better recovered I'd be when I finally went. I could only go in certain sections of the course so I could use the wind to my benefit - in the headwind bit I'd explode quickly if I went there, so I'd have to wait until a more gentle section of the course. The whole time I thought about this the field steadily rolled away - I didn't have all day to think about my problem.

Finally, with the field at the edge of "reachability", my legs about as good as they'd get, I went pretty hard. I think the guy wasn't very happy with my jump (I think he was expecting a gentle pull), but I knew it was either jump or get lapped, and I wanted to try and get back into the field.

I pedaled furiously, trying to bridge before the headwind section. The missus, surprised to see this third big effort, screamed in support as I cranked by her.

And, miraculously, I made it back into the field.

But my legs weren't happy at all, I started to twinge a lot, and I couldn't catch my breath. A lap later, my legs sort of went numb and I sat up. Guys rolled by me, mainly solo, time trialing behind the field. I moved way over, off the racing line, when the break rolled up to me. Tim plugged away at the front, the CCNS guy sat second wheel, and SOC's teammate rolled by in third spot.

When he got next to me my adled, oxygen-starved brain did some calculations. Deep profile wheels, red Cannondale frame... it wasn't SOC's teammate. It was SOC himself!

Well now.

I was glad I never chased, not that I could have, but still, you know, I'm glad I didn't. It's hard restraining that kind of power, you know :)?

I stopped by the missus and Mrs SOC so I could watch the final bit of the race unfold. Tim had been pulling like a mofo, CCNS too, and SOC, well, he looked good but I think he was the least experienced of the three riders.

I said to the missus that Tim knew what to do, so did the other guy, but SOC, he'd be happy just to be in the break, and he may do too much work in the last couple laps.

Plus, I thought silently, Tim can throw down a world of hurt, something that SOC probably has never experienced.

I hollered at him to build reserves, but the Doppler effect meant he heard, "Errrssss". Then I told him to keep alert, which he heard as, "Errrssss."

I figured Tim would go at around 2 to go, and sure enough, 150 meters before they saw the 2 to go card, he launched a hard attack. SOC tried to go, as did the third rider, but it took a good 250 meters for them to come close to closing the gap.

Another 250 and it was all together. The third rider launched just after the bell. I screamed "RIGHT!!!!" and this time, because they were already passed us, no Doppler. SOC looked right and jumped hard. Tim went too, sitting on, watching, lurking.

Oh man. It's like watching a cat crouched on the floor, tail wiggling, digging in its claws, preparing to launch.

Tim was the cat. And the other two would be dead meat.

On the backstretch, just as SOC rolled up to the escapee's wheel, Tim went.


The CCNS gamely went after him, SOC struggling to hold his wheel, but that was it. Game over.

Tim could spend some time raising his hands, time he almost needed as he was recovering from a tough crash a couple weeks ago. SOC came around the CCNS guy for second, a great two laps of effort.

After the obligatory post-race chatting, the four of us (SOC and his wife, me and mine) went out for some dinner.

I felt pleasantly fatigued, pleasantly tired. Legs a bit sore from this third day of hard riding.

SOC related a funny story. Tim is a well known local, a bronze medalist at Elite Nationals, a really, really strong racer. And though SOC knew of Tim, he's never met Tim, didn't even know what he looked like. So after the race, Tim rolled by and complimented SOC on his race. SOC, polite and cheerful as ever, introduced himself.

"And your name is...?"
"Um.... Unkert?"

(SOC: mental calculations)


We all laughed. Then I relayed one of the many Tim stories I like to tell, the one about him getting the bronze at Nationals.

SOC looked at me.

"I'm glad I didn't know that before the race."

We got to watch as a dark thunderstorm rolled over the parking lot, dumping some good amount of water all around. Then, as we finished dinner, the sun set and the skies cleared up.

Good food. Good company. Good times.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Racing - Keith Berger Crit 2009 or The Failed Leadout

My preparations for the race on Sunday went pretty poorly, even for me. Okay, I did manage to ride on Tuesday. I didn't race Wednesday. Or ride Thursday. Or Friday. But I planned on riding Saturday.


Well, let's say Saturday was a long day for me, no longer than normal, but somehow I felt much more tired than normal. I came home, lay down, pet one of the grown kittens a bit (Hal usually craves attention, but it may have been Tiger), and...

Woke up TWO HOURS later.

So Sunday, hopefully well rested, I gathered some gear, ate some bacon and eggs, and drove off to the Keith Berger Race with the missus.

I wanted to get a decent warm-up in, but it was hot, I didn't feel too energetic, and I only did a couple laps of the course before the officials lined us up.

The last time I did this race I either got totally shelled or I exploded just before the sprint. Either way I didn't feel too good about the whole thing. Too hard, too fast.

However, this is SOC's team's race, so I decided I'd come race to both support his team as well as support SOC himself in the race. He'd made the trip to Bethel to help me out so I felt it natural to return the favor.

From past experience I knew my help would be limited so I laid out my comprehensive plans.

"Okay, start looking for me at 2 to go. If I'm feeling good, I'll be around at 2 to go. If not, look for me on the backstretch on the last lap. I'll try and launch you so you can jump out of the last turn."

Real optimistic, right?

The flat, four corner course usually meant a strung out field, but with a lot of horsepower turned off, a strong crosswind on the back stretch, and a lot of sprinters looking for a bunch finish, the field mainly stayed together.

To experience the front, the wind, and to get an idea of what I'd have to do on the last lap, I moved up to the front on a prime lap. I saw two guys from Central Wheel at the front, a long time friend(-ly rival) John on their wheel, and decided to slot in just in front of John. I'd lead him out for the prime.

Trouble was that when I stood to go, my legs didn't go.

Feeling totally embarrassed, I buried myself to bring the front of the group back together after the sprint, apologizing to John the whole time.

I really felt bad and slunk back into the field, kicking myself the whole time.

A bit later I saw a four man break take off. Lo and behold, John was in it. Therefore, although I felt some obligation to pull a bit for SOC, I felt I had to give John a chance, so I watched as various riders countered and others blocked.

One of the riders who launched was one Secondo, a guy I actually trained with one day (however briefly) and a really good guy. He's another guy that, if I'm not racing for myself, I'll gladly race for him, even if he doesn't know it. I've done that in the past, and I'm sure I'll do it in the future.

Anyway, after a couple laps of insanely difficult solo chasing, he exploded out there somewhere in no man's land. You could almost see bits and pieces fly everywhere, and he shot backwards like he was shot out of a cannon.

A bit concerned, I kept an eye on him, even asking if he was okay. I had iced Gatorade, water, whatever, but he could barely focus on what I said.

He was in trouble.

After we took a corner, he seemed lethargic accelerating up to speed. I sat up on the windward side, trying to give him shelter, but when the gap grew to 20 or so feet, I knew I had to take some action. I eased a bit, let him pull up next to me, and gently reached out, checking my immediate six to make sure no one was overlapping my wheel.

And shoved him across the gap.

He actually had to brake, I shoved him so hard, and in a couple pedal strokes I rode into his windward side again.

Ends up that the one shove made all the difference and he managed to finish the race.

My good deed for Secondo done for the day, I started looking around for SOC. He'd been diligently sitting on the sheltered side on the back stretch, moving up when necessary, not fighting unecessarily for position. A good, solid ride, saving it for the finish. His team kept making efforts, chasing if necessary, attacking if the opportunity popped up, and generally rode a respectable race.

With two to go I found SOC.

I tried to stay sheltered, trying to stay out of the wind, saving my one match for an acceleration 200-300 meters from the third turn.

We hit the bell, maybe 20 back, SOC on my wheel. I moved up a bit, riding in the middle of the field, and tried to set up to be in the middle on the backstretch. I gambled on finding an opening halfway down the backstretch, even if it was on the left, and then launching SOC for the line.

Two guys immediately filled the gap to my left, maybe three guys sitting to my right. And a lot of guys in front. SOC faithfully followed me. I started getting a bit less optimistic about this "left side gap".

Someone started going pretty early, halfway down the backstretch, and the line strung out a bit. Now I had two guys to my left and two guys to my right.

A slight opening in front, the guys on my left started accelerating, and I found a lane to the outside of the third turn. I took it, trying to find big wide lanes, but guys were automatically closing up behind me.

SOC lost my wheel.

I kept going a bit, too far back for anything, but I had to keep going. Maybe he'd rocket up to me, or maybe I'd see a huge opening, but whatever, I just kept going.

The final turn, faster than normal, and the guys at the front were way up there. I watched as guys fought for the win, watched as all hope of a top 10 for SOC faded to nothing. I did a semi-sprint, half-hearted, disappointed in myself for letting SOC down. It was his race, not mine, and my fear of the wind kept me from finding an advantageous position for SOC at the most critical juncture.

If only...

Thinking about it afterwards, I knew I could have done a bunch of things.

First, I could have moved up aggressively before the backstretch. With the race over and my normal post-race mulling, I realized that if I'd made even a brief effort out of the first turn, I could have gained a few spots, maybe tucking into 15th or 20th position. This would have changed my approach to the backstretch, but it may have left me in a different position going into the third turn.

Second, even if it meant that I couldn't actually lead him out, going into the wind just after the second turn, when the wind blew the strongest, would have let me get SOC into perhaps the top 7 or 8 spots. I'd have to depend on his superior aerobic strength for him to hold that position, but it's different fighting to maintain position as opposed to fighting to gain position. Usually it's easier to maintain position, especially with half a lap to go.

Third, as the field flared out when the wind started easing, I should have gone left, even waving SOC to my right, so I could shelter him directly. Then I could move at will, letting him follow in the wind vacuum to my right.

My ultimate mistake was to give up the inside line on the backstretch - I felt it would be too risky, that we'd get totally boxed in. But the field naturally veered left before the third turn, setting up for it, and therefore the inside would have opened up. I should have thought of that.

A hard, aggressive move up the inside could have netted a good 10-12 spots, slotting in to maybe 6th to 8th position. At that point it'd have been a full committed effort to the last turn, across the brief 100 meter third stretch, and cornering just as hard as possible.

I'd have flared out a bit, letting SOC scoot up the inside, and watched as he sprinted for the line.

Whatever he'd have done, it would have been better than losing him with two turns to go.

After the race I cooled down with him, Hob, and a few of SOC's teammates. We had a great talk about the race, coulda-woulda-shoulda kind of talk. It reminded me of the old Carpe Diem Racing squad, the hyper-excitement building until even I was swearing to emphasize points.

Like over and over again.

And I really don't swear that much.

All in all, a decent race. I felt much better during the race. No cramps (I've been drinking Gatorade - back to that, now that I found a place selling mix - Frost flavor???), no undue pressure, no popping off the back. I could even help out some others.

So, next time, a bit more aggressive riding, a bit more sacrifice. It's hard being a helper teammate for me because I'm not used to hammering in the wind. It's unnatural for me to leave openings behind me, for someone to follow. And I have to remember that someone is glued to my wheel and trying to do everything I do. I start second-guessing moves, re-calculating what's possible so that I factor in a second rider, stuff like that.

It's hard.

And it's a lot of fun.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Training - How NOT To Do A Group Ride

I should apologize.

Actually, I did, to the guys that organize the ride. See, the other evening, I changed my ride goals from that of a reasonable, cooperative rider to the Group Ride's worst nightmare: The Pace Shifter.

Let me explain.

There's a no-drop ride on Mondays, one that varies in route but is ultimately meant to be a reasonably paced ride. Because of the local geography, it must go over a climb or two. Other than those inevitable bumps, the terrain makes for a generally pleasant ride, easy to monitor, easy to control.

After the bumps, or any time we get to a reasonable regroup point, the ride usually regroups. Any place works - big intersections with parking lots to the side, a quiet intersection where we can just sit, or even a flat bit of road at the top of a particularly difficult climb. The ride organizer is good about doing this, and if things get too bad, i.e. the pace differential causes some impatience, he'll even tell the group to go ahead, and he rides with the slowest folks.

Of course, with any group, we all had to be a bit more conscious about things like traffic, mechanicals, things like that. That particular evening, I had an additional responsibility - a guest rider from the West Coast, riding on my Giant TCR (my now-primary back up bike). I had to keep him from getting lost, make sure he didn't get dropped, and all those good things one ought to do when introducing a new rider to a group.

That day I rode in a larger group numbering in the 20s. We definitely had to be conscious of other road traffic, careful not to obstruct or otherwise impede faster traffic.

With the latter in mind, when we turned onto a long, straight stretch of road, I increased the pace a bit. The previous time we'd ridden this bit of road, the group took advantage of the 1.5 bike wide shoulder and the slow pace by doubling up. Since only one rider could ride in the shoulder comfortably, the other ended up in the busy and fast "main" lane. By keeping the pace a bit higher, and stringing out the group, I hoped to keep things single file.

My ploy succeeded - the whole group strung out nicely, single file, West Coast behind me, not obstructing any traffic. I kept pulling around a bend.

Then looked up.

Long steady climb. No respite. Smaller shoulder. And cars rolling by regularly. Every time I looked to pull off I saw cars coming up, so I tried to maintain some reasonable pace. I knew I was digging myself into a hole aerobically, and I just hoped I could make it off the lead before I blew.

Finally I could pull off. I looked back and surveyed the others. The group had predictably disintegrated on the lower sections of the climb, but everyone seemed to have found their pace, their group, and things looked fine. If we sat up at the top and stopped for just a minute or two, we'd be together.

That's a big "If".

I let some others take the pace (I'm technically not a ride leader). I eased, expecting everyone to stop somewhere shortly after the climb, but as driveway after driveway passed, I realized that the riders in front were just soft pedaling, rolling along at a very easy 17 or 18 mph. Instead of waiting, the riders at the front simply kept pedaling.

So what's the big deal?

Now, it may seem like it should be easy to catch someone going, say, 17 or 18 mph. Pros latch back on after flats or crashes while the field's averaging 28 mph, so it's got to be pretty easy to get back on to someone going 10 mph slower.


Well... there's the pros and there are the mortals. And for mortals, it's not so easy.

If you've ever been in that "dropped" situation, you'll know that it's nigh near impossible to bridge up to a soft-pedaling group. Look at the factors working against you:

1. To catch a waiting group (soft pedaling, not stopped) in any kind of expedited fashion, you'll need to move along at 25 or more mph.

2. You were dropped to begin with so you're already way behind the aerobic curve. It may be a struggle to maintain 18 mph for the first minute or two of the chase.

3. A long hill may leave you a minute or two behind. For the furthest groups, perhaps 3 or 4 minutes (I've typically been in those groups so I speak from experience).

Taking a best-case scenario for the group, let's say the group plodded along at 15 mph after it crested the climb. You arrive at the top of the hill 2 minutes after the front group, climbing at or above your threshold.

You're cooked.

You're also about a half mile behind the group. They've been riding away from the top of the hill for 2 minutes at 15 mph before you got there, and they're covering a mile every 4 minutes.

Even if you miraculously recover, enabling you to suddenly average 25 mph, you'll need to chase for three minutes to bridge up to them. If you can only go 22 mph, it'll take you longer - like over 4 minutes. And if you needed a minute to recover, add another minute or two to those times.

(Math folks and those who have done the SATs recently, feel free to pipe up on the math because every time I check it, it seems wrong.)

This means that if the group doesn't wait, and they go really, really slow, it'll be a good 4 or 5 or 6 minutes before everyone's back together again. And when the group is together, those coming up from the back will be totally shattered. The next rise or hill will simply repeat the scenario and magnify the problem.

From my own experience I know that when I explode, I do it 100%. Usually I'm plodding along at 4 or 5 mph on the hill and 15 or 17 mph on the flats. This means that if the group is just soft-pedaling, I rarely see it again before the ride ends.

On the other hand, a short regrouping stop, maybe 2 or 3 or 4 minutes, lets the faster riders recover a bit, take a sip of water, adjust whatever, and even circle back and help encourage or pace the riders in difficulty. A nice way of building group spirit.

Anyway, on this particular ride I stayed within myself, refusing to push myself over the edge to respond to the guys attacking one another. And, as the grade finally let off, I found myself on their wheels.

I eased pretty hard, intending to wait for the others. When I realized that I really didn't know where I was (we didn't go up the hill the last time we went this way), I decided to stop waiting. I hurried and caught back on to the soft-pedaling lead riders.

Ultimately a bunch of riders made it back, chasing furiously for 4 or 5 minutes, and our group swelled to maybe 15 or more riders.

But we'd left behind a good 8 or 10 riders, including the ride organizer (who stays with the slowest of the group).

I petitioned to stop at the next intersection in a large, usually deserted parking lot. It's a normal regroupment point, used almost every time we pass through the area. Incredibly, the riders zoomed right past it, and only when I protested somewhat vociferously did the group reluctantly pull over, 100 yards past the lot.

I had stopped in the lot, expecting the group to stop with me, but when I saw them pull over, I had to be satisfied for the moment.

We waited for a few minutes. I circled a few times, sat for a while, and circled a bit more. I put a foot down again, looking down the road for the straggling group. I glanced up the road, where the rest of the group waited, and...

Saw a few riders disappearing down the road.


I looked. No more riders. Just the three straggling ones. Accelerating. And I realized that the group had left without me. They didn't even have one guy holler or ride over or anything to tell me that they had decided to go.

Not knowing exactly where I was, and with a guest on the ride from the West Coast (following everyone else around and up ahead with the others), I immediately jumped on my bike and took off after the impatient group.

I chased furiously for a few minutes, dying a thousand deaths. I hadn't done the math from above, but I knew that I had to go really, really hard to catch them.

Luckily they stayed in sight. Slowly but surely I reeled them in, finally latching on after a few redoubled efforts. My bewildered guest sitting at the back, wondering where I was, wondering what us East Coasters meant by "no-drop".

I decided that if I caught on, I'd carry out a mission of destruction.

Finally, a mile or two later, I latched onto the back. I immediately thought about my plans for the group. Although definitely not the strongest, especially on the hills, I knew that I could leverage my racing "pain threshold", understanding of speed, as well as a bit of self-belief to bluff all but the best riders there. I wanted to use power hills and narrow false flats to shred the group.

I wanted to become The Pace Shifter.

I sat at the back, recovering, and let the group start to attack itself. Guys would roll off the front, others would join, then the rest would chase. I sat in, waiting for the right moment.

Then I saw my opening. We were approaching, appropriately enough, Hatchet Hill Road, a road with a trio of short rises, the first one just like the one at Bethel.

I bridged a small gap to the front 4 or 5, sat on until the hill, and then drilled it.


My West Coast guest stayed on, he being much more fit than me (he's a runner and triathlete as well as a cyclist). Two other riders, nice ones both, eventually made it back, but I kept my body floored, forcing the issue. A matching couple, by far the strongest of the group, easily stayed with me. A couple more tagged on, making for a reasonable 8 or 10 riders.

I had already planned my next move. A sharp uphill turn would take us into a small village, with narrow roads, another hard turn, all on a long, grinding false flat. The last time I rode this bit with the group I'd been at the back, got slightly gapped on the first turn, and ended up exploding trying to bridge back up. I knew that if I could reverse the positions, I could throw down a world of hurt on the guys behind me.

Therefore I hit the front just as we set up for the hard turn. I took the turn relatively fast.

And drilled it.

Again, my West Coast guest stuck to my wheel like glue. I pushed hard, trying to get that demoralizing gap, and rolled hard through the next turn.

On the long grinder of a false flat, the matching couple bridged. Actually, they went right by me, and I had to bury myself to keep them within shouting distance.

As the road started heading down hill, the couple waited. I bridged to them, West Coast on my wheel. At some point another guy, a nice one, showed up too. Good company.

The pace eased.

I saw one of the non-waiting culprits trying to bridge, maybe 50 meters back.

I immediately went to the front, did a long, hard pull. West Coast, just trying to keep things rolling, pulled through. So did the other nice guy. And then the couple pulled through as well.

The non-waiter, the elastic between him and us stretched to the breaking point, still didn't give up.

I drilled it up another slight rise, turned onto the main road back to the shop, and kept the pace up. As we hit a series of short, grindy rises, all of us taking even pulls, we finally popped the last guy off.

A mile or two later, mission accomplished, I eased pretty hard. So did everyone else - the last 20 or so minutes had been hard and relentless, at least to me. I'd been strained to the max to hang on, but as soon as I found myself out of the red zone, I'd gone to the front again.

Merciless. Relentless. Mean.

After we finished I waited for the ride organizer. Apologized for my lack of civilty, my incredibly poor group riding methods. Explained to him why I rode the way I did.

He laughed. He understood, at least at some level. He didn't know what actually happened because he wasn't there, but in the end, it was okay.

We'll have to make sure folks know exactly what "regrouping" means, "no-drop", things like that. Make it clear what the procedure will be if someone flats, or someone less fit gets shelled early on each climb. Hey, I am that person a lot of the time, so I understand.

I got in my car, tired, and started on my way home.

Next week, another group ride. I hope it goes better.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Riggio - Version

Since I didn't go to the track Wednesday...

(Oh, I just checked - races were cancelled last night.. um.. so I really was going to go but the races were cancelled, that's why I didn't go... really... not because I was exhausted and could barely keep my eyes open...)

Riggio, updated.

Before. Note extreme bar/stem combo, old cranks, set-back post, white saddle. I don't know why I didn't use white tape to begin with, but whatever.

I'm proud to announce the Riggio, verision

As a refresher:


Since I'm borrowing this from the programming world, I should point out that programmers don't like to admit making mistakes. Therefore they avoid "Fixes" if at all possible. If they actually have a broken line of code, they'll fix it by adding functionality (or subfunctionality). This way their version retains that all-important "0" after the last dot (x.x.x.0).

Of course, although not a programmer, I've been trained in that same way of thinking, so I'm avoiding Fixes as well. So why is the "1" there? Read on.

With that in mind, it's still a Riggio, so it's version 1.x.x.x.

Functionality is a bit different. I'm calling it Dot One (.1) because I changed my position on the bike. The biggest changes were in the stem, bars, and seat post, all of which contribute to making the bike much closer to my Cannondale in terms of fit and feel. The bars are higher and closer to me and the seat is further forward than before. Basically I'm more centered on the bike, and I feel much more at ease in tighter quarters.

Much higher and closer bars.

Titanio saddle, but a heavier Ti railed one. Thomson post, 26.6 mm, no set-back.

I've also updated some Sub-functionality (2 ways): stiffer cranks complete with cartridge bearings in the bottom bracket (1), a 1/8" chain with a master link (2), some other stuff (1/8" chain chainring, which I promptly removed). The cranks are stiffer, the bearings are nicer (the old ones were kind of crunchy), and the crank is designed to accept a single ring.

Most of this is "nicer" but doesn't change anything significant, like fit. For example, the cranks are the same length, I'm using the same chainring as before (and therefore the same gear), and the chain replaces a perfectly good laterally flexible chain.

Blurry SRAM track cranks. Note the recessed fitting for the single chainring bolts.

I reused my 3/32" wide 50T chainring after I learned I can't spin the originally-included-with-the-cranks 48T (it happened to be 1/8" wide) fast enough. In fact, I changed the ring at the track after the Scratch Race. I started unscrewing the chainring bolts even as the Bs were doing the second half of the race - I'd gotten ridden off the back of the group that quickly.

I should point out that I actually made most of the described changes at the bike shop on the way to the track. So Test was at the shop, UAT was a few laps of warm-up, and Prod was the Scratch Race. I immediately updated the gearing after one race.

Hence the Fix.

Regardless, I definitely need more rollers work. I'm also thinking of getting a training wheel, fitted with a 16T or 17T, for both warming up and learning to spin. I could just get another cog, but that would involve figuring out how to undo the lockring (I used a screwdriver and a hammer to tighten it).

I'll have to think about that a bit more.

As far as Fixes goes, if I'd just replaced the cranks, it'd have been a huge bug fix, because the cranks weren't working super well. I admit that the (mismatched to BB) left crank arm loosened up on its own, and I know that. Not only that, when I went to remove the arms, both of them were finger tight - the right one also popped off with just a touch of the crank removal tool.

But, and that's a big But, since I replaced the cranks and bottom bracket as a unit, and I got functionality - a better Q-factor (pedals are closer together left to right) and more stiffness - I'm counting this as an upgrade, not a fix.

That's my story and I'm sticking with it.

And now you know why the newest versions of programs sometimes don't work well - they fix things by introducing something new without admitting any error. But the underlying cause of the new feature is a programmer that made a mistake, and they're just covering things up by introducing a new feature, which, if written by the same programmer/s, will probably have other errors in it.

Anyway, the bike is what it is, Fix and all.

I did notice that the frame feels extremely stiff. I did my "grab the seat and the stem and flex back and forth" thing. I expected a decent amount of movement so I felt pleasantly surprised when my first flex attempt failed pretty miserably. More force got the frame to wiggle some, but nowhere near what I expected. I guess having a 7 pound frame and fork means there's a lot of beef in there.

I was talking to someone about bikes and technology. The guy's son was an Elite level racer (and old enough to be working on a "real" career), and his dad was a framebuilder and racer back before WW2. His track bikes were typically weighed in at 18 pounds.

My bike weighs in at 18 pounds!

Okay, 17.9 according to the digital scale, but I'll call that 18. Progress, right?

So how is the bike now?

At top speed, I don't feel totally comfortable on the sprint line, the line at the base of the track. The bike wants to move up a bit, and I seem to go fastest at the top of the sprint lane. I think a bit more technique will help the most, but I can't help but wonder if moving a bit of weight forward would help, i.e. a bit lower bar, maybe one that's a bit further forward. For now I'll focus on technique because I think I lack a lot in that department.

I definitely have more weight on the rear wheel, with the much shorter bar/stem combination. I don't have the problem where the rear wheel skids and slips under pressure.

I also feel that the front tire bounces a bit on the rougher-than-a-hardwood-floor track. I've even reduced pressure down to about 110 psi, and it still bounces. I may have to go with a softer tire, or reduce pressure even more.

I started writing this post a while ago, intending it to be a follow up to the first day I raced it in its present format. But, like software, I've already gotten newer version/s in testing. Well, beyond "Test" because that's just seeing if the thing still works (wheels turn and stuff like that).

Test happens on the workstand. You just see if the bike works at the most basic level.

("User Acceptance Testing") happens on the track, the rolling around to see how things feel when I'm riding the bike. It's one step beyond spinning the cranks on the workstand. A "test ride" if you will.

Of course the final testing phase is Prod ("Production"), something an old boss used to say all the time. If this bike was software, Prod would be when the software gets used by the intended end user, i.e. it goes on the market. But since it's a bike, Prod is when I race the bike. Real life stresses typically outweigh any Test or UAT stresses, so that's when I'll know exactly what's what. Then I'll make changes as necessary.

Suffice it to say that, after a couple days of Prod, I've discovered not much has changed. Yes, the bike feels more secure - not having a wiggly left crankarm really helps make it feel, well, more secure. The non-slipping seatpost design helps immensely too (instead of trying to level the saddle while I'm racing, I actually don't worry about the saddle moving).

I've also verified that the nut holding the seat down needs some work, but the bike itself has been slightly more optimized for that nut's riding style.

(For those of you who didn't get it, I'm the nut that holds the seat down.)

Those of you who race at the track know I've already made one significant change, and one guy even knows of a couple Test pieces that need to be UAT'ed and then put into Prod (the pieces never made it more than a couple feet from my car at the track).

And, as I'm learning more about the track, I've realized that I'll want to bring a compact little race kit for trackside use. One required item - a cooler, with water and energy drink. I already did this last week. The other thing would be a minor tool kit - cog (if I had more), lockring tool and chain whip (those two items for changing cogs), allen wrenches for any adjustments, maybe even a couple chainrings for gear changes.

Although separate from the bike, I'm mentioning this because the bike is set up with one gear. Unlike a road bike, where you adjust for a new condition or new event simply by shifting gears, with the track bike you have to mechanically update the bike to get the same effect.

Keep it tuned here for further update reports.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Racing - Back in The Groove

I say that so easily, like I'm back in the groove, but it's not really like that, not totally.

I raced East Hartford, The Rent, E-Haw, whatever, tonight. With a lot of the big guns either missing or simply dormant, the pace seemed more Cat 3 like, not Cat 2 like. This meant "fun" racing, as opposed to "groveling" racing.

Okay, I admit I groveled a bit tonight, but it wasn't like normal, when the Big Guns fire and I go shooting off the back. Like last week, when someone noticed me trying to get out of my pain box and slammed the lid shut hard.

And stuck a big rock on top for good measure.

I seesawed off the back for three laps before I finally got that rock moved and jumped out of the box.

This week we started off under threatening skies, ones which weather.com claimed had "0% chance of rain". That number would graduate to "5% chance of rain" in an hour, and at 9 PM it would be "30% chance of rain". Logically, faithfully, I dismissed the ominous heavy, moist clouds as simple visual threats and not actual physical ones.

On the first lap, a CCNS rider picked up the pace, saw no one respond, and put his head down. With an illogical idea percolating at the back of my head, I rolled off in pursuit. See, even with weather.com's forecast, I figured that if rain started to fall, the promoters would call the race, and if I was in a break... well, I could be in worse position, that's for sure.

So I drilled it in the break. The CCNS guy would beg to differ, I'm sure, but according to my definition of "drilled it", man I drilled it.

Well, at least my first pull was reasonable.

We each did about half a lap, him into the wind, me not into the wind. My first pull went nicely at 475-500 watts, but I knew this would put me into the red soon. Real soon. It's pretty much my max 60 second effort, and even though we were pulling maybe 20-30 seconds each, 475 watts is a lot of watts for me. I knew that I couldn't do that too many times.

In fact, I couldn't do it twice.

My second pull must have broken records - the bad kind, like "lowest power leading a break" or something like that. I did a massive 220 watt pull, incredulous that the CCNS rider didn't just coast by me.

220w FTW (for the win). Not.
(Picture stolen from Tim)

The missus told me later she was hollering at me not to work, so he probably thought I was trying to get him to the front. I couldn't hear her over the thumping of my heart and the whooshing of my breathing, so I had no idea she'd been giving me very good advice.

The field seemed to have woken up, and our "massive" lead dropped quickly, massive being maybe 5 or 8 seconds. Fine, my 220 watt pull probably didn't help (we must have been down to 18-20 mph), but still, the field was more strung out. it wasn't just me.

A second or two behind us, the hammer dropped (I swear I heard it hit) and the field splintered.

I tried to soft pedal a bit, prepare for the catch, the extremely rude jump in pace.

Then Foom Foom Foom, guys blew by me. Extremely rude jump in pace. SOC flew by, then, as if just remembering I existed, looked back and asked if I wanted a wheel.

"No", I shook my head.

I mean, yes, but not just one. I needed four guys to block wind, not one. SOC disappeared up the road. After a few more blurry riders went by, a gaggle of guys, enough to form a temporary wind block, rolled by, allowing me to accelerate onto their wheels, into the miraculous draft.

I groveled for the next lap.

Soon, though, the field found a rhythm, mainly because a few guys went up the road and the chase was steady Freddy, not jumpy Jack, and I settled a bit.

Then the "0% chance of rain" went to "100% chance of rain" because it started to rain.

I relearned that my brakes don't work for the first half second of braking, almost causing me to pile into the four or five guys in front of me. Luckily the brakes finally grabbed because it'd have been embarrassing to take out a bunch of guys easing into a turn.

The brakes worked fine after that, I just had to feather them every now and then. Just like my car, I reminded myself.

With my glasses getting wet, my vision flickering double sometimes (happens when I ride hard), I had to focus to ride safely. Barely wet painted stripes, lots of curve, three turns, and things started getting kind of slippery.

The rain got just a bit heavier.

With the wet coming down relatively steadily - a misty rain, not a heavy one - the officials called 5 to go, shortening the race due to the weather.

The pace immediately increased, I immediately slid back a bit, and I found myself in that pain cave again.

"Just make the pain go away!" my body cried.

"Just one more lap!" I replied. "We might make it to the sprint!"

"Really, the sprint? Oooh, the sprint. Okay, one more lap. The sprint, really?"

I kept winning this little internal battle. My body kept falling for my "this is the sprint lap" line. 3 to go. 2 to go. Ding, ding, ding, bell lap.

Okay, I told myself, this is for real.

I rolled up the sheltered right side after the first turn. Tried not to ride on the parallel-to-our-line white stripes on the backstretch (think running lanes on a track). Filtered further up on said backstretch, trying to set up for an inside line, one that would give me protection on the exit.


Went into the last turn on the outside, heart kind of in my throat as everyone gingerly coasted to the outside, trying not to let the bike slide out. Then, once straighted out, we all started pedaling furiously.

I worked my way to the left, the inside, of the guy in front of me.

I knew the left side had shelter, the right side none, and the pace, for 200 meters to go, seemed agonizingly slow. I knew that it'd be hard to do a hard jump on the curving (left) final straight so I knew going early would have fewer drawbacks. (200 meters is early for me, 150 meters is good.) Since the left side was the sheltered side, it was also the "gives no protection" side.

Naturally I jumped on the left side, hugging the edge of the road.

It took me forever to wind up the gear, no real mental or physical focus, just slogging at the pedals, trying to turn them over. I overgeared a lot, partially because it's hard to break a tire loose when overgeared (just like in a car in the snow - less peak power means less chance of breaking tires loose), partially because I automatically shifted up when I jumped and I didn't jump all that hard, didn't jump from a fast speed, but I still shifted into the 13 or 12 or something.

Committed to this big gear, I slogged away along the edge of the road, the wood fence, and no one seemed to be coming up on my side. Like I said, it was hard to jump hard, and in a long curve, on just-moistened roads, it's almost impossible to put down that insane jump power required to stomp the competition into the ground.

I led all the way to the line, one guy almost catching me, his wider line giving him more speed, but at the same time requiring him to go further. The tradeoff bought him close, but my shorter, slower line got me there first. I think.

I don't know how many guys were in front, 4 or 5 or something, but to lead out the sprint and win it, that was good.

Afterwards I had a small surprise and a pleasant little chat, one I'll detail later. Then we went out for some good food, good company.

Racing with friends is fun. Racing with sensible people is fun. Racing with riders who are riding at your level is fun.

Racing tonight, therefore, was fun.

Can't wait till next week.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Life - the Kitties

Because it's slow, and because I'm realizing that the kittens are more like kitties now, I wanted to share some cat stuff with all you guys out there.

First off, we'll have 5 more kittens to adopt out, minus two females (someone wants them). There's a sleek black mom cat too, but we plan on re-releasing her to join Grey and the white adult I'll call White (not sure if it's a male or female).

The five kittens are colored as follows: 4 just like Hal/Riley (white with grey mohawk), 1 just like Bella (grey sort of tabby). They are probably 3-4 weeks old right now - the mom is still extremely protective of them but they eat both wet and dry food and they're running around underneath the building.

We aren't going to be taking them in because we simply can't add to the 6 + 1 we have now (6 cats - Lilly, Tiger, Mike, Hal, Bella, Riley - and Estelle, who wants a home too but is living in ours for now).

Front to back - Our permanent residents: Lilly (8 yrs old?), Tiger (3), Riley (under 1, F), Mike (under 1, M), Bella (under 1, F), and Hal (under 1, M).

The three smallest kittens still had no collars at this point. Mike was big enough to have his black collar with reflective piping (the skulls and crossbones one didn't meet muster).

Riley (left) and Hal being symmetrical.

If only... (Hal up top, Bella and Riley below)

Ah... (Bella and Hal)

Don't leave without me!

We took down the curtain tops after these pictures.

The two girls relaxing on the stairs. Bella (above), Riley below. Riley is the shyest of our bunch although she's coming around.

However she posed for this one. She has a collar at this point, pastel pink.

So does Hal. Pastel blue.

Bella (left) and Mike. They aren't quite as symmetrical as Hal and Riley.

Bella likes her paws tucked in - I call it the "chicken" pose. Mike likes his paws out, sort of like he's holding aero bars.

Joined by the others. Lilly is playing coy - she thinks the kids are a bit too energetic. If you look carefully you can see some pink petals. They're from...

...the first annuals the kitties have seen. Or smelled.

Cat fort. I like making cat forts.

If you lift the roof... Bella is in one bedroom. Lilly is in another behind her. We have three roofed bedrooms for them too.

Bella, you'll notice, has the bling-bling collar - gold.

Oh. I think we interrupted Mike and Riley. Better put the roof back down.

Bella, chillin'

At some point soon, Estelle, and then the yet-to-be-caught ones.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Dateline: 20:45, 17 June 2009

Yep, at the Mass Pike rest stop again.

This time, though, I didn't need any help bringing down my average speed. I think I've seen all of the "reconstruction" of the highways between Hartford and Boston. A long stretch on 93, a shorter one on 90 (Mass Pike), both times the highway down to one lane. A line of asphalt-laden trucks lines the closed lanes on 93, each one adding a few more yards of highway to the paver-thing.

I think it would take only a couple of those trucks to resurface NEV and take it up to something like 28 degrees banking.

I couldn't tell what was happening on the Pike - seemed like they were looking at a bridge or something.

Related to truck things, I passed a Freightliner Hybrid on the way to the track. I should have taken a picture since I can't find one quickly on the Web. It was a big red sleeper with two huge white boxes just behind the cab. Combined they would be about as big as a portapotty on its side, but they were actually two boxes. So a portapotty cut in half. The truck had all sorts of signs like "Experimental Vehicle", "Not for commercial use", and things like that.

Okay, why this obsession with trucks?

Other than calculating how many trucks it would take to haul a small 3,000 ton shipment of supplies - I read this in one of my tank tactics books, and, if they were 18 wheelers carrying 21 tons each, it would be 150 trucks, 60 feet long, so over a mile of trucks - what do trucks have to do with NEV?

I need to be a truck. Say "I need to be a truck."

I need to be able to truck along, do 26 or 27 second laps, lap after lap. It's critical for almost all the events on the track, Match Sprint and Chariot Race excluded. Diesel-like power, steady, smooth, endless and unrelenting.

All that I am not.

Let me explain.

See, I can't go fast for more than, oh, 1.5 laps. That's a problem when most races last more than that, especially when a bunch of them involve riding on your own for part of the distance.

We did a pursuit today, 3000 meters, and I'd pretty much get caught by every single guy out there. Meaning I'd be at least 30 seconds (one slow lap - a fast lap is about 25-26 seconds) behind. I did a 5 minute time, maybe 20 or 30 seconds more than that, for 9 laps. So 35-40 second laps. Other B racers got down to 4:01, so at least 2 laps better than me. Pretty much all of them were doing 27-30 second laps.

I'm just glad I didn't have a time trial set-up, because that would have been triply embarassing. As it was the initial cheers turned into sympathetic "Go, go, go!" type of things. And in a pursuit you can't just sit up. As one guy (the owner of Cycle-Loft, turns out) said to me, "I like the Australian Pursuit because you can stop at any time." The Individual Pursuit doesn't give you that option - you just go until you finish, no matter how pitiful your pedal stroke looks 2/3 of the way in.

Just because I went slow doesn't mean I didn't suffer. I rediscovered the taste of blood in my mouth, the result of breathing really hard and, apparently, bursting some of the air sacs in my lungs. I guess I rarely exert myself to that level because I can't remember the last time I had that metallic taste on my tongue.

Anyway, I figure I won the "Most Potential" award in the Pursuit.

We also did an Australian Pursuit, which is kind of like a free-for-all Pursuit. All the riders start spread out around the track and whoever gets caught is out.

I started well (I can accelerate), caught one guy, sat on his wheel for, oh, a millisecond, then thought I was about to get caught so I went blowing by him. Then, about half a lap later, I exploded.

Two guys streamed by me and I was out. No taste of blood, just numb legs.

Finally, we did a Keirin, complete with motorcycle (!!). We lined up, all being held, and the guy with the moto cruised by us. We all jumped and got on the moto's wheel. I decided I'd be crafty and move back a bit, so when guys started to nudge their way in, I'd let them. Then I'd just jump around everyone on the last lap.

Big mistake.

After 4.5 laps the moto pulled off, and the next 1.5 laps was balls to the wall sprinting.

The pace got so high I couldn't comfortably control the bike. I found myself going up the banking a bit, a good 5-8 feet, and after two of those turns I sat up. My big gear, which I thought would be an advantage, didn't make a difference. Since I couldn't keep the bike down on the racing line, it didn't matter what gear I had under me. Plus I was spinning the stupid gear so fast I couldn't accelerate if I wanted to.

This meant two things:
1. I have to learn how to stay on the racing line at high speeds.
2. When I sprint on my own, I'm not going that fast.
And when I do another Keirin, I'll fight for the 2nd or 3rd position.

The second realization above kind of depressed me because I thought I could sprint fast.

This stemmed from the very deceiving Scratch Race, the first race of the day every time we race at NEV. It's a simple, straight-forward race - first across the line wins. And tonight, with about 17 minutes left on the Nutmeg State Games tape, I had the helmet cam on.

Pressure on. I decided I'd tape only this race, since the Pursuit would be boring, the Australian Pursuit same, and I didn't think we'd do any other races. I decided I'd race selfishly to see if I could do well.

With some horsepower turned off (because they were saving it for the pursuit?), the group stayed intact for the whole 12 laps.

Good for me.

I closed a tiny gap at the beginning, when we were all joking around, but as the pace picked up, the group strung out. Brian, of last week's fame, went to the front and kept surging. The first one caught me completely off guard as I had to close a gap all of a sudden. Then he kept accelerating again and again, really ramping up the pace. But when he finally turned it off, no one wanted to continue the effort.

I found myself rotating to the front and I took a miniscule pull, trying to conserve my legs. Weak, I know, but I know that if I pulled even half a lap more, I'd have been cooked. And I had that camera so I had to put on a good show.

I tucked back in semi in front, but realized I'd blow pretty quickly up there and drifted back a couple more spots.

Then, as the laps wound down, I found myself second or third wheel. I flared out just a bit, moving up on the banking, protecting my forward lane. See, if someone rode up next to me, I wouldn't be able to move right to pass the guy in front. So I moved right in anticipation of needing that lane.

We hit the bell and guys started moving up and around me on the banking. I think I moved up just a touch more, trying to get myself some bike-rocking room.

Then, as we hit the backstretch, I jumped as hard as I freakin' could jump.

I drilled it to the line, even getting out of the saddle on the short main stretch.

A BF member Hocam, who'd made his first trip to the track, kind of indicated that the first jump had done the job. He was also surprised at how I'd made a, to quote a certain Miguel, "renaissance". He said I looked like I was suffering during the race (I was), but that in the last lap I suddenly had a big sprint (I did).

I felt good that I lived up to those famous words.

Now to work on the truck-stuff.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Helmet Cam - 2009 Nutmeg State Games

Ah. Exciting races means faster editing.

Okay, it helps if the missus, despite a cold, had a girls' night out last night. Then, this morning, she was ill enough for me to drive her to the doctor's office. She basically passed out for the rest of the day. So I looked after her hand and foot (not "hand over foot" as I first said to her).

This means I nuked some soup for her.

And I sat at the computer for much of the day editing away.

The results, the first 2009 Helmet Cam Clip: the 2009 Nutmeg State Games, Cat 3.

First, without music, because I learned today that the new Windows Movie Maker doesn't like MP3s now.

Second, with music, because I learned that Microsoft released a Windows Media Encoder (with Vista hotfix), which I now have and use.


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Racing - 2009 Nutmeg State Games


That's about all I can say at the moment. I'm at home, tired, haven't eaten in 9 hours, and the missus isn't around. The day, well, the day was definitely mixed.

It ended on a relative down note. In the P123 race, exciting for sure, the race seemed relatively clean until the last lap, when there were four (4!) crashes. Ouch. Then, in one of the Women's races, a bunch of riders went down. I turned to say something to Hob, but he'd disappeared. I looked up, saw him running over to the crash site, and then saw Hob's missus walking around.

Goosebumps, I dropped my spare wheels, vaulted the bike over the stone wall between me and them, jumped on said bike (a 'cross rider would have been proud), and pedaled over.

Ends up, fortunately, that Hob's missus wasn't involved, but boy, there were some hurtin' folks on the ground. Not pretty, and there will be some very sore women tomorrow morning.

So not really a great cap to the day.

It started out a lot better. I woke up at about my regular time, 6 AM or so, but instead of getting up, slept some more, encouraged not to get up by the missus. Finally, after 9 AM, I got up, refreshed.

After running some errands, we packed up for the race. I brought my newly fixed Zipp 440 front wheel (the valve now works) and two pairs of Reynolds, the DV46 tubulars and clinchers. Lots of carbon rattling around in the back of the car, but I didn't want to flat and not have a wheel.

A leisurely warm-up in the overcast and cool conditions, and I felt, well, not that great. No immediate lactic acid buildup like at Bethel, but my legs didn't feel overfilled with power. I actually did some efforts yesterday until my legs started to twinge, and perhaps that's why today they didn't feel good. Because of that I never made any big jumps, no openers, and rolled back to the start to put on the helmet cam rig.

I lined up behind the field, a normal thing for me - it allows me to weave around fumbling riders. A photographer took my pic, and we were off. I immediately veered to the right to get around a mass of racers reluctantly moving forward and we took off.

The pace seemed pretty aggressive from the start. Nothing unmanageable, but, jeepers, these guys seemed really motivated. I don't know if it was the 440 front wheel but I felt a bit less comfortable in some of the curves, and with a lot of somewhat unpredictable riding in the field, I decided to leave a bit more leeway out ahead of me.

My sphere, as it were, had grown a bit.

Although I rode normally for the first few laps, holding position, checking different lines in the turns and curves, I didn't feel quite on top of things. So, at some point early in the race, I let myself drift back a bit, maybe back into the second third of riders.

I rode at a moderate level aggressive-wise, holding position, taking a spot if it looked easy, giving one up if the guy seemed to want it bad. Nothing crazy, just normal middle-of-the-field riding. I felt an ominous twitch in my left leg, the threat of a cramp. I focused on drinking my Coke, regretted not bringing the Gatorade (but I drank a quart before the race), and even swapped my water and my Coke bottles so I'd grab the Coke first.

Then, because I felt like I had a moment, I looked back.

I was at the back of the field.

Well, technically I wasn't, but me and about 4 guys were vying for the caboose honor. In other words, I'd been moderately fighting for a position in the back 10 spots of the field, my legs even twinging because of this absurd effort.

I immediately stopped fighting for position.

I went easy for a few laps, sitting at the back, but then as the laps started getting into the single digits, I decided to move up a bit. 9 to go actually showed up twice, but the first time I saw 9 was the time that motivated me to get off my butt.

Things didn't move too smoothly though. I didn't fight too hard for any wheels (with 9 to go on this course, what was the point?) so I couldn't move up quite like I wanted. It seemed that the guys were constantly making big efforts to move up, with other riders filtering back. Because of that it would have taken a lot of legs to move up just a bit.

I did count laps though, from 9 to go, so I only glanced at the cards to verify my numbers. I certainly didn't want to go too early, but I also felt like I needed some time to move up.

My legs seemed reasonably cooperative, any earlier twinging disappearing after a few laps of soft-pedaling. I drank what I needed, the lower than normal temperatures (70s) allowing me to dump the almost a full bottle of water to the side.

The lap cards started counting down and I wasn't getting any closer to the front.

I should point out that part of the reason I do well at New Britain is that the course isn't selective. It doesn't naturally string out the field, nor does it have any geographic barriers like a hill or insane amounts of wind.

Therefore it requires more guile than strength.

Therefore, as a rider with more guile than strength, it works for me.

The problem with all this is when you get a non-selective course, you're at the back, and you're running out of laps. Everyone and their brother are still in the game, still around, and still fighting for position.

It gets really, really crowded.

With 3 to go, I still felt trapped in the field. I'd try and move up, but unless I went way into the red zone, I couldn't hold any gains. It didn't help that the field rode virtually curb to curb, or that the sketchiness got a bit worse. In such close quarters, any iffy riding became a significant problem. So a bit of a wiggly line that wouldn't cause concern 15 laps ago becomes enough to cause unwanted reactions now.

I stayed buried in the field.

I'd done some thinking during the race, and I knew that the wind hit us on the final straight from the left. Therefore I'd jump right, and jump late. I'd get the guys who went first blowing up, and I'd be protected while I sprinted past whoever was left.

Although I knew I had to move up, the headwind straight meant I didn't need ideal positioning (5th or 6th out of the turn), just decent position (8th-10th out of the turn). I felt like I could leave it later than normal, which, to me, meant getting near the front with 4 or 5 to go. Later, you may realize, can't be that much later with only 4 or 5 laps remaining. For me it gets hairy if I pass the 2 to go card without being near the front.

So, when I saw 2 to go, I knew that it would get a bit hairy.

Guys were starting to panic, to try and push through non-existant gaps. Everyone went for any open real estate, but with multiple riders doing that, things weren't always pretty.

I knew that the field would naturally string out on the hill and the slight downgrade after it, so I made an effort there. My style of riding works there too, since I can make up position when the racers ease after the hill. A crafty rider can move up, and an alert one can fill gaps that open up like magic.

Nothing worked.

We came down the final straight, coming up on the bell, and I lay hopelessly buried in the field.

But the field wasn't strung out, it was curb to curb. I knew I had some legs left. I knew that I could make it through the field on the last lap. I just needed one thing:

An attack.

As we went by the start/finish, one of the wiggly riders launched an attack, a sort of "almost crashed but didn't and now that I'm standing I might as well go". Although it didn't look pretty (he swerved to avoid something and almost fell, but then sprinted away), it had the magnificent effect of stringing out the field.

I immediately forgave him for all his swerves and such.

As the field opened up, the gaps appeared, and I filled them as quickly as I saw them, just like Lucy on the candy production line.

Opening? Bam. Filled.

Someone's shoe starts to disintegrate in someone else's wheel. Guys hesitate. Gone.

Pedal in someone's spokes. Lots of guys ease, looking for the culprit, trying to avoid getting caught up in the potential mayhem. I'm past.

Big hole up the hill as the field splits lengthwise into two, those trying to go outside and those trying to go inside. I slam forward, up the clear middle.

Huge surge over the top of the hill. Guys separating like I'm Moses. I pound the pedals, move up.

Hesitation as guys watch some grass surfing? I'm there.

Suddenly, miraculously, not only was I trying to get to the front, I was sitting, literally, in something like 6th position.

We flew out of the last turn, guys immediately jumping for the sprint. Been there, done that - it's like 150 meters to far for me. I keep sitting, keep sitting, and now, when I see all the guys ahead of me right there, I drill it, for the win.

On the wrong side. In the wrong gear.

I go backwards basically, never get the guy I wanted to get, then, as I realized the gravity of my error, I gave up. I turned in time to see a guy pip me for 6th place, the last money spot.

I get none.


I roll back. All that insanity in the last lap, all that risk, all that excitement (well, I wasn't nervous excited, I just did what I needed to do), and for what.


But then, the save.

Second in the state (c'mon, first would have been too good to be true). The kicker? The guy I gave up on passing - he won the Gold medal.

But, yeah, a Silver medal. A really shiny (and really fake) silver medal. Heavy. With a ribbon.


Today's haul.

A lifetime of Nutmegs.

(Note: Helmet cam clip successfully recorded. YouTube at some point.)

Friday, June 12, 2009

Training - Density

So apparently I'm more dense than I thought.

Meaning, I'm heavier than I thought. What did you think I meant?

I've been pretty happy, my perceived weight dropping to below 170 lbs more than once or twice in the past few months (for reference sake, I'm 5'7", so on the BMI scale that would mean a 26 or so, just a tad into the "Overweight" category. For the past 5 years, this is how I saw my weight.

2003: Peak of 193+ lbs. This means the needle didn't quite get to 194 lbs, but eating a, say, Twinkie would have done it. BMI = Obese. Yep, obese.

2004: "Rapidly" dropping weight by doing my first set of winter training camps, one in Florida, one in California, getting into the low 180s by Bethel. I managed 4 minutes in the first race before getting shelled, but I won a field sprint by the end of the Series. BMI = Overweight.

2005: Due to a repeat of the winter training camps, peak fitness and motivation by March, culminating in a Bethel Spring Series overall win. Weight at the time, about 165. BMI = the cusp of Overweight.

2006: 175 or so, with some 180s. Well into Overweight, obviously.

2007: 180s, with some 170s.

2008: 170-180, even with a lot of training.

2009: Thanks to being sick, not lifting for the first time in many years, and some regular riding last fall, down to 170 for the Bethel Spring Series. I even saw 167 on the scale once. BMI = almost into Normal.

This is when someone opened the curtains and revealed the imposter. The missus bought a scale, one that, when I think about it, jibes with the "inaccurate" doctor's scales. See, the one I have is, shall we say, optimistic. Not just a little optimistic, a lot optimistic.

Let's try TEN POUNDS optimistic.

Holy Fatmobile, Batman!

This means that, at my peak (weight, not fitness), I was in the 205 pound range (!!). Try lugging that up some hills. BMI = Obese. I stretched out a size Large jacket. Jacket!

And even at my optimal fitness, I hovered at 175-180 lbs. Much of my racing occurred at a chunky 185-190 lbs range.

I guess it makes sense. My 10 hours a month training just isn't enough. It's pretension I suppose, an illusion, like the Wizard or the Emperor's Clothes.

I thought how it felt to train hard back in the day. I felt an inkling of what I used to feel after the track stuff on Wednesday night, when I piled into the car, legs totally wasted, and started the long drive home.

Back then I used to walk around in a constant fatigued zombie state. I'd get on the bike, my legs stiff and a bit achy, and start pedaling. Thirty minutes later my muscles would start to loosen up, and an hour later I'd feel somewhat normal.

Then, if doing a hard ride, I would ask my legs to do just one more effort. Just one more, for the Gipper. One more, to that mailbox. One more jump, to get that truck. One more lap of my Downtown Sprints. One more lap at SUNY Purchase. One more lap at whatever race I was in. One more, one more.

My legs responded every time.

For hours.

I remember the first (and last) double metric century the team did, in the early 90s. We did two laps of the Bloomin' Metric, 124 miles. The first loop went by pretty quickly, a full complement of team riders with another 15 or 20 random riders contributing to the flying paceline.

The second loop seemed a bit tougher. A bunch of guys dropped off to head to something as unfathomable as "work". Everyone felt a bit tired - we'd done the first lap in just about three hours, stopping at every stop to refuel. I had no idea what to expect on that second lap, none at all. I contemplated giving in to my aching, sore legs a break, but when our illustrious leader Mike gave me that grin and cajoled me to keep going, I knew I'd have to do that second lap.

I knew that I couldn't climb as well as the others. I'd been struggling on that first lap as it was, and I'd been hiding a lot, trying to save some juice for the second one. With some relatively fresh legs, concern about the climbs, I decided I'd have to act to keep from getting shelled: I'd lead into the climbs to buy myself some "drift back" room.

Each hill I'd guess at how hard I could go up. Big ring on many of them, small one for the toughies. I rolled into them, stood, rocked the bike, and prayed my legs would hold together. And they did. Hill after hill after hill.

Problem was that I went fast enough that others didn't want to come around. I found myself pulling over climb after climb, descending at the front, then trying to help out on the faster bits. Unbelievable. Big gears, little gears, I could turn them over at will.

I drank frantically, worried about cramps, worried about bonking. I couldn't eat very much, but I ate what I could, anything to avoid running out of gas.

I had one trouble spot, a false flat that absolutely killed me, but the next rest stop popped up just over the crest.


Regrouped, we soldiered on, until, with maybe a mile left, I popped a spoke in my rear wheel. We'd been attacking each other pretty consistently for the last five or ten minutes, and when I went to counter what ended up being the "winning" move (our leader, of course), it went. The other guys asked if I'd be okay (of course I would) and then they set off after the solo break. I shredded a tubular getting to the parking lot (I rode my race wheels - it was a do or die day) but it was worth it.

Could I do that now?

No. Not at that pace. Not with those efforts, that speed. Nowadays things are a bit different.

I don't want to feel zombie-like. I don't train outside when it's raining. I have other things in my life, things other than training 30 or 40 miles each night, or venturing out to do some night time sprints at 11 o'clock at night.


I still want to be under 170. For real. 165 if possible. For real. I want to remain relatively fit this year, and have a good base to build on for next year.

And, contrary to my beliefs just a day ago, I am positively not at 170. I'm at 180.

So what's that mean?

Training density must go up for my body density to go down.

Okay, that's not technically accurate, but you get the gist, right?

Yeah, you got it. I gotta go ride.

See you out there tomorrow at Nutmeg.

Life - Pit Stop Clip

Okay, this has nothing to do with bike racing, but I think it's just plain cool:

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Racing - Boston Velodrome

Folks are trying to get a velodrome in Boston. To put in your two cents worth go here and fill out their survey.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Dateline: 22:27, 10 June 2009

Once again, I found myself doing my normal "pull into a rest stop to lower my average speed thing". This time, though, there was a bit of a difference - just before I got here, a State Trooper blew by me like I was standing still.

And let's just say that I wasn't standing still.

I think the night went well, based on my somewhat hyper-euphoric mood I've been in since I've gotten into the car. As usual I called the missus to let her know that I was on my way back. Then, for a few minutes, I left the phone in a dash cubby. I have a decent hands-free system, and the auto-answer picks up for me, so it's usually not a problem.

Tonight, problem. It's that hyper-euphoric bit, which meant cranking the tunes and, well, being hyper-euphoric. Loud.

So I moved the phone onto the steering column so that if it woke up (i.e. someone called it), I'd see it light up. I could turn down the tunes before the phone answered.

Apparently I didn't do it in time. When I clambered out of the car here, I checked the phone. Sure enough, the missus had called. The phone picked up. And she got some earful of hyper-euphoria.

I wonder what she heard.

Hopefully I wasn't singing too loud.

So hyper-euphoric means that things went reasonably well. Reasonable for me anyway.

The day didn't start too well - I had some unfamiliar stomach issues, worrying me to the point that I wondered if I could eat anything. Ultimately it all went away (literally) and I could get some chow down.

The kitties demanded a lot of attention, so, of course, I gave it to them.

Then I decided to finish my track wheels. I wanted to trim down the long axles (155 mm? why? I had to cut it down to 140 mm), install them (meaning overhaul the hubs, sort of), and see if my freshly glued, thanks-to-Gabe, 17mm CyclePro (ne Panaracer) tubular was okay.

I started with the simple stuff, and the tire, well, the basetape is rolling a bit. I think I have to re-glue the basetape and re-glue the tire. But it looks cool. I decided to bring it anyway.

Then the axles. I tried to saw them, dulling a hacksaw blade by the time I got through half of one side. I brilliantly got my Dremel (it has these very thin, very cool cutting wheels) and started cutting the axle bits off. After disintegrating a bunch of cutting wheels, I got the thicker one out. The thicker One, i.e. I only had one. Somehow I got both axles trimmed without breaking it, although it was glowing red for much of the process.

I had a tingly feeling at some point. Unsure what caused it, I looked around. Apparently I put my hand on the cut-off end, and it was really, really hot.

Note to self: when using Dremel, wear gloves, eye protection, and long sleeves. Not bare-handed, with a t-shirt on, and regular glasses as "eye protection".

I got the hubs done, the easy wheel being a clincher TriSpoke with some old clincher on it (I want to glue up a tire on the tubular TriSpoke for the future, but when I tried to find one to glue, I didn't know which ones held air and which ones didn't). The Dura Ace M17 wheel was tougher because it has loose bearings (and three got away temporarily during the process), but when I realized the cones were already worn, I didn't care about how well I adjusted it. Now it feels like, well, a gritty 105 hub. Yay for me.

Then I loaded up the car, got the cooler with cool drinks, gear bag, helmet cam stuff. Almost forgot shoes, remembered them, and finally, 45 minutes late, I left for the track.

When some misty rain started hitting the windshield, I realized I hadn't checked the site to see if the races had been canceled. In a bit of a worry I called the missus, who called the track folks, and the races, she reported, were on.

I got there in some reasonable amount of time, with what appeared to be all of 3 or 4 racers there. Right, cloudy weather, almost spitting, not much fun. But lo and behold, as I got ready, cars rolled in one after another. We had pretty much no As, just this insanely fast CycleLoft pro (I'll get to him in a bit) and one or two other guys. All our races would be Bs, with the As there for whatever.

With the grey weather, I canned the helmet cam. I'll wait for a brighter day.

I decided last time I came here that if I was going to drive all the way up here, I was going to do some sprints, even if I had to do them on my own. So, just before the warm-up period ended, I blasted out an effort. Tons of mistakes - I didn't dive down to the 200m mark, I never got totally on top of the gear, but I was out of breath and feeling like I'd just done a sprint.

Then we stood for the National Anthem.

First ego trip of the day: while we were waiting for everyone to get to the start area, Dick Ring announced that I was there. He said that I "bring... some excitement to the track." Note that he didn't say anything about how I'm looking really fit or anything, which is how he compliments the others. But, hey, a mention is a good thing.

We started off with the Scratch Race, 15 laps in this case, the couple As mixed in with the Bs. I played a tactical game, trying to save some juice. I've had a lot of practice with this - I recently downloaded the ProCycling Manager 2008 demo, and you can race track. What's really interesting about that is how quickly your poor rider blows up. Hit a bit of wind, sprint just a touch early, and ka-pow! your rider gets totally wasted. Sit in more, work the gaps, and he wins by a proverbial mile.

(Since that's my reality, I think everyone should play the game. Then they'll understand why I hide from the wind all race.)

Anyhoo, with this "experience" in mind, I sat out of the wind. I reluctantly did a half lap pull early on, and that almost sawed me off the back.

No more pulling.

I did notice that when the first surge went, following an attack by a woman racer I hadn't seen before, the CycleLoft pro let everyone gap him off the back. I figured he was handicapping himself, kind of like how my dad would handicap himself when we played Go. The crazy thing is how many stones I'd put down before we started, and my dad would still beat me if he tried (he let me win regularly too, so I wouldn't feel too bad about it). So anyway the CycleLoft guy is pretty good if I start thinking of him as handicapping himself.

With about 5 to go I sat maybe 5th, and with 3 to go one of the Oranges went to the front, me sitting on his wheel. When he wiggled his elbow I declined the pull, and an A guy went to the front. He started going from 1 1/2 laps out, rode the Orange off his wheel, and although I tried to even up the terms going into the last turn, I couldn't. I sat up, pulled up, and watched someone pass me for third or something.

The CycleLoft pro won the race. He made it look so easy too. Imagine riding down the road at 12 mph on your road bike. That's what he looked like, except he was annihilating everyone in the sprint.

Next up, Chariot races. That's a one lap, standing start race. The first ones I did were pretty poor - I couldn't get my 90" gear going well. Most other guys run 88" gears, or even 86"... the CycleLoft guy runs something even smaller than that. Crazy.

Back on topic - the last time I did a Chariot race I actually managed to stay with the other guys, so this time I decided to give it a good shot.

Plus it would be a good full out effort, and I wanted to get some of those in while I was here.

I heard Dick mention the woman's name during warm up or something - Brooke something. It rang a bell, so when we were waiting for the Chariot stuff to start, I asked if she'd raced for a shop down in Connecticut. She had, and over the years she'd also asked me about Gimbles and Bethel (she lives far away, like in Colorado or something). Back then I asked what Cat she was because I didn't want to send a newbie to Gimbles, and when she replied Cat 1 or 2 (I forget which), it was a bit embarassing.

Anyway, she wasn't afraid to launch attacks and all that so that was good.

And when I lined up for the Chariot race, someone held my bike so well it felt like it was in a bike stand. I didn't know who it was, so I mentioned that, "Whoever holding me is a pro at it."

Of course it was Brooke.

They count down, 3, 2, 1, and then say Go! On 'Go!' you go, standing start, 90" gear for me, and try and beat everyone over one lap.

The CycleLoft guy started next to me, did like a quarter downstroke, gained a foot on me, and suddenly eased. I shot into the lead, someone else unclipped at the line and almost fell, and in the ensuing chaos no one really got a chance to go after me. I sprinted over the line first.


That was the first heat though. And it killed me. I felt weird pain type sensations I haven't felt since, well, Tuesday Night Sprints at SUNY Purchase. I could barely pedal, my muscles felt bathed in acid, and I really didn't want to race anymore.

The top three from that heat met the top three from the other heat, and we had another race. Brooke held my bike again, but this time I didn't follow through. I don't think I launched quite as hard (my weird leg sensations probably had something to do with that), and I eased just before the line. I think I couldn't even manage 4th out of 6.

Next up was a Miss & Out, and, frankly, I didn't feel like even starting. A lap or two of gentle, slow pedaling made my legs feel a bit better, and I convinced myself I could start the race. The three neutral laps killed me, and when they started pulling riders, I drifted off the back and let myself get pulled first.

The CycleLoft guy won that too I think. He's just so fast it's unbelievable. A different world. He was a human derny in the Miss & Out, sitting at the front lap after lap after lap after lap. I was disappointed the motorcycle guy didn't show up this week, but the CycleLoft guy demonstrated that you don't need a motorcycle to get that even-Steven pace for 5 or 8 laps.

The big race for the night was the Madison, a 30 lap race in this case. Since we were all Bs (except for the couple guys), we did some practice, then we'd do a practice race. This meant we'd sprint for points, we'd practice hand offs, and the CycleLoft guy would make sure that a few of us stayed together to make it interesting.

First we did some practice. I teamed up with a guy Brian, who happens to be Asian, much more fit than me, and a relatively new racer. He wore a Frosted Flakes jersey so he couldn't be all that bad.

Plus, one of the first things he said to me was, "Hey, I read your blog!"

Point in his favor, that's for sure.

We did like two exhanges (hand offs), then just pedaled and talked about racing and stuff. After 5 minutes of gabbing, Dick Ring coached us via PA to do some more exchanges because, frankly, we weren't do anything constructive.

I felt like I'd been a naughty school boy, and now the teacher was making me write my homework down in front of him.

Brian and I did a few exchanges, did a reasonable job, and I'm glad that Dick made us do them because it really helped during the practice race.

When the CycleLoft guy was pointing out the teams for the race, he referred to the various jerseys (for those on the same team). Scotty and his teammate were Orange. Scotty and I paired up last time but we got lapped a lot of times... as Scott said, "I ran out of fingers to count how many times we got lapped."

We naturally had a lot of non-teammate pairs. So for the two tall guys, the pro said that the two tall guys were a team. The two Masters who were less tall, they were the less tall team.

Finally he came to us.

"Um, and Brian and Aki, well..."

I said what everyone was thinking.

"The two Asians!"

Everyone chuckled. Sometimes you gotta say what you gotta say.

With that we lined up and went. I started first, no plans on sprinting, no plans on anything. I even told Brian that after a few laps we'd be off the back and we could practice the slinging bit on our own.

I also told Brian that I can't go 2 laps on my own so I needed to exchange every 1.5 laps. I must have said it a few times because he took it to heart. That meant that as soon as Brian slung me into the race, he'd have to slow enough that he'd only go 1/2 lap before I lapped him. It sounds simple but in practice you have to almost stop to avoid overshooting the straight.

Or train more I guess, so I can go 2 laps at a time.

I started out first, I exchanged with Brian pretty quickly, and we got into a decent rhythm, exchanging every lap and a half (I returned the short-stint favor). We each missed one exchange, but nothing major, so that was good.

The CycleLoft pro kept things even for us newbies, and the race resembled a slightly higher-than comfortable group ride. With hand slings and such.

I didn't realize how decently we were doing our exchanges until it was just our team, the Orange guys (Scott and a teammate), and the CycleLoft pair. I really had no idea when we were "sprinting" until Brian slung me into the race and half a lap later Dick announced I won that sprint.

I did?

I ran into difficulty though. After one lap I was toast, and that half lap to get to Brian was unending torture. I left gaps every time, and the CycleLoft pro once encouraged me, "Get on that wheel!"

Then he looked at me, looked at my face, realized that wasn't about to happen, and closed the gap himself.

Somehow we never came off that front group. Or, more accurately, the human derny wouldn't let us get dropped. So Brian and I ultimately got third. We weren't the strongest riders but we managed to do our exchanges without losing too much ground to the human derny. So that was good.

Our final race was an Australian Pursuit. This is where you line up all around the track, evenly spaced, and you chase each other around. When you get passed, you're out.

By now my legs were numb with lactic acid, I was tired, and I half-heartedly attacked the race. One of the good riders started in front of me, and I gave up after a lap or so. I decided to keep riding so I could help whoever caught me. When I got caught I pulled for maybe half a lap but my legs were fading hard.

Brian flew by me. Surprising because I didn't know he caught me. I wish I'd pulled harder for him, but it was too late.

Ultimately he got into the top three, so my weak pull didn't affect him that much, and they did a match sprint. CycleLoft pro, the kid that started in front of me (an A rider), and Brian. Brian came close to taking second, but, again, the CycleLoft guy entertained us with his playful tactics and immense speed.

During the evening Dick Ring asked me about my team, complimented my kit, and said something else about me, I forget what. It's not usual to hear my name on the PA, and it's even more unusual to hear it pronounced correctly, so it was really significant to me.

Because of that, of seeing some familiar faces (Mike P, Scotty and Greta, the tall Jamis guy whose name I forget, the guy who sat out the Miss & Out - last name like Robin or Robic or something, with the heavy light blue bike), new ones (Brian - with a PowerTap no less), and a new-old one (Brooke), I had a great time.

Hence the hyper-euphoria. And the loud surprise the missus got when she called me.

Now to get back in the car and get back home to her and the kitties.

Addendum: Seems the missus was really sick and went to bed early. Her "call" was actually my call to her. I was just delirious.