Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Racing - May 11, 2010 @TuesdayTheRent

I have to admit that after pouring a lot of mental and physical energy into the Bethel Spring Series, it's been hard to motivate for "the next part" of the season. Part of it has to do with a somewhat demoralizing development at my original 2010 season focus, the track up in New Hampshire, a topic that I haven't really discussed "in post" yet.

Another part has to do with the idea that all the neglected stuff during the Bethel days need to get un-neglected. For example, last Sunday, after returning from an overnight trip to visit the Missus's side of the family, I finally got around to moving a bunch of Bethel boxes downstairs into their hibernation area. I'm not done yet, but at least I got that bit out of the way.

A third aspect has been the lack of team interaction between myself and the others. Because of various post-tax-season scheduling type conflicts, I haven't seen a teammate since, literally, the last race at Bethel. They worked so hard for me there, I felt disappointed to miss the next team meeting (that happened during the Vegas trip, something scheduled outside my control) and I couldn't do a couple Saturday races with them (due to working Saturdays once again after missing two months of them).

After piling one exhausting thing on top of another, from being unable to sleep to weather to travel to emergency errands, I found myself skipping a lot of training. I haven't trained much around here, a few days outside, a few days on the trainer, but that's it since mid-April.

Finally, to top it all off, I hadn't brought money or much food to work the day of the first Rent race. If you call two spare ribs and six brownie pieces food, then, yes, I brought food to work. But that and coffee for an 8 to 5 shift... not so great.

When the Rentschler Field races weren't called (like they rightly did last week), I got a bit motivated.

I'd prepared a little before, of course, gathering a full gear bag (it was supposed to be cold), the bike, my helmet cam (charged up), and things like my shoes (in the bike room), pump (in the living room - a post-Bethel clutter item), and my bottles.

I left my Down Low Glows on the bike, for a few reasons. First, I like them on the bike. Second, only the battery weighs any significant amount of weight, and I can strip that off in a second. Third, I wanted to race my bike in its "training loadout".

My normal race loadout consists of the fastest wheels I have - HED Stinger 6s in my case - two bottles, the SRM, and nothing else. My training loadout is a bit different - lights (I misplaced my blinkie tail light), two bottles, clinchers, SRM, saddle bag... in other words "heavy". I struggled a bit with the weight of the saddle bag (two tubes, three multi tools, tire levers) so I took that off, and my pump was hitting my leg when I last rode so I took that off too.

The Missus and I loaded up the car and jetted over to the Rent. We were both happily amazed at how many cars were parked there for the race - what a great turnout! The B race had just started, and by the time I got dressed and went to registration, the Expo Boys had two in the break, six (!) in the field. Lance won the race after doing a half lap leadout. Wow.

For the A race we had Drew and SOC; some registration confusion meant that a couple of the Boys from the B race couldn't do the A race. Next week, right?

With the weather chilly (Mister SRM said it was 55 degrees F), I'd underdressed just a bit. I had on shorts, a base layer, SS (short sleeve) jersey, LS jersey, some thick Sock Guy arm warmers, shoe oversocks, and a thin skull cap under my helmet. No Atomic Balm, no oil.

My legs were, at best, chilled.

We set off at a leisurely pace, so leisurely that I ended up at the front for part of the first lap. The field let me get a small "parade gap", an insignificant gap that they open for some reason other than racing ones.

In my case they knew I held no breakaway threat and they were all also a bit chilly too.

I eased, melded back into the field, and the first attack went. Race = On!

I spent a couple turns finding my pack cornering self, all sorts of instinctive reactions flooding my head. Once settled, I realized that, hey, my legs are still cold, still stiff, and I really needed to warm them up. I eased further back into the field, sheltering from the cool breeze, and worked on getting my legs a bit better.

Breaks went away and came back, but for a while I focused more on the field aspect of racing. SOC was pretty active, always managing to be in the front split, sometimes attacking the field, even winning one of the few primes of the day.

Inspired a bit, I also decided to get in some efforts. I bridged across one gap to a big group, a split more than a break. It took a decent effort, letting me test my wide rim HED Bastognes in a high speed corner. SOC was up there already, of course, because he was racing like that. After a lap or so the two groups reintegrated.

Focused. Battery under top tube. Helmet cam on helmet (of course).
Picture by RTC.

A bit more comfortable, I sat in the field. The faster stuff started happening, the field strung out, and I made some efforts just to stay on wheels. I spent literally half the race in the field, cataloging the riders. This one looked smooth. This one, not so smooth. Strong. Not so strong. Good line. Not so good line. So on and so forth.

My lack of food started catching up with me. I felt a bit empty, legs were getting a bit crampy, and I found myself near the back. I decided to plug in the Down Low Glows (no switch) since, hey, I gotta use the battery before I charge it again.

Drew had been hanging back there, recovering a bit too. I'd noticed both of them doing some work, not really for themselves, and was afraid that they'd reverted to the "protect Aki" frame of mind. I didn't want that, not here.

He asked me how I was doing and I told him "good". I mean, yeah, I did a good effort back there, but I wasn't feeling good, and at the Bethel Spring Series everyone kept asking me how I felt. I didn't want him to think that I'd be able to pull a monster sprint out of my legs. So I rode up to him again and corrected myself.

"I'm starting to cramp so I'm not gonna be thinking of the finish."

He got the message.

Me, too.

I decided that if I wasn't going to see the finish, I might as well see some action. So when the pace stayed steady for a bit, I decided to move up aggressively. As I got towards the splintering head of the field, I could see two riders dangling just off the front. I paused, waited for an opening, and launched.

A short, hard effort and I got on the wheels. I realized that I was already way into the red zone - enough so that I didn't realize another guy came up with me.

I managed to pull through once, but after that I started getting dizzy. I literally almost missed a couple of the turns because I wasn't sure where we were on the course. The strongest guy in the break, Ron (racing for CCNS), surged a bit, separating himself from the rest of the group. I tried to pull again, but after another half minute or so of suffering, the field swarmed around us.

Ron in front of me. I could barely hold his wheel - I am as far forward as possible, trying to reach just a bit more for shelter from the wind. Note the Down Low Glows (the light sticks).
Picture by RTC.

As rider after rider rolled past me I realized that, oh, I think I went a bit deep into my reserves (on later review, Mister SRM said I averaged about 179 bpm, a good 10-15 beats over my normal heartrate). On a different day, a different year, I might have given up, soft pedaled, and let the field go away. But I couldn't do that today.

I recovered just enough to hang onto the last couple wheels, burying myself with effort, and managed to stay in the game.

My cramping now reduced to just very sore legs, I started thinking about the finish. On short courses I can do somewhat effective leadouts. Not great, but okay. And although I'd been feeling pretty bad at the beginning of the race, I figured I had one long effort left in my legs.

I'd spend it on someone else.

SOC seemed intent at the front so I made my way up there. Of course I only made it there inside the 2-to-go mark.

I thought about how to phrase it. If I just said, "You want a leadout?" it could sound like I wanted the leadout. So I'd make sure I'd say something like, "You want ME to give YOU a leadout?"

"How do you feel, you want me to lead you out?"

We hit the bell, at least 20 guys back.

I hit the wind, started moving up, glancing back occasionally to make sure SOC was there. He was so I kept gunning it.

Then, approaching the last turn, I made a mistake. As the guys in front flared out a bit, I instinctively went for the hole. I should have stayed my line, trading my legs for a bit of position. Racing for myself I'd have recovered a bit by sitting in, but this wasn't for me - I should have waited until we exited the turn and then buried myself.

I knew I wouldn't make it to the line quickly so I waited. Apparently, so did the rest of the field. When I finally launched, very late, Ron, the strong break rider from CCNS, drilled it and rode away from everyone else. A couple seconds later I got swarmed by everyone else.

Incredibly, looking at the SRM data, I learned that I still managed an 1100+ watt jump at the end of yet another 178+ bpm lap. Overall my normalized power (which is kind of like "power if you rode consistently") was 10% over my threshold (IF - Intensity Factor - was 1.12). This indicates that my FTP is higher than my estimated 250 watts (based on a 263 watt 20 minute max). So, although I may not feel stronger per se, I'm able to make efforts I couldn't dream of making a year ago. And my heart, for whatever reason, can sustain some very, very high (to me) bpms.

We cooled down, everyone did the normal post-race hash talk, and then the Missus, SOC, Drew, and I went for some dinner.

Inevitably we returned to talking about the race. In particular we talked a bit about the leadout - SOC said that when I pulled in a bit at the last turn, he lost my wheel.

He also added, a big grin on his face, that a lot of guys was fighting for my wheel.

He had done a good job to stay on that long. Next time I'll have to do a couple things differently to give SOC a better leadout. First, better position, so I have more in reserve for the leadout itself. Second, faster leadout, so that SOC doesn't have to fend off a lot of other sprinters. Third, don't shelter, because the point is not for me to get shelter but for SOC.

Maybe I'll throw on the aero wheels too.



Rory said...

Great write up! Will you be posting your helmet cam video?

It was my first time at the Rent (and my first race of the season) and I wasted a ton of energy hanging on the back of the pack for the majority of the race but luckily i wasn't dropped. I know I just need to get back into the spirit of riding crits and working on positioning and hiding, but sometimes it's really frustrating when you're 6'5"!!

Any tips for a big guy trying to get better positioning?

Nice meeting you.

Aki said...

I'll be working on the helmet cam clip. I figure it'll be a series of clips so I'll think of a way to present it in some cohesive fashion.

At Rent the back of the field isn't bad, it's just that you may get gapped off by riders at the limit. If you move up just 3-4-5 spots, you'll find yourself at the back of the real field, not amongst the trailing debris. I can say that because all too often I'm one of the trailing debris, and if I'm there, trust me, you don't want to be on my wheel.

For tall riders looking for shelter, the big thing will be to find other tall riders who are good. Follow them. I don't mean sit on their wheel for the whole race but if a tall guy sits in a certain place, on a certain guy's wheel, he should be doing it for a reason.

At Rent I can think of one guy right away - Aiden (CCNS) is a tall guy, super strong, Cat 1 / Pro level. Noting where he sits, how he approaches the race, that would be good. He doesn't necessarily ride super hard at the Rent races so you can even follow him here and there.

The other thing is the Rent favors steady efforts injected with big ones necessary to stay in the field. This is the best way to arrive at the finish with a lot of reserves (if that's your goal).

It's like driving in rush hour traffic. If you drive at 100% aggression level, cutting people off, diving into little holes, you'll get to work maybe a minute or two before someone who drove a little more mellow. At Rent I used to make huge efforts to close gaps, I'd roam up and down the field to try and find shelter, etc. Inevitably, for almost every race last year, I would explode and go off the back.

Then I realized that although I was getting dropped each week, another rider, who I always found myself passing "at critical points", was finishing. I decided to mark this other rider and mirror their efforts, even if I thought it was a "critical point". Sure enough I didn't make such peaked efforts, but I had more left when it really came down to important moves. Unfortunately I crashed that day but I learned my lesson on conserving energy.