Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Dateline: 20:33, 5 August 2009

Ah, yes, the rest stop. I didn't need to stop today because I had the (mis?)fortune of pulling onto the Mass Pike directly behind a state trooper. This let me work on my gas mileage instead of rate of travel, so I arrived here averaging just 63 mph but getting 30 mpg (in a car rated 21/26). I'm not an ultra-mileage nut but it doesn't mean I can't do a few basic things while I drive.

Unfortunately there are only a few more weeks before the season closes on the track, so I need to make the most of the remaining sessions.

Fortunately, I can say that I fulfilled that need today. Tonight we did the first of the Goodales Keirin races, along with the standard Scratch race, a Handicap, and a Miss N Out.

I joked with some of the guys about bringing a monster gear for the Keirin because I always seem to be spinning my brains out as we finish, and I am really rough on the track, so a big gear would be useful. Sort of. Jokingly so.

But secretly I decided I really would bring a monster gear - a 53T to be precise, giving me a huge 95" gear (most riders run 88-90", and I'm running a 90"). I'd experiment since I stink at the Keirin anyway, so playing around wouldn't be a bad thing.

However I did do one thing earlier this week - move back to 170 cranks on the road bike. I felt that moving from 175s I use on the road bike (on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday) to the 170s on the Wednesday track bike killed my pedal stroke on the track bike.

Therefore I changed the cranks on the road bike.

I could have changed the track cranks to 175s, but since track emphasizes pedal suppleness, and you can't coast through the bends, I figured that 175s for the track would be a bad idea.

So, yesterday, I race at East Hartford on 170s.

And got totally destroyed.

I wasn't sure if I'd done the right thing, but there was only one way to find out - race on the track.

I got to track in semi-record time so had plenty of time to warm up. I told myself that, like yesterday, I had to learn to suffer once again. I haven't been suffering enough, giving up too easily. Track racing really demands digging deep because the races are so short that everyone goes anaerobic at the end, for longer than comfortable. It's the guys that can fight through it that do well. I'm not used to that because whenever I go uncomfortably anaerobic, I just coast. Or sit up a bit. Or drift back through the field.

I don't dig deep.

I did make a change to the track bike, but it had nothing to do with cranks. I installed the sensors for the cyclometer on the bars (it was just for show for the last month). Curious about how fast we go in a sprint, I tootled around at 17-22 mph for a while (kind of slow in a 50x15, but about as fast as I could go without feeling like I was racing).

Then, with a few minutes left before the first race, I did a flying 200. Well, I did it, but no one was timing me, so it was really just a sprint.

I felt a bit bouncy when I was standing to accelerate, sat through the final bend (that was smoother), and stood up to try and get some oomph to the line (bouncy).

33.1 mph.

That's really not very fast, considering my leadouts on the road bike go 35-38 mph.

However, in one gear, with no shifting, no coasting, and trying to stay in the sprinter's lane... 33 mph is sort of okay. Not great, but not that bad.

Mike T, a sprinter type, pointed out something useful.

"Look, if you're going 33, then the guys behind you have to go 35 or something to pass you."


The bad thing is that both my calves and both my hamstrings threatened to cramp when I jumped. I actually almost cramped when I got off the bike, so I spent the next 10 minutes wondering if I'd just wasted a drive up here. I stretched my calves (they were particularly twingy), praying they'd ease a bit before we raced.

Luckily the As went first, a long 25 lap Scratch race. That was good, more time to stretch, but it implied that we'd be doing a longer than 12 lap scratch race.

"Great", I thought. "A long race on crampy calves."

We Bs lined up afterwards and took to the line for a 15 lap Scratch race. Dick Ring announced that I was the pacer (took me by surprise, I have to admit), so I obliged and rolled us out at some reasonable speed. I did the neutral lap and the first lap, but then guys got impatient and started going.

I think I pulled through for half a lap at some point, making my total 2 1/2 laps, but I was started to worry when we passed the lap cards and they said 11 to go. I had been tailgunning the group, sitting at the back for a couple laps, but 11 to go seemed, well, long. I could have sworn we'd done more than 4 laps, maybe like 8 or 9.

Whatever, I am not too confident in my lap counting abilites so I decided to tailgun a bit more.

Next lap it said 4 to go.


I remember counting 6 laps total where I sat at the back, trying to build some reserves. Unfortunately I didn't move up in any kind of expedited fashion, so I was still 4 or 5 back on the backstretch of the last lap.

I tried to move up and spotted a chancy hole just above the sprint lane as we flew into the final turn. Two guys were down low, one guy up high, and I figured I could blast through that gap. But the guy who'd pulled uptrack (usually means he's giving up) seemed to waver up there, and I didn't want to chance a collision.

I went even further uptrack around him.

Usually this means disaster because you lose 1-2 lengths just going up to the blue line, and I was way over that. I didn't stand because I couldn't, so I just tried to goose the bike forward while remaining seated.

It goosed. Like for real. Like I didn't expect.

Not enough, but a good fight. I can't remember if I got third or fourth, but I was up there for the sprint.

I realized two things immediately, before I even crossed the line:
1. Now I know what the trackies mean when they say they can move up a gear. The 90" gear is good but I couldn't quite spin it up like I felt I should be able to. It's too big for me.
2. I can stay seated and do these spurt efforts, accelerating the bike hard without too much body language.

Now, as far as #1 goes, I can't spin well still so even an 88" gear would get me shelled before the finish. I simply can't go fast enough yet. So the 90" stays. But I want to be able to really spin it out.

#2... well, I decided I'd keep that in mind when I jumped for whatever the next race was.

Ends up it was the Keirin, the first heat.

The As went first, and it was really cool to watch. They're so fast, so consistent, and just when you think they have it all out on the track, they go even faster. Crazy.

Anyway, I got so enthralled watching the As that I totally forgot about my 53T secret weapon. It would have to wait. I hoped my seated jump, the practice going around the bends (the first Keirin I almost ended up in the woods), and some pedal suppleness would help me "survive" with the 90" gear, the 50x15.

We lined up, the moto went by, and we took off. I got third wheel behind the aforementioned Mike T, another sprinter type. I didn't know if guys let me get the ideal spot so I was on guard.

I felt that achiness you get when you get on the bike after watching a race (and not spinning around keeping the legs warm). I dug deeper, tried to get through the pain.

The moto accelerated gently for the next few laps, and after 4 1/2 laps it peeled off, leaving us with 1 1/2 laps of racing. By the time the moto peeled off my legs were back to normal, and the lead guy, with a slight gap, took off.

(Incidentally I'd totally forgotten about the crampy calves and remembered it only when I sat down to type this post. Weird.)

I stuck to Mike like glue through the first curve, and I knew we'd get swarmed on the backstretch. The lead guy would blow (that's the "I don't want to race" position, or the "I want to lead everyone out", so whoever gets there usually ends up fried, at least in the Bs).

I tried to counter the swarm before it ever happened. I moved up track just a touch and did my seated jump as we hit the backstretch. Guys did swarm, but I got clear of them and headed into the finishing stretch in the lead. Crossed the line, fighting off someone on my outside.


Okay, not a wasted drive.

But that was just the heat. The final would be next, after the As did another race or two.

I decided to stay with the 50x15, forget about the 53, and focus on getting a good position, the seated jump, and blasting out onto the final straight.

Scotty, he of the other TriSpoke front wheel, won the repechage (a race for the non-placers - the top finishers get to ride the final) the hard way, going from the front and, incredibly, winning it.

He was so spent that they held an A Handicap race to give him some time to breathe.

After that we lined up for the Keirin final. Scotty seemed surprised when someone motioned for him to get on his bike. He was still semi-delirious from his oxygen-deficit effort and it took a good 10 seconds for him to realize that, yes, he was racing. And it was a Keirin. The Final in fact.

I decided I'd be in front of him when we got going.

In fact, once we hit out, I found myself in front of everyone except Scotty's teammate. A little too far forward, actually. I started hoping that Scotty's teammate would be able to do a good effort, a long effort, because whoever was on my wheel would be waiting to pounce on the backstretch.

Scotty's teammate spun the roller on the moto a couple times, so that gave me some hope. He was obviously a lot more comfy behind the moto than me.

The moto accelerated like normal and with 1 1/2 laps to go, he peeled off. Scotty's teammate was already out of the saddle and accelerating when the moto left, and we went ballistic to the bell, everyone glued to our wheels.

I did a jump to end all jumps to try and decide the race on the backstretch. I blasted into the last turn and, thought I had it, and suddenly there was someone to the outside, going really fast.

I lunged at the line and managed to hold the lead by a hair.


I turned and looked. It was Sam, the guy that destroyed me in the Match Sprints last time I was here. Apparently he was on my outside on the first heat too.

Max speed in both Keirins: 33 mph. Hm. I think the cyclometer was a good idea. I guess the crank thing was a good idea too, at least for the track.

We did the Handicap race next, where we start out around the track for a 6 lap race. I'm not that strong so I was given a sort of forward position (i.e. the strongest riders start at the back, about a third of a lap behind me). Scotty lined up with me, and his teammate was in front of us.

We launched, Scotty quickly bridged to his teammate, me glued to his wheel, and we went really, really fast for a couple laps. Then we all got tired, we regrouped, and everyone started hammering.

I had to ease. I hadn't been shirking my pulls, and after I pulled off at 2 to go, I realized I had gone pretty deep into my reserves. I came off a lap later.

Fifth, behind a solo winner (we never caught her) and the three guys that shelled me on the last lap. Max speed - an amazing 34 mph.

Okay, not as "Yay!" as the Keirin, but promising. I pulled, I could go reasonably fast at the front, and I didn't give up until I was actually off the back.

This was good.

The last race was a Miss N Out, where the last rider is pulled each lap until three remain. Then they do a 2 lap Match Sprint. Historically I am horrible at this race and I've never made it to the final.

Tonight, because it was getting dark quickly, they decided that instead of doing a couple recovery laps, the last three racers would simply race an extra two laps for the finishing order.

Being very, very clever (heh), I counted the number of riders in the group before we set off.


Minus three for the final 2 laps meant five riders would get pulled.

A strong guy went to the front and pulled for a while. He plugged away for a few laps. I think two, maybe three riders got pulled.

Then, spontaneously, with no planning, no forethought (apparently I used up my cleverness when I counted to eight), I launched a pretty serious attack. Actually I surged a bit to make sure I was third, but when I realized that I'd be passing the second guy, I decided to keep going and launch off the front.

I went pretty hard, focused on turning well in the turns, head tilted, drive the bar down, turn from the hip (I learned that today from another new guy on the track who, unlike me, actually bothered to learn something about track racing before trying it), and made a go of it for a lap.

I looked back and almost fell off my bike. I was actually clear of the field, like majorly clear.

This was like an A race attack!

That seemed promising, but then I remembered something. Usually the early break gets caught, and the group smashes said attacker into the ground.

Oh boy.

I tried to keep my form good, tried to remember that even if I slowed a bit, the guys behind had to close that gap, and no one was "resting" because you can't coast on a track bike, and they were still fighting amongst themselves to stay in the race.

"33 means 35 to pass", so I tried to go fast enough so that guys would have to really hurt to catch me.

I heard Dick Ring announce the last of the racers had been pulled, and it was two to go when we hit the line. I got around the final turn and looked up.

Two to go.

Holy smokes, I was dying.

My vision was going grey... or maybe it was the fact that I was wearing sunglasses at night, but whatever, I was just dyyying.

I made it for a lap but I started getting weird on the bike. I couldn't stay low, nor smooth, and I couldn't breathe enough air. I eased, hoping it would help, but it didn't.

The strong guy, who pulled for the first few laps, blew by me. I pedaled lamely. The other guy blew by me. I crawled to the line.


Yay! Sort of. I mean, yeah, it was an inspired effort, totally unlike my character. I thought of Abdujaporov winning a mountain stage in the Tour, that kind of mismatch.

I realized something afterwards: If I didn't ease up, it would have hurt exactly the same.

Therefore, next time, I won't sit up.

I got invited into the clubhouse after the races, snagged my prizes (more martinis! Yay!), chilled with the crowd for a few minutes, and split.

Man, I really want to work on turning over that 50x15 really fast now.



Suitcase of Courage said...

Sounds like we're trying new things lately - lostsa fun, eh?

Unknown said...

Greetings from Hungary! Im really enjoying your track posts, makes me wanna go out and do some sprints, thank you. :)