Monday, June 08, 2009

Racing - Connecticut Coast Criterium, Report

Ah. Bethel, again. But this time in totally different circumstances.

First off, it's warm. Warm like 80-something degrees, warm like it's summer, warm like it's not the Spring Series.

Second, it's not my race! Although I see a lot of familiar equipment, loaned out to the team, and even the best TiVO photofinish operator in SW Connecticut who goes by the handle "Jonathan", it's someone else's show. And with that it meant no pre-reg dredge, no gathering stuff in the van, none of that stuff.

JJ and his crew did all that.

This meant that when I entered the refuge known as "My Dad's", the house I lived in from the end of elementary school through college, I could relax. In fact, after learning about the new cars that my nephews recently acquired, I actually started nodding off. The missus herded me upstairs and I couldn't even re-read one of my childhood books (for some reason I re-read the Louis L'Amour books most) - I fell fast asleep almost immediately.

Of course, like usual, I woke up about 7.5 hours later, about 4 AM. But, in my refuge, whatever stresses temporarily sidelined, I simply fell back asleep again.

A few hours later we got up, thanked JJ for letting us off the hook for any early morning deployment, and went and got some breakfast. The missus treated (again) and told me half-jokingly that I'd have to win that money back at the race.

Suddenly I felt stressed.

Um... Okay, I didn't feel stressed.

Joking aside, I'd tried to prepare for this race a bit better than, say, Hartford, with the missus's support. She'd alternately cajoled me to ride or hustled me to bed early, depending on my exhaustion level. I'd eaten lots of carbs like pasta (and ham - I'm almost finished eating what amounts to about 6 pounds of spiral-cut ham) and rice, some iron-rich meat (burgers, steak), and drank lots of cramp-preventing electrolyte drink. I rested as much as possible, recovering from some admittedly exhausting days at work, and rode when I felt energized.

So when I finally rolled up to the course, I felt relatively prepared. I had a fresh tape for the helmet cam, I had two frozen bottles (one of Powerade, one of water, and the blanket actually had ice in it from condensation), some less cold bottles (Powerade, water), and my bike with my standard racing DV46 tubulars.

I set things up, leaving the helmetcam with the missus, and did a few warm-up laps. Although my legs didn't feel sore (usually cramping as badly as I did on Tuesday night leads to a few days of repercussions), as soon as I stood on the hill I could feel lactic acid building up.

I hadn't fueled enough.

I'm no dietician (just look at me), but to me "good legs" means I do a little effort and I feel fine. "Bad legs" is when I stand and immediately feel lactic acid, some fatigue deep inside the muscle. When I eat a lot of carbs and such in the 2 days before a race, I have good legs. When I don't, I don't.

Therefore I didn't eat enough.

(This may be simply a correlational relationship, but I've gotten to the point where I think of it as causual. Any dieticians feel free to pipe up.)

I thought that maybe I needed a lap or two and that lactic acid feeling would disappate but no such luck. It just lingered and lingered. I didn't have a Coke or anything sugary and caffeinated, so I just had coffee thoughts and hoped that would help. Which reminded me...

"There goes that $25 breakfast."

I kept doing laps, hoping for something to change, rolling around until 1:23 PM, just a bit of time before our 1:30 PM start. Of course the helmet cam took more time to set up than I expected, but the new expediant set-up meant I still had a moment or two to gather my thoughts before we set off on our adventure.

I honestly don't remember very much about the beginning of the race, except that Merto, a friend who works overseas but was in the area for a bit, put down some crackling pace, launching up the road to work out some of the time zone kinks from his legs.

My "front of the field" patrolling became, about 10 laps later, "tailgating the field". I drank my frozen Powerade first, figuring any sugar and electrolytes would come in handy. By the time I finished it, we hadn't hit the halfway point, and when I realized that I'd already delved into my frozen water, I started to worry a bit.

The heat (85 or so degrees) and lack of shade really cooked me, and I realized I'd consumed something like 3/4 gallon of fluid in the last 2 hours (2 quarts of Powerade, a bottle of Hint, and a bunch of water). Stopping to pee would be bad. Therefore I eased up on the "intake" and focused a bit more on "sprinkling".

Ice water on the face feels awesome, in case you didn't know. Shocking, yes, but awesome.

With some judicious ice water application (none near the helmet cam or its various electronic elements and connections), I felt a lot better.

Somehow, and I'd been looking for it, my legs never displayed that dismaying lactic acid concentration. Nor did they even hint at cramping. I guess a half gallon of Powerade will do that.

As the laps wound down, the field seemed overheated. More than once we'd slow down to 15 or 18 mph, only to surge on the hill. Everyone seemed lethargic, any motivation melting away in the heat. At my tailgunning position I had no idea what was happening in the race, but eventually one fact filtered into my heat-adled brain:

There Was No Break.


Suddenly I got goosebumps, from the heat perhaps, but also from some adrenaline. Or maybe the ice water.

Whatever, I took it as a good sign, and started paying more attention to the lap cards. Before the race I'd been talking to someone about my last year's Hartford fiasco, where I sprinted a lap early, and I really didn't feel like making that same mistake here.

I managed to move up a bit by 4 or 5 to go, leaving plenty of riders in front of me, gambling on some finessing to move up in the last few laps.

I sort of saw 3 to go, then suddenly it was 2 to go, and I felt like I'd been caught napping. I sat too far back, going up the hill, and I needed to move up NOW.

Somehow that's what happened. I took opportunities when I could but really, by popping through a momentary gap going up the hill, I got into about 15th spot just before the bell.

A blue team had three guys in the first five, and I figured that was the leadout. If the team drilled it for the whole lap, it'd be tough. I'd have to jump from pretty far back, maybe 10 or 15 back, and that's just enough that I didn't feel comfortable about, well, making the breakfast money back.

However, if things bunched up, I could try and move up a bit, an odds-on bet for me at Bethel.

Then, on the first stretch, the string broke. The first Blue rider, pulling hard into the headwind, rode away with a Cambridge rider on his wheel. The next two Blue riders looked around, looking for people to go.

And no one went.

No one! I saw one teammate but I knew he was trying to get a good result because he was playing coy with the wind. So I didn't yell anything. Plus he was about 5 guys ahead of me, and I didn't feel like really yelling. I didn't think to look around, nor yell, but it was crazy. We were soft-pedaling and watching two riders just mosey on away from us.

I hoped for a quick catch of the renegade two man break, a temporary reprieve from the pace, and then I'd be good for the sprint.

But... nothing.

Granted, I'm sure those two guys up front had it totally pegged, but from a field sprinter waiting for the race to open up, well, we were just coasting along in first gear. Yes, I know I was just sitting in, but trust me, I've tried to go from further out and it just doesn't work. Serious.

I think a lot of the guys at the front were sprinters without teammates, and therefore we had no sacrificial riders to throw at the front of the field. Because of the tepid pace, the field actually bunched up going into the long Turn Two, and stayed that way on the back stretch.

"Bunched" up, not "swarmed" into a big glob. The former is due to the front slowing and the rest of the field naturally flaring out and around. The latter is due to sheer panic and desperation driving all racers to move up as much as possible regardless of energy expenditure.

For me, at least for the sprint, the bunching was a good thing. Things mixed around a bit and I found a previously non-existant opening.

For the break, it was even better. The two riders had become one, with the Cambridge guy launching at some point because suddenly, on the back stretch, he was alone and out of reach.

Things in the field seemed perfectly normal. I had no idea what would happen. I sat 10 or so back from the front. I had some legs left (this is relatively unusual in a summer race), but no idea when I'd use it.

Then, ta-da!, someone threw me a bone. Or, in this case, a tall, fast, frustrated Bethel rider.

At maybe 500 meters to go he peeked over to the right, saw some real estate, and set about gobbling it up at a much faster rate than anyone around. My new best friend Kevin slid over neatly to claim the wheel, but I sort of met him in the middle.

We rode side by side for a second, both wanting this gift of a wheel.

A brief calculation, a glance, and I eased just a bit, relying on my ability to get on Kevin's wheel. I figured that two really tall guys would make for a better leadout than one really tall guy, and Kevin is a really tall guy.

I eased onto his wheel, got out of a lot of the wind, and we blew by the front of the field. I saw one guy look over and start accelerating to get on the train before it left town, but, man, we were flying.

The Bethel guy kept looking back and I thought he was good ole Hob, but things didn't seem right for it to be him. Nevertheless my new leadout man kept it pegged as we rounded the bottom of the hill.

I checked to see what was happening around me. Nothing. No one. Nada.

I felt awesome, great, absolutely fresh, like I'd just gotten on the bike. I thought, man, I am going to pulverize Kevin, just kill him when I jump, and I'll go right to the line and woot! get second behind that damn friken Cambridge guy.

I jumped as hard as I could, shifting up as I did.

Then I realized that I'd forgotten everything about sprinting.

I forgot to distribute my weight evenly, with a touch of front bias. Therefore my front wheel skittered across the yellow line, and suddenly I found myself almost hitting the curb.

I totally forgot about my optimal jump cadence. Like totally. Therefore I felt like I was pedaling in a barrel of molasses. My mind raced. "90-95 rpm, two gears lower, should have checked, should I shift down, I think I can make it, hell no one can pass me once I'm at the front"

I didn't shift down.

One foot. The other foot. Then the first foot. My legs started faltering. Somehow they didn't respond like I thought they would, my downstrokes getting weaker and weaker. My body sort of melted around my knees, trying to get them to push down harder on the pedals.

I've got to make it. Just around the sewer grate, unusually naked, then the endless stretch of pavement leading to the line, just have to...

Look over to the right.

Kevin, totally and completely killing me in the sprint.

Aw, crap.

The line came, I don't even know if I threw my bike.

I looked for Kevin on the cool down lap, cutting through about 5 guys to get over to him.

He had a big grin on his face.

I did too.

We shook hands, just a grip really.

"I can't believe you got me. I even let you on that guy's wheel because I was thinking, 'Oh, man, I am going to annihilate him in the sprint! Just crush him! And then you...'"

What could he say? He just laughed and smiled. He'd played his cards right, saw the opportunity, and most importantly...

He did the sprint right.

Ah well. Close but no cigar. Horseshoes and hand grenades and all that. All those "If only..." things. If only one guy took a pull to keep the break within reach. If only I'd not shifted into the




I had going up the stupid hill.

If only, perhaps, I'd shifted down.

If only I'd talked with some of the guys before the race.

But, well, it's all good.

I managed to win breakfast money back and then some.


Connor Sallee said...

aw, crap. when i came up to you after the race, i had no idea you did so well - i would've said something!

nice job!

Aki said...

No biggie. It was a fun race, nice outcome, and the helmet cam actually recorded the whole thing. Plus you had your mind on your bike. How'd things hold up?

No One Line said...

Looking forward to the helmet cam. Your comment on correlation/causation reminded me of this.

Colin R said...

The fans demand the helmet cam footage!

Aki said...

NOL: statistics strip - I could not have said it better myself. lol. My last statistics class I missed my midterm and guessed on something like 19 of 20 multi choice questions on the final (I forget the # of questions but it was (n-1) guesses as I could only answer one problem with any sense of knowledge). I got a B or something. Now that's statistics, as I like to say.

Colin: I've transferred the tape to hard drive, now I have to edit. I figure it takes me 4-5 hours to get a clip into rough shape, and perhaps another couple hours to hone it up. If it rains all day today I may have some of that time, but I figure it'll be Thu or Fri earliest before I have it up.

Suitcase of Courage said...

Great race report as usual! I've said it before, but I'm always amazed at how much you see (and remember) about a race. Glad you did so well - and also looking forward to the helmet cam!

Aki said...

SOC - I had an advantage - in this case I could review some stuff like pics of the race from a teammate and the last lap of the helmet cam, so I had some help in remembering.

I did make a mistake remembering something - I realized that I had the colors "negatived" on the guy that fell - his torso color was dark, the sleeves light, but when describing his kit after the race, I reversed the colors. So my witness powers can be suspect.

However, I am pretty sure of what happened otherwise :)

Connor Sallee said...

hah well, it didn't fall off! there are some new arms on ebay that i'm peepin. perfect timing!

Aki said...

Connor - I read that you did fine on the cranks. Looks like you're riding well right now!

c-rob said...

where are the helmet cam videos posted?

Aki said...

SOC: I looked at more of the clip - ends up the rider's kit is different on each side, so I was only half wrong. Or half right. Like when I told you the guy was on a black bike, but that was just his chainstays. You told me he was on a red bike because you looked at the front of his bike. Point is that I remembered only part of the guy's kit. And the other point is that it shows that I sit on wheels a lot. lol.

c-rob: a link will be here when I finish the clip (embedded) but my clips are all on YouTube under Sprinterdellacasa. The full race won't be up, just 5-10 minutes worth.

Connor Sallee said...

thanks bud!