Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Dateline: 20:48, 15 July, 2009

Yet another Mass Pike Rest Stop post.

This time, on the way to the track, I decided to risk all and go through without stopping (in a previous Dateline I explain that I stop to keep my average speed down). We'll see what happens. As it is, I got in the mail the EZPass statement, the first one with the tolls for the Mass Pike. And sure enough, the statement includes all the actual times. I'll have to figure out exactly how far it is, and therefore how fast I've been driving.

On second thought, maybe I won't.

Whatever, I rushed through because I had spent a lot of the day doing errand type stuff, things like trying to catch two kittens (negatory), clear a gutter (negatory, but I was soaked afterwards), wash the van (check, but didn't do the roof - I need a taller stepladder), eat (two protein shakes, some Chicken Picata from last night, and... um... oh, two hotdogs for breakfast), and, um, I think that's it. Well, pack the car. Drive the van around. Some other stuff.

I didn't change after my last venture into the shop's crawl space, so I'm wearing a shirt I normally reserve for private use - family, PJs, or scrounging around in a crawl space. It's an IT shirt that I got from ThinkGeek:

Yeah, it's a little obnoxious when in a non-IT environment.

I like this shirt for really just one reason. I mean, yeah, it reminds me that I did IT once, and I have some cursory knowledge of such things, but the other is my sister. She asked me what "root" meant, and I explained that it's the default superuser or admin on Linux servers. So if you're root, you're bad.

Like good bad, not bad bad.

Anyway, my sister digested this info, tilting her head, then perked up.

"If you're root, I must be a leaf or something."

So I can't help but think of my sister when I wear this shirt.

For everyone else, though, it's kind of obnoxious. Like I'm a gaming freak or something. People say hi, their eyes travel down my shirt, and then they look at me... differently.

But I digress. (And I just thought, holy smokes, this is going to be a long post... I better type quickly.)

Mass Pike, didn't stop. Yeah.

The reason I didn't stop is I wanted to get some warm-up in before the races launched at 6:15, and it takes me a good 15 or 20 minutes to get on the bike. So I drove all the way to the track, stopped and got gas ($2.69 for 93 octane - at home it's $2.69 for Regular), hit the john, and bought some PowerBar with protein, and a Gatorade (because I used a whole can of Gatorade mix in about a week). With that, off to the track.


Before I go on, I should explain that I'm a rank novice on the track. I mean, yeah, I know a bit about bike tactics, and I'm able to pedal a bike, but that's about it. I have no clue about track racing, none whatsoever. I just fumble along and try and dredge up any old memories on tips and tricks and such.

Think of me as the clueless new racer at a crit. I don't know how my bike really works, I do dumb things every now and then, and I don't even know some of the wrong things I'm doing.

So, to continue, I... pulled my bike out of the car (using the chain holder I received as a present), put in the rear wheel, and adjusted it so the chain was really loose.

See, back in the day someone told me that the looser the chain, the better. That's only half true, but I'll explain later.

I also remembered my Liquid Fence Yard Net (mosquito repellent) and my Cutter spray. I also found out the blood sucking critters don't like oily suntan oil, and since I use that instead of heat rub in the summer, I sprayed it all over my exposed skin. I sprayed the Yard Net around my car, and Cutter on my jersey and shorts.

I walked out to the track with my squishy cooler, one my dad got from his last employer. It's really convenient, holds 6 to 8 bottles, and actually keeps things cool. I had my Gatorade (half gone before I got on the bike), two bottles of ice, two Cokes, and a Rock Star.

After popping a Coke (the second to be saved for the drive home, Rock Star got vetoed - too much peeing) and leaving one bottle of ice out (I forgot water, duh), I started rolling around, warming up. My legs felt really, really stiff, due to a bunch of riding I've done. In fact, my lack of posts is partially due to the incredible fatigue I've felt from the riding. This fatigue hints at my goals for the day - to just ride. I just hoped to make the drive worthwhile.


They brought the Moto out. The Moto is a small motorcycle, a regular one, with one roller attached to the back. It's used for the Keirin, to pace the field until 1 lap to go, but it's also a great tool for doing a steady warm-up.

It made an appearance a few weeks ago, and one thing I saw the Human Derny (Kurt from CycleLoft) do is skim the roller, making it turn.

I wanted to do that too.

So, with only one guy behind the Moto, I dove down the (slight) banking and took up second spot. And after a few laps, the first guy pulled off.

The Roller beckoned.

I tried to hit it, but my natural instincts were killing me - I'd get literally half an inch from it and my legs just automatically eased. Then we'd hit a corner, so I'd back off a bit (I didn't know what would happen if I hit it in a corner). I'd make another charge at it on the next straight, come within a hair of touching it, then back off for the corner (or is it a turn? I don't know - see? Clueless new racer).

After 5 or so laps of this, I had a small audience following me around. And it's kind of fun being the first rider behind the Moto, so I started feeling bad that I was hogging the spot.

But I had to spin the Roller.

It's like the brass ring on the merry go round, or, um, well, the brass ring.

Finally, I charged up to the roller, eased forward...

And it spun!


I pulled up the track, smiling. I think I even made a "Yeah!" fist.

So.... at some point we started racing. Scratch, then a Miss N Out, a 20 lap Points race (4 sprints), a Keirin, and an "extra" race.

The Scratch is hit or miss for me. I either hang in there until the end, then I can demolish guys in the sprint, or they go hard and I get shelled.

Tonight I got shelled.

I also tried to coast in a turn. I asked someone later if I was super sketchy, and he smiled and said no, it was okay.

I don't believe him, but I'll try not to try to coast anymore.

Anyway, I got shelled. It reminded me that I really need to work on going fast for more than 2 laps at a time. It's really, really hard for me to do that.

I almost finished the Gatorade, but I figured I'd want it for later, and so I almost finished the Coke instead. And started sucking on the ice-filled bottle, trying to drink the water slowly puddling at the bottom.

Miss N Out, where the last rider each lap gets pulled. I usually get killed in this, and that's a pity because the last few riders ease after they're left, and then they do a match sprint. And I'd be good at that.

When they started out kind of easy, and I felt reasonably comfortable, I started getting my hopes up. I gambled on staying low, on folks not going too nuts to keep alive in the race, and...

I got eliminated. Dag.

I wasn't even breathing hard.

This boded well for the next race, the Points race, because I was pretty fresh and the other guys, they were kind of annihilated.

Of course, that's all relative. They shelled me in the Scratch race like nothing, so my freshness would be worth only a little.

I rolled with the first sprint, not trying to win, but looking for the inevitable counter. So I was up there as we crossed the line, looking around, alert.

No counter.

So, instead of hiding back in the field, I decided I would train. I had ended up at the front (I accelerated up to the line so kind of rolled past everyone by the turn) so I stayed there and went not-so-fast, but it was all I could do. Three or so laps later, just before the next sprint, everyone took off.

I was off the back.

Now, along the lines of "I need to train", one thing I really need to do is to be a better pursuiter, a better time trialer. So I decided that, "You know what, I really need to train."

And, like a clueless racer, I chased.

And chased. And chased.

10 laps. At least.

I sat up a couple times, just briefly, but I got so vested in my effort that I didn't want to give up. So I kept chasing and chasing. I knew everyone would feel kind of embarrassed for me, but, hey, I'm the clueless racer so I'm going to train.

Imagine my surprise when they announced the results. Apparently I got a point in that sprint, and because I finished, I got 6th.


Training is hard, and my 10 lap time trial after my 3 lap time trial (at the front) really cooked me. I pretty much finished off the Coke, and dug into the last bits of the Gatorade.

Then, after watching the As show us how to do it, we did the Keirin race. Scott, a good guy I met the first time I raced at NEV, pointed out that second wheel was the best wheel.

I adjusted that mentally for me. If I can jump hard, I should be okay in third. Fourth would be acceptable but not desirable. Since the positions don't change too much during the 6 laps the Moto leads, it's really the start that's critical.

See, you start from a standing start, held by, in this case, the A racers. And you accelerate up to the Moto's speed, about 18-20 mph in this case. The Moto increases the pace until it's going 28 mph (for the Bs), then releases us on the backstretch just before the bell. So it's all out for one and a half laps.

The last time I did a Keirin, the Moto went to at least 30 mph, maybe higher, and I couldn't stay below the Blue line, about 6 or 8 feet from the bottom of the track.

But with the more casual 28 mph peak speed, it seemed a lot more manageable.

My new favorite holder Brooke (she's an A racer) held me more securely than my CycleOps does, and when the Moto went by, we were off.

I didn't get a great start, I didn't dig super deep into my reserves, and I ended up only fourth wheel on the Moto. Not bad, but definitely not that good. I thought about my ProCycling Manager 2008 game, where you do the Keirin, but the biggest thing I remembered is that if I tried to move up before the sprint, I had no sprint left.

Since that's about as much experience I have in a real Keirin (I sat up in the one I did a few weeks ago), I decided I'd gamble all in the last bit after the Moto pulled off.

As the speed climbed, I started second guessing myself, but committed to the plan, I didn't budge.

The moto pulled off and we went even faster. We flew by the bell, dove into the first turn, and I started realizing that I'd have to jump super, super hard to get by three guys at this speed.

So when we hit the backstretch, I jumped super, super hard. I dug into that reserve I hadn't touched when we started, I looked for reserves in my pinky nail, I mean I totally and absolutely killed myself to get going.

I got pretty much nowhere because everyone was flying.

I hit the final turn in third spot (the guy on the Moto's wheel led out and then blew, so he was out). Scott, crafty rider he is, had been in second spot, but the guy in third was a strong rider, and he came around Scott going down the backstretch, hence my jump doing nothing but drawing me even with the third guy Sam.

I was coming up on them but didn't think I could squeeze between them, like above Scott and below Sam, so I went above Sam. Like way the heck up the track, like I was going to Siberia.

I blew by Scott (he won't mind me saying that because he came up to me after the races and told me he couldn't believe how we went around him), but I couldn't quite get Sam.

I lunged desperately at the line, trying to eek out just another inch or two, then I heard some awful grinding racket coming from the back wheel. I felt all resistance disappear from the pedals, and I heard the distinctive noise of "chain in spokes".

I looked down and yep, my chain came off.

Freakin' clueless racer. Didn't tighten his chain enough.

Another new racer asked me if I'd gone to Kurt's (the Human Derny and pro track rider) clinic on track bikes.

Obviously I didn't.

Anyway, when you tighten a track wheel, you push on the side of the chain while you turn the cranks. If the chain doesn't come off, it's tight enough, no matter how loose it feels. But if it derails, it's too loose.

Since my chain popped back on just using my fingers, my chain had been too loose.

But I got second in the Keirin. Yay!

The encore race was a Handicap race. It's where racers start based on how fit (or not) they are, the idea being that the group comes together between 2 and 1 lap to go.

I started next to the Jamis guy from my first night of racing. For the life of me I can't remember his name, but he's a good guy, out to have fun racing on the track. He's also way more track savy than me, and he's also more fit.

We were the worst of the riders fitness-wise so we started in front. We'd be the rabbits dangling in front of the wolves. After I pulled twice, he quickly realized that, well, I need to train more. I slowed down so much when I pulled that he told me to just sit on.

Guys rapidly approached from behind - they'd started only about 50-80 meters behind us, and there were a bunch of them working together to catch the two of us.

Mr Jamis pulled like a madman for two laps, bringing us to the bell lap. When I looked across the track I couldn't see the other guys because they were so close behind us, and I didn't dare risk taking the time to look back as well, because, you know, I already made so many rookie mistakes I didn't want to go down and take out everyone with me.

I just knew they were there. And my legs were achy, tight, loaded with lactic acid, and I started feeling future guilty for Mr Jamis's huge and about-to-be-wasted effort.

But when I heard the bell, my legs suddenly felt awesome. Ready to sprint. Just aching to go. Something happened, maybe adrenaline, could it be?, but whatever it was, my legs were good to go.

So we hauled butt onto the backstretch, I took a little breath, and BAM I launched. I mean I freakin' launched hard, trying to take off like the planes from the nearby airport.

And there was no one in front of me. Just me and the finish line.

I tilted my head, looked 20-30 meters in front of me, dug in with the front of the bike, tried to emulate the Human Derny as much as I could when he won the Keirin...

And I flew across the line first. By a decent margin. No bike throws or lunges necessary.


Now the topper. They gave away martinis as prizes. Martinis! So I got a couple for the missus to try.


What's a martini anyway? I've only seen the glasses, but I don't know what they taste like. I guess we'll find out.

1 comment:

Rishabh Phukan said...

Based on what the Missus told me about your birthday beer the other day, I'm glad you took it home and didn't down it. Heh.

Good job out there!

I'm hoping to start doing some track riding as well.