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.


Brian said...

Hey Aki,

Great to meet you and do a bit of racing together. Looking forward to next week!

Aki said...

It was fun racing for sure. I'll give you a jersey if we team up again so we can be something other than the "Asian" team.