Sunday, June 20, 2010

Racing - Harlem Crit, Cat 3s

Harlem has a "push-me pull-you" kind of effect on me. I sometimes really look forward to racing it, and other times I cringe and shudder and think I'd never race there again.

The last couple times I've gone, though, it's been less fearful, less stressful. It helps that the neighborhood is nicer (at least to me). One friend had a really rough time - he had parked his car, had very little time (due to traffic and such), and was rushing to get ready for his race.

Someone came up to him in a (nice) car and asked him to move his, so they could take his spot. He explained that, no, I'm getting ready to race, I'm not getting ready to leave, and so I can't move the car.

The guy started yelling at him (blah blah blah mofo blah blah blah mofo etc), then, after driving up and down the street a bit, came back and started yelling about how he can't even move his car and stuff like that.

Welcome to Harlem.

With a welcome like that, it's hard to get psyched to race.

Luckily he stayed upright in our event and managed to ride a cool down lap with no broken bike pieces or bleeding wounds.

(And since we split right after the race, I hope my friend got back to his car and found it in fine shape, with intact tires and all that.)

We'd budgeted a LOT of time to get to the races. First off, we were bringing two nieces (a Father's Day present to their dad - take them off his hands for 3 days). At ages 11 and 7, they aren't quite the handful that an infant can be, but moving them around does take some logistical planning.

(I should point out that the Missus's new hot rod wagon seemed mighty cramped once we loaded one bike, no spare wheels, a couple coolers, a couple bags, a couple kids, and a couple adults into it. A pod on a roof rack looks pretty nice now.)

So, with a 2.5 hour drive in front of us, we left... about 5 hours before the scheduled race start. This left us plenty of time to find parking, find registration (hidden around a corner on a side street), and find a spot in the shade for the girls.

I filled up a few bottles with water at home, but as race time approached, I had a hankering for electrolyte stuff. So I drank a bunch and put electrolyte stuff in my two bottles on the bike. Then, for good measure, I put a dump bottle in my jersey pocket.

My warm up consisted of riding back to the car to get stuff (mainly more Powerade or water) or to the portapotties (thankfully stocked with paper). Then, with about 8 laps remaining in the Cat 4 race, I headed over to a reasonable looking place to get onto the course - 200 meters up the road from the finish.

After the Cat 4s finished we streamed out onto the course and started the first attack of the day - the sprint to the start line.

I managed to get myself into about the second row (dunno how) and promised myself a good clip in, not like my terrible Somerville experience. With a bottle of water in my jersey, two bottles on my bike, I felt reasonably prepared for the heat ahead - 90 degrees and humid.

With a few preliminaries out of the way, we set off. I had a good clip in. Phew.

A few guys attacked right away, and in my fear-driven move to the front, I found myself at the front.

Insanely, I dragged the field to the second turn, along the second straight, to the third turn, along the third long straight, into the final turn, and almost all the way to the start/finish. Somewhere on the third straight I decided that, heck, if I'm pulling like this, I'm gonna pull all the way to the start/finish and get my name announced.

"Here comes the field, led by... a orange and black jersey guy from Connecticut. I can't pronounce his name so I won't even try!"

Just before I'd get my, err, name announced over the PA system, a bunch of guys flew by me.

The announcer probably sighed a breath of relief.

"And from Brooklyn, here comes the United team, leading the field!"

So much for getting announced.

The next lap or two saw me sink through the field, until I felt like I was a good 2/3 of the way down the field. At some point I started thinking of moving all the way to the back because 2/3 of the way back is a dangerous spot.

I turned around.


A couple familiar faces.

One hollered out.

"You're at the back Aki! Not a good place to be!"

Um. Hm.

Okay, 2/3 of the way back is really all the way back. I guess our pre-reg number of 66 riders or so ended up being pretty accurate. I thought we'd have 125 racers, but no, everyone seemed to chicken out.

Well, good for me. Smaller field, less crashes, and easier to move up.

I decided to tail gun until we got close to the finish.

At about that moment I realized I was running out of water. I dumped the last bit of water from my jersey bottle, and, after waiting until it was clear, tossed it to the girls.

I started dumping precious electrolyte drinks on my face, chest, legs. It felt good. I dumped a bit more. I got into the Powerade, stickier than the NUUM, but it'd been in the cooler longer so it was a bit cooler.

Note to self: Next hot race, don't bring electrolyte drinks. Bring water. Preferably frozen bottles.

With the laps counting down I started thinking of moving up. At 5 to go I decided to stick a toe in the waters. I moved up the right side a bit - really, in the middle it was just too crazy, so I moved up the side. And on every straight the field left openings up the sides.

So at 5 to go I did some exploratory moves up the right side, especially down the last straight before the finish.

We dove into the final left bend and Bang! The inside of the field went down like dominos. Luckily I was off to the right, exploring a bit, and so managed to stay on with no extra effort.

It'd have been a great time to drill it, to cause separation, but it seemed that everyone up there had selfish motivation. I mean, I know I did, but there were teams up there who could have burned a match or two but they didn't.

The field kept swarming the turns, entering them wide, exiting them a bit wobbly, then repeating the process. No one had the legs to string things out, and the sprinters flooded the front in waves.

With two to go it started getting dicey. I found myself just behind the head of the comet, smack in the middle of the action. I wanted to go, should have gone, but the heat had really gotten to me. My legs felt fine; I just felt like I was in a microwave on High.

I let a whole bunch of "move up the side" chances go by, and tried to make up for it with a move or two on the inside.

I was still kind of far back at the bell. Made a couple moves, to no avail. Saw a huge chance up the right side, yelled for the guys there to go. But they looked and acted totally cooked, and that meant no movement.

I dove into the last turn in horrible position. I had no idea how I'd sprint, but I'd barely tested my legs, so I hoped for a good one.

As I exited the turn I could hear someone bouncing off the barriers to the right. Then suddenly the front of the field basically fell flat on its face. Guys swerved left to avoid the crash on the right, and plowed into and through the left side barriers.

One agile Adler racer crashed and bounced up so quickly it looked like he teleported out of there.

I think Juan, a teammate of gsteinb of BF fame, he did a beautiful rear wheel lift to the left, bounced back down sideways to the right, pivoting in mid-air, and somehow managed to stay upright.

Others weren't quite so fortunate. Doug M barreled into the barricades hard, reshaping the pit area dramatically. Other guys bounced into and I think over the barricades.

I wove through the crash, a few guys near me for company, and realized that, hey, there aren't that many guys in front.

And my legs had something left, so I did a little sprint to the line. Nothing major, but definitely faster than soft pedaling it over.

How did I do?

I don't know. 14th or 15th, my guess. 2 guys clear. About 12 guys made it through the crash. It happened right up front.

(Update: results here)

Scott G, who fell hard at Somerville in the final sprint crash there, made it through and got 6th for the race.

I didn't stick around for the results, so I hope that I got placed. I didn't think I made it into the money, the girls were tired (all of them game troopers in this incredibly hot and humid day), and I was just glad to be in one piece.

I rode to the car and allegedly backed it up the street to the barricades. The girls were there, folding chairs and coolers in hand.

The wind picked up dramatically, clouds rolled in overhead.

As we got the last of the gear in the car, the skies opened up.

The Missus, after a few minutes, said something to me.

"The Women are racing."
"I know. Laura S is here."

We both paused, thinking of the disaster that city streets and rain can create.

Laura, I found out, needed stitches in her elbow after a fall in the crit.

Push-me pull-you.


15 pins. No flapping.

Our wishes for a quick and complete recovery for Laura.


SOC said...

There are some pics of poor Doug M out there already. Guy can't catch a break with all the crashes. Hope he's ok.

In better news, Kim E (CVC) got 3rd in that crazy women's race!

Anonymous said...

They don't call it the skinscraper for nuthin'!

Aki said...

Learned a few things:
1 - Seems like the guy that led out the sprint (first one down in the pictures) took himself out. Hit the barriers on the right side, down. No name since I'm not sure of this.
2 - Doug M broke his collarbone, had other misc injuries.
3 - Mike N was held in the hospital overnight, was pretty messed up from what I learned.

James said...

I was there as a marshal. In addition to the riders that went down, a spectator apparently got hurt pretty bad in that final lap crash and was taken away by ambulance. Great work staying upright and avoiding all the carnage.

Anonymous said...

Harlem was my last race as a 4. I spent too much time spending energy near the front. It was a gamble: do well by avoiding crashes rather than doing well by conserving energy. The heat was something else. I got off the bike with chills and goosebumps and thought, "Well! That's not good."

I was hoping to find you to say hello after your race. I hollered for you a little bit on the homestretch when you were tailgunning. You looked pretty beat at the finish.

re: those crashes - a former teammate said he hit a guy who had crashed; he flipped in the air, landed on his feet, skidded on his cleats, and came to a stop standing upright. I wish I'd seen that!

Aki said...

Someone else mentioned the flip-land-on-feet guy. My teammate did that way back when at SUNY Purchase - he flipped, landed on his feet, and skated to a stop. He was my leadout guy so I didn't witness it, although plenty of people did (those that weren't busy crashing around him).

I'll have to see if the cam catches it. I learned Wed that a 3.5 GB file becomes something like 20-30 GB on the Mac when I try and edit it. I was wondering why having 20 GB of free space wasn't enough.

This means I can put maybe 30 clips on a TB drive (!?). I think that's right - 30+ GB per clip, 3 clips per 100 GB, 30 clips per 1000 GB. With my "save every ride" theory right now, I'm saving 2-3-4 rides a week, maybe 2-6+ hours, at 3.5 GB per hour. A TB drive would be a few months of rides.

Right now I've basically deleted most of my "edits", i.e. I can no longer edit most of my HD clips (unless I start over). I have room for Harlem. No Rents, no training ride chases/drafts, no nothing. I need to buy massive drive space, maybe 2-3 TB worth.