Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Racing - July 27, 2010 @TuesTheRent

I have to admit that I came to this race with more expectations than normal. My efforts last week at the Rent and in Naugatuck let me believe that I'd finally found some form. I'd demanded a lot from my legs in those two races, and they responded almost all the time. In fact, I actually assumed my legs would work, and so I never really "demanded", I just "did".

To my horror my legs faltered at Naugatuck 100 meters less than I thought possible. Things turned out reasonably well, but I simply couldn't believe my legs stopped working when they did.

At the Rent, my befuddled mind led me to believe we were approaching the bell when, in fact, we weren't. That was a good test because I pressed on regardless. I managed to do a half lap more than I thought possible, but, as Mister SRM explained to me later, I slowed dramatically in that half lap. Although I pushed hard mentally, my legs faltered.

Or, as the saying goes, "The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak."

Which is one of my favorite quotes only because someone used it back in the Cold War to test the US - USSR hotline. Basically they'd send each other tricky quotes to see how they came back. Some of the translations lost their idiomatic meanings.

The US side sent out "The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak."

The reply?

"The vodka is good but the meat is rotten."

Anyway, that cracks me up, and so I like that quote.

So... back to the Rent. The problem with form is that you start putting expectations on yourself. I showed up thinking of my high effort rides in the last two races. I'd done a very difficult ride around the Tokeneke course but somehow, until just now, I forgot about the aftermath (passing out on the floor). I felt like I had a chance at doing something in the race.

I got almost no warm-up, and I felt a bit sluggish. I felt thirsty too, and, as the Missus pointed out later, it's hard for me to keep hydrated at work. After guzzling a quart of "light" Gatorade (80 cal per quart, instead of 0 cal for the PowerAde - I wanted a few calories), I lined up with two bottles of ice water in my cages.

A short pause and we were off.

We had two Leg Breakers in the field, plus an assortment of Assistant Leg Breakers. LB1 was Tim, a strong but admittedly less-fit-than-he-was Cat 1. His strengths lay in his steady power, but in a sprint he gets hurt. He prefers breaks, pounding his breakmates' legs to a pulp, then attacking for the win.

LB2 was Ron, a CCNS racer, also a Cat 1, with a wicked sprint on top of the standard leg breaking strengths of being able to break away. He's just as content to annihilate the group in the sprint, but he'll do some truly astonishing moves where he breaks clear and goes Mach 2 for a lap or two to get up to a break or something.

The ALBs were mainly the host team's Cat 2s, the CVC boys. Benidorm had two strong guys there (a 2 and a 3).

And then there were the Cat 3 pack fodder. I rarely line up thinking, "Oh, man, this is gonna suck", but I lined up thinking, "Oh, man, this is gonna suck."

If you added up the Categories of the 8 or so guys on the front row, you'd have hit about 12 as a sum.

Me and the two guys next to me, we added up to 9.

In other words, there were, proportionately speaking, a lot of Cat 1s and 2s in the race.

We started and, somewhat predictably, Tim immediately took off. He had a few bike lengths at the first turn, a few more at the second, and then... it started looking a bit dangerous.

A Junior named Ben, who rides just like the Greg Huey of old, took off after Tim, as did one of the CVC guys. They bridged, everyone watched each other, and the break went away for good.

Ron did some long pulls at the front, but when he realized that most of the field simply couldn't contribute to the chase, he took off on his own. He brought along a trail of CVC riders, maybe three of them, to form the chase group. He also had one CCNS teammate for help.

It's unclear if the CVC riders worked with him (they had a guy up front) but towards the end of the race they looked pretty toasted. Work or not, they rode hard.

When the break lapped us, Tim immediately set a strong but steady pace at the front. He wanted to stay clear of the dangerous chase, and by raising the pack's pace, he'd do just that.

I realized that the danger man Ron was missing (I thought he made it to the break initially), and knowing that the chase had to contain him as well as all the missing CVC guys, I tried to pull too. Tim, Ben, and Henk (the CVC break rider) all took good long pulls.

I found that I struggled in the wind, my wheel catching some gusts, and my vision a bit blurry from effort. I tried to dump water on my face and such, but the shock of the cold water would actually make me lose vision for a moment, so I returned to spraying my neck, shoulders, arms, and legs.

I realized I could power, seated, out of turns pretty effectively, but the steady effort needed to maintain position on the straights killed me. My consciousness narrowed until I was only aware of the four or five riders in front of me, the one or two behind, and, every now and then, the start/finish crowd or, if I looked across the course, the chase group.

As the clock ticked down to the end of the race, my legs started getting a bit crampy. I pedaled in my "cramp" style, heel down, low rpms, but the twinges got worse. Any sudden effort and they'd seize up. I haven't cramped in a race since I was a Junior at Ninigret, but when I cramped my world just ended, and I swerved wildly right, off the course, somehow missing all the racers there and the tires lining the course.

I didn't want to push my luck here.

So, with maybe a lap left in my legs, I moved up, using my still-strong acceleration out of the turns. Tim had just taken a pull, a CVC I think rotated through, and now Tim needed to pull again.

I went by him, looked back to make sure he hadn't sat up, and when I confirmed he was on my wheel, I did my lap.

I pulled hard and steady, big gears to keep my cadence low, heels lower than normal to help keep my calves from cramping, no pulling up hard so that my hamstrings wouldn't seize. I could push down though, since my quads normally don't get crampy until I actually cramp.

I didn't know how long I'd make it, but after a decent lap of effort, I pulled off.

Aerobically I felt like I could jump back into the line almost immediately, after maybe five-six guys rolled by me. But when I went to turn the pedals, my legs reminded me it wasn't the aerobics that were limiting me, it was the cramps.

So I sat up.

I thought of the near-instant recovery I felt after the lap pull. If I made it into a break of, say, six, I could actually work a bit. I could take 10-20 seconds pulls, keep enough in the tank to counter expected attacks, and recover while the other five riders take a pull.

Hm. Have to file that one away for now.

I watched the last five laps of the race. SOC, feeling a little worse than he did last week, grimly hung on in there until the end. He managed to stay with the group in the sprint but didn't have quite the kick he had before.

This wasn't like last week, but we each had our triumphs. Next week!

(Picture of number on jersey coming up, with massive number of pins... here it is)

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