Saturday, April 30, 2011

2011 Vegas - Pushing Through

Each year the Missus goes out to Vegas in late April, a "thank you" from her work (everyone else from work goes too). A week in 80 degree weather, sunny, dry, no bugs... it's very different from Connecticut.

She's dragged me along, kicking and screaming, each year.

Yes, I doth protest a lot.

Okay, I admit it. I look forward to this trip each year, a break after the Series. In the past it's been a non-bike thing, just sightseeing. I remember trying to get in some workouts, going to the hotel gym, bringing running shoes. Inevitably, though, the trips were more about hanging out and not about training.

Last year that changed. I brought my bike, went for a ride or three, and had a second mini-training camp, the first being the SoCal trip.

This year I brought a bike again. We'd be here for five days; of those five I'd have three days of riding. We all meet each other for some "work" time, mainly dining together, but the rest of the time was free time, leaving me three solid chunks of riding time.

The first of these fell on Saturday; the next will be Sunday. The last will be on Tuesday.

As usual the bike made it through the flight (on Southwest) just fine, in its soft case. The zippers on the cover were in a different spot indicated that someone had opened it. The TSA tag inside showed me who it was.

In Vegas I try and drink bottled water, after a tip from a native a few years ago. I also needed to get some supplies for the ride, like bars. After picking up the critical stuff (water, an energy bar, a protein bar) from the nearby Walgreens, I went about spending a lazy amount of time assembling the bike.

The cooler than normal 60-odd degree weather meant some extra gear. I had a base layer, unusual for me, as well as one each of a short sleeve jersey, long sleeve jersey (standard lightweight material), and a wind vest.

At home I'd preciously saved my Hincapie kit as it fit better, it felt better, and it had the proper graphics, as opposed to our older kit. However I didn't have Hincapie vests nor long sleeve jerseys, so those were the 2010 version. I carried all this here to Vegas.

The travel the day before had zapped me. I hadn't even assembled my bike. But with only a few days to ride, I felt the need to get out. The fatigue wanted me to rest, resisting my desire to ride. Opposite energies, working against each other.

I kitted up and got on the bike.

Of course the desert sun hit me hard as soon as I started riding. The chilly air felt incongruous with the strong sun; cold and warmth.

Warmth won. I stopped to shed the long sleeve jersey, keeping just the vest on, keep the wind off my torso. Warm core, right? One of our sayings was something a young pro demonstrated to us.

"It's pro to be warm."

A couple weeks ago SOC pulled off an amazing ride in a race. It's inspired me to work harder in wind, to try and keep going when I feel like easing. I tested this inspiration all the way west to Red Rock. I think without a few traffic lights that gave me automatic rests, I'd have been hard pressed to keep going so hard.

I struggled all the way up to Red Rock, all uphill, all into a ferocious headwind, winds powerful enough that even the natives commented on the howling wind. The sensation of pushing into the wind too me back to that Ninigret day, the insane slowness, the threshold power.

It took me an hour or so to get there, hitting an average wattage that exceeded all but a few races I've done with a powermeter.

Once at Red Rock the wind changed favorably for the next leg of the ride. With mainly descending roads, albeit slightly, it should have been the fastest part of the ride. Unfortunately I had to stop a few times to adjust the speed pick up, a rubber band mounted piece which had an uncanny affinity for the spokes in the rear wheel.

Once, at close to the fastest point of the ride, I reluctantly slowed while trying to keep a 53x11 spinning. Only later I realized just how fast I was going when I realized that the white markers on the side of the road were about 50 yards apart, not 10.

Pick up adjusted, I got going again, the edge of my speed gone now. I kept rolling, trying to keep the speed, the rhythm.

A turn took the tailwind away, and now the wind buffeted my head.I couldn't hear much, just the wind, and, in light of my inspiration, I tried to keep the speed up.

Within a minute I started bogging down, the gear seemingly growing every 15 seconds. I prepared to shift down, disappointed in myself. I couldn't even turn over, what, a 53x19?, for a while, after pulling away from the last intersection.

I looked down to make sure I wasn't off by a cog or two, to make sure I wasn't about to try and jam the rear derailleur into the spokes.

At first glance I thought maybe I'd left it in the small ring - the chain sat at one of the smaller cogs, an unusual position on my bike. I quickly looked at the cranks... no, the chain sat on the big ring. I looked back again. I glanced at the cogs.

I hadn't been struggling trying to turn a 53x19.

I'd been struggling trying to turn a 53x12.

Well now.

Going to the 13T didn't seem like such a loss then. My sore back urging me to stay in the drops, the most comfortable position for me on the bike. I chided myself for not doing my abdominal work, but I couldn't change that now. Plus the low position helped deal with the ferocious crosswind.

I kept rolling.

Thoughts of Knickman's incredible ride in the Tour de L'Avenir seeped into my mind. I couldn't help but think of that ride, with the crosswinds, the long straight road, endless effort.

I didn't have a field back there, chasing me, but I still pressed, not crazy hard, but hard enough. I held the front wheel steady, rumble strip to the left, sand to the right. The wind threatened to push me off the road, but with my hands on the drops, I kept the bike relentlessly on course.

Yet I didn't want to cramp or totally explode so I couldn't delve too deep. I had other things to think about, after the ride, dinner date and such - but I pushed as hard as I dared.

Then I pushed just a touch more.

I've written about asking my legs for more, and getting more when I no longer expected anything. It wasn't quite like that today, but I asked my legs for a lot and they kept delivering.

At one turn, making me tack into the wind like a sailboat, I got a chance to take a self portrait.

Above the 5.7L, inside knee up

As I got closer to home base my legs started to fade. I lost my peak power, something I never noticed so distinctly until today. Suddenly the efforts accelerating from stop lights killed my legs, but once under way, I could ease up the gears until I was back in the 53x14.

My helmet cam double-beeped; knowing how much time I had ridden, I knew the battery had given its last. I knew I had another 30 or 40 minutes of memory left on the 8 GB card.

Of course, shortly after, a slew of customized 370Zs rolled by, nasally burbling exhausts, body kits, wheels, all complete. They must have just come from a meet, or were on their way to a meet, a group ride if you will, but for cars.

I stopped at a light somewhere, doing yet another trackstand for the day. Someone on the sidewalk next to the road hollered out.

"Dang, you got some good balance!"

I thought about the physics of a track stand, how balance has so little to do with it. It has to do with moving the bike forward and backwards. It's about physics. I thought about how unlikely I am as an athlete, not really coordinated, unable even to play fast passages on a violin, forget about doing coordinated things like dribbling a basketball or hitting a golf ball.

I also realized that didn't matter, not to the guy on the sidewalk. Going into the "it's not about balance" spiel wouldn't get me anywhere.

Instead, thinking about all that I am not, I grinned a small, rueful grin.

"Yeah, you know it, you know it", he cried out in delight.

The light turned green. I eased away, the edge of my acceleration gone, legs protesting. As I started to wiggle the bike's tail to get up to speeds, I heard the guy ask someone nearby.

"Yo, you see that guy?"

I got up to speed, got into the sweet spot, the 53x14.

I rolled.

The wind seemed to have eased.

The sun seemed a bit warmer.

My legs felt a touch better.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Link to Pinotti Interview

I was browsing the intraweb (surprise!) while munching on some food and drinking coffee, and I found the following interview on CyclingNews. I like the tone of this guy. I first noticed him in some of the DVDs I have, when he raced for T-Mobile, but never really got a feel for what he was like. Hopefully this article represents him properly. If so, I'm impressed.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Racing - Switchback Descents


They inspire thoughts of those Tour de France scenes where the field is flying down some crazy descent, single file, looking like pinballs rolling down a series of zig zagging ramps.

I love switchbacks.

Let me rephrase that.

I looooove switchbacks.

Come to think of it, I love cornering in general, whether it's in a car or on a bike. G-forces make motion exciting, not speed.

Think about it.

If someone offered to take you to 600 mph, that'd be insanely fast.

Until you realize it's just your flight to Vegas, where the plane cruises at 600 mph. It's kind of boring, right? Like you wonder what you're gonna do for 5 hours while the plane covers 600 miles of terrain every hour.

You read, you watch TV, listen to music, stuff like that.

600 miles an hour! That's fast.

But boring.

Hit some turbulence, though, and it's exciting. 50 or 100 feet up and down never seemed so quick or exciting.

I like the take offs and landings too, because you get pressed back in your seat for the former, tugged by your seatbelt in the latter.

G-forces, right? Specifically lateral G-forces.

600 mph, at steady speeds, is boring.

25 mph, if you're careening around a switchback, can be very, very exciting.

Lateral G-forces.

Rider can feel intimidated by switchbacks though - blasting down a hill maybe 50% faster (45 mph instead of 30 mph) than you'd be going on a flat road, diving into a super hard turn that you wouldn't normally see on level terrain, a drop off on the other side of the guardrail... what's there to be afraid of?

"I can fly like an eagle..."
(picture a screenshot from my yet-to-be-done Palomar descent clip 2011)


You need to approach them properly so you can get through them okay. Work backwards from the exit point, where you want to end up. See where you need to be, when you need to be, to get to the exit point in one piece.

And, preferably, with your wheels still on pavement.

Since the approach determines the rest of the turn, the question becomes, "How do you approach a switchback?"

Interestingly enough, when you think of it, downhill switchbacks are just one type of turn. The difference is that you have a higher potential entry speed and you don't slow naturally due to air resistance (because gravity may be greater than air resistance). So in these turns you lose your "auto safety" feature of naturally bleeding off speed.

So, the tricks, which apply to all turns:

1. Look up and ahead.

I may look momentarily at spots on the road so I just miss cracks and stuff, but in general I'm looking either where the road goes out of sight (if there are bushes/trees/buildings in the way) or about 180 deg worth of turn (i.e. a full U turn) ahead. I have to put up a Palomar descent clip - the helmet cam doesn't show exactly how far I look because I also turn my eyes in my head, but it's clear that I'm not paying attention to the immediate 50 meters in front of me in some turns because my eyes are looking further out. In others there's nothing to see (mounds of ground in the way) so my head is pointed at the the "end of the road" in my vision line; that might be 10 meters or so.

2. Know how to turn technically.

Understand that leaning the bike allows you to sharpen a turn; leaning the body gives you more leeway in leaning the bike (i.e. more bike lean available). That's relatively - you're always leaning the bike, but it's the sensation of leaning it a little or jamming your bottom bracket into the ground. Know about pushing the inside of the bar, i.e. to turn right push the right side of the bar forward.

3. Have enough air pressure in your tires.

I prefer higher pressures, especially at the limit. So on my HED wide rims I prefer to run 100-105 psi, not the 85-90 that I see tossed around as appropriate. Lower pressures, to me, make the bike slide more. I had a bunch of scares when I ran my tires at 85-90. Maybe I'm too old school, unwilling to learn, but I'll take a sense of security before a sense of panic. lol.

4. Know your bike's limits, or at least know when you're within them.

I have some idea of when the bike is gonna let go. When I brake I brake evenly with both brakes - when the rear wheel gets light, starts to skip, or gets slightly airborne, I know I've totally loaded my front tire and I'm at my limit (given that I've already slid my butt back on the saddle etc). It's about weight distribution. Ultimately your back wheel does little during braking on a descent except to give you an idea of how much you've loaded your front wheel. To wit - look at those crazy GP motorcycle racers - they dive into turns with their back tire dancing an inch off the ground, then proceed to accelerate out of them with their front wheel doing the dance thing. I'm still working on making the front wheel dance on the bicycle

5. Don't brake in turns if possible.

If you have to, use both brakes or, if it's a bail out all out emergency, straighten up while you brake as hard as possible then get off and turn again. If you're in a group that may not be an option.

6. Take the right line.

Outside inside outside. On switchbacks it'll be single file, or it should be. No diving on the inside because you'll end up crossing another guy's path at some point, if not on that corner then on another.

7. Along that point, think late apex.

Turn in very late if possible. It gives you more options if you overcook the turn.

8. Leave yourself an out.

Unless you're on a closed road, don't be doing stupid things. Don't cross the yellow line, don't go into a turn at 1000% where even a slight miscalculation will send you tumbling.

Some people will accuse me of descending aggressively. Yes, I like going fast. But no, I'm virtually never at that "sliding tire" point. I dive into turns in crits much harder than I ever do on a regular descent.

I generally feel that if I flat, if I'm even marginally lucky, I'll stay upright. I also try and think about where I'd go if I end up with a problem. Usually you'll have to go straight so make plans on what would happen if you went straight right now.

9. Practice turning.

I know that's an obvious one, but what if you don't live on the slopes of Palomar? What if you live in the middle of Michigan, where every road is a straight line?

Practice the technique and specifically practice the lines. You can do this when you drive (if you don't drive then I don't have any ideas on practicing more). Practice looking ahead, late apexes, everything, when you drive. The simple act of pulling into a parking lot or turning left when the light turns green, that's all practice time.

Don't cut across the yellow line, make the white line on the shoulder your turn out point (assuming no cyclists or runners etc there). On sweeping curves, pick a line and stick to it. Try and make as few, if any, steering adjustments. Many steady curves need no steering input once you get into the curve itself - don't be wiggling the wheel like you're on TV.

Exit ramps mimic descending switchbacks perfectly. You're approaching them at high speeds, much higher than you can take the corner. You have to slow to the appropriate speed before you can think about cornering. Then you need to hold a good line. Nice late apex. Think about if one of your car tires goes flat - what will you do then? An early apex doesn't mix with a tire blowout, unless the tire blew just before your turn in point.

Even my 3 mile commute has at least 10 curves or turns, each way, where I can practice cornering (and I do). When I was driving 20 times that distance each way, with actual entrance and exit ramps... well, I got a lot of practice.

Heck, if you want, practice late apexes when you're pushing around a shopping cart. Just watch out for those label-readers around the corner.

So that's about it.

As far as Palomar goes, it's a great descent with a gazillion switchbacks. I only do the descent once or twice a year, yet I feel pretty comfortable bombing down the descent.

I follow my own rules, have gotten worried once or twice (usually for no good reason), and really have a blast coming down the mountain.

It's really the main reason I do the Palomar rides when I go to my SoCal "training camps" - for the absolutely fun descents. Otherwise I could just ride up and down the PCH for 5 or 6 hours at a time.

And the reason why I can do and bomb down Palomar or Lake Wohlford or whatever other descent I may run across is that I practice cornering all the time, even when I'm not on the bike.

That way I maximize my time experiencing lateral Gs.

And, like I said at the beginning of the post, that makes things fun.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Life - Promoting Rest Day

The day before the third Bethel race, the March 20th Tour de Kirche, I spent most of the morning and part of the afternoon in bed. Fatigued to the bone, I could barely move. I roused myself out because I knew I had to get registration set up at Navone's; if I had no race the next day I'd probably have spent all day in bed.

Warning: for those that don't like cats, don't bother reading further.

As such, the kitties reveled in the unusual occurrence of being able to share the bed with one of the humans in the day time. I had a camera so I got to capture some of those moments.

Bella, under the covers. She's weighing in at just over 10 pounds and has the second longest tail of the bunch.

She curls up between my knees whenever I'm laying in bed. After 10 minutes or so she pokes her nose out and zips off. Usually she'll meander by a few minutes after I lay down. She also greets us before the others, when we come in from the garage. When she was a tiny kitten, she was the one that stood her ground, hissing and spitting ferociously.

Of course, when she was the size of my fist, that hissing and spitting only made me smile. She chomped on my glove the whole way in from the driveway out back to the office.

Tiger, carefree. He's about 5 years old now, and weighs a tad under 10 pounds.
If he were a racer he'd make a good climber. His tail can hit the back of his head, it's that long.
He's also a feral kitten rescue cat.

The cats at about 10 AM.
Clockwise from the bottom: Lilly (about 10 years old now, 15 lbs), Mike, Riley, Bella, Tiger
Hal is under the covers to Bella's right.

Hal prefers sub-surface naps. Here I'm bugging him by exposing him to light.
Hal weighs about 15 pounds.

Hal (white male with blue collar), Riley (white female with pink collar), Bella (tabby female with gold collar), and Mike (tabby male with coon cat ears) all came from the same litter. They're about 3 years old now. They all came from "under the store" where I work, caught when about 4 or 5 weeks old.

(Their mom and dad are still under the store. The male, White, looks just like Hal, and is ferociously wild - when we caught him to fix him, he was smashing his face into the cage. The female, Grey, is all grey with a white patch on her chest. She'd probably make a nice house cat but I didn't want to separate her from White. She follows him around as evident on the store security cameras. When she got fixed the staff could pet her.)

Estelle, who prefers to sleep on her own and who interacts with us humans when we're sitting in chairs or couches, is missing from these pictures. She's about 3.5 or 4 years old, taken in from the same "under the store" cat colony. She's full grown, about 9 pounds, and is the only long haired cat in the bunch.

Riley in a perfect pike position.
She's tiny, under 9 pounds.

Hal is now on Bella's favorite bed.
Clockwise from bottom: Tiger, Riley, Bella, Hal.

Riley curled up next to Mike.
She really likes Mike, or maybe it's vice versa. They usually hang out together.
Mike weighs in at 15 lbs.

Based on the pictures' time stamps, I spent about 5 hours in bed. After seeing off the missus at about 9 AM I went back to sleep, waking up at 10 AM, again at about noon, and finally getting up at about 2 PM.

Fortunately Frank was still at the studio when I got there, I got registration set up, and the race went well on Sunday.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Racing - 2011 ArcEnCiel Crit M35+


The bad news is that my legs aren't sore. My lungs were a bit raw, not from the strong winds, but from the strong pace set by what would be the winning break. My Arc En Ciel Crit at Ninigret Park ended after just 20 minutes of racing.

With Mark McCormack, former USPro champion, lining up for the race looking very sleek compared to a few years ago, the pace promised to be a real humdinger. The super gusty winds, strong enough to throw spectators off balance, made the threat much more real.

Other racers took to the line too. I knew a few, like Zane's early season strong man Eric M. Steve A from up north, a former Carpe Diem Racing teammate, came down with a few Onion River Racing teammates.

I didn't know the others, like Peter V, who passed me as the winning break coalesced. With his distinctive form (and slimmer form than recent memory - is he training with McCormack?), I realized I was slipping back while the race headed forward.

After a lame attempt to keep the break in check, trailing by maybe 30 meters, I exploded. Less than four minutes into the race and that was that.

The field went by in dribs and drabs, gaps everywhere from the hotted up pace. The main field split into two quickly, leaving the main group and the second group.

I, of course, was in the second group.

Then the second group split again.

Again I was in the wrong half of the split, unable to do anything.

In the fourth group on the road, with a powerful break remorselessly zipping around the course, it was only a matter of time before the whistle blew.

And that ended my race officially, one that already ended when first I fell off the break, ended again when the group split unfavorably, and ended yet again when the group split yet again.

I suppose the good way of looking at it is that I got to do 4 races.

The bad part of the good way of looking at it is that I got shelled by three of them. The fourth was just too slow to keep going.

My teammate SOC had an awesome race in the 3-4s (link). It didn't look good at first, to be honest, but it ended pretty spectacularly (and in a good way). I'll let him tell the story himself.

The day for me set off some alarm bells. I was relatively unfit, among the worst of the day as I was in the last group. I need to lose weight, train more, and be more focused when it comes to race day. The Missus actually pulled the virtual alarm lever on my racing because it's something that the affected (me) wouldn't notice for a little while longer.

Lessons I learned today.

First, I have to have my own food, just like Kenda Girl had hers, and the pros I saw at Tour of PA had theirs. Navone Studios spoiled me with always-available food, great food, and out on my own I floundered a bit. The Missus and I brainstormed a bit and thought of ways I ate last year. We'll try and replicate that this year.

Second, my weight gain (12-14 lbs) from last season is really hurting me. I have a month break until my next race (ironically at Ninigret Park again). I'll use that time to try and lean myself out, get some serious miles in, and basically do my January training in April.

Third, I need to get word out on how to race when you're dropped. A few sub-lessons there.

A - I got frustrated today by guys who'd let gaps open but were strong enough to twiddle the pedals 15 feet off the wheel. They didn't try and close the gap, forcing others to go, tiring everyone out collectively.

B - when in a vicious crosswind, you have two ways of riding. If you're in the break or the chase, you ride to break the others' legs. Ride everyone in the gutter so they have to work superhard to stay on your wheel, deny them shelter, and kill them.

But if you're in the third group or further back, you need to survive. You have to pretend it's a team time trial, not the lead echelon in Ghent Wevelgem. Don't try and kill those trying to help you survive. If the wind is from the right, stay in the right gutter when you pull. You'll give 10 other riders shelter, 10 riders that can pull hard once you pull off.

It's survival, people. Who cares if you kill the guys in the 4th group? All you do is get pulled quicker. Every lap we were on the left gutter, strung out, no shelter anywhere. This is the kind of thing that must have driven Joe Parkin crazy (I'm reading Dog in A Hat again) when he raced in the US.

Finally, if someone in your "we're trying to survive group" is pulling, stay on their wheel. Close the gap, even if it hurts a bit. You need more speed to get back to the next group. You need someone willing to pour their guts out onto the road, and when you have such a sucker, use them to the utmost.

When I pulled hard in the group (after finally getting some legs back), people let me go. I closed a big portion of the gap to the next group, but when I eased, no one was there. I'd have been happier if the group attacked me and shelled me right then and there, if that meant the group bridged.

Ultimately the fourth and third groups got pulled only a couple laps apart, so the point is kind of moot. And, really, I should have been in the second group. The first... probably unrealistic, holding 300 watts for the whole race (as a non-Voigt, I can barely do that for a few minutes). The second group, I'm guessing I could have hidden there at 220-230 watts, which, technically, I should be able to do for about 45-50 minutes.

I never have, no, but I should be around there, at least right now.

So, with a light dinner, some organization in preparation for tomorrow's food and ride, I'm off to bed.

But before I sign off, here's the number from today. Pins, lots of them for the wind, 8 from the promoter's box, the rest from my gear bag.

We'll see you there May 15th.

Pins, and a lot of them. Need more pins.

A crazy forecast.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Story - Kenda Girl

A long time ago, or so it seems, I had a horrific crash. It allowed me to experience a wheelchair (one of my own, at least temporarily, not one that I was repairing in the bike shop), it let me check off "broke a bone in my body" in my life accomplishments, and it led to much more pain and suffering to folks around me than I first thought.

Especially affected by this was the Missus.

My attitude was, "Look, it's my problem, I deal with it." I might ask for help when things are tough, but if it hurts only a bit, I don't need to share it with other people.

If it's unimaginably difficult or painful, okay, fine, I ask for help.

I didn't realize that it's that much worse to watch someone else deal with some unimaginable pain.

When one deals with adversity, it becomes very clear when a bright spot pops up on the radar. It really helps the folks watching the suffering. Yes, it's nice when someone treated me well. The way people treat you, the way they help, even if it's their job. I appreciate all that.

I didn't take into account that it helped those close to me as well, the "if you help a pained person it also helps the pained person's loved ones". It's kind of a colorrary to the "it hurts people to see their loved ones hurt" theorem.

A separate factor is the automatic response from someone like Kenda Girl, someone trained to help in those situations.

It's like a non-cyclist had a flat tire on their bike ride, or their chain came off. For us cyclists it's not a big deal to, say, put a chain back on a chainring. But to that "non-cyclist", it's a scary experience, to be unsure on how to treat the bike because suddenly the pedals don't work and there's a crazy chain tangled up all over the place. All too often you'll see recreational cyclists walking down the road, rolling along a bike with just a minor mechanical.

If a knowledgeable cyclist stopped, offered some brief assistance, it could make a world of difference to that non-cyclist.

When I hit the deck on that fateful evening, the Missus happened to not be there, I think the first race of the year she missed (other than tax season Bethels). Ironically, Mrs SOC was also absent, so I really had just SOC there for the normal friends/teammate type of company.

Fortunately for me, there were a number of trained emergency professionals present that same evening. I think the first to get to me was Doug M (a friendly rival who was spectating). Another was Matt S, our photographer at Bethel for many years. SOC, of course - although not trained in the medical field, he lent me a leg to lean on, enabling me to sit up a bit.

One of them stretched out my cramping legs, not sure who, but that got me away from "screaming" to just grimacing a lot.

Finally there was "the Kenda girl", at least that's how I thought of her. "Kenda" because she raced for the Kenda team. "Girl" because at that level, girls and girls and boys are boys (she herself calls the pro men "boys", the pro women "girls"). Hidden behind her sunglasses, her ponytail sprouting from her helmet, she presented only her "pro cyclist" face at the races, at least to me, not much more than that.

She raced at the Rent regularly as she worked nearby. I never met her face to face, it was more just a nod or an elbow wiggle while redlining in the race. At those points you don't really thinking about saying, "Hey, so what's up?"

One thing that struck me about her was that she'd be in there while I was getting shelled. I can handle that she was dropping me (because, let's face it, I get shelled by both men and women), but I figured she knew something I didn't know.

She rode a bit differently than me. Obviously if she just powered away, that's be one thing, but she seemed to be doing more consistent riding. A lot of smart riding, working really hard if necessary, but without flagrantly wasting energy. Since she was finishing races and I wasn't, I decided I should see what she did differently.

One week I followed her around. Ends up that, yes, she rode better than I did, and I learned a bit about approaching higher-average-FTP races (i.e. harder ones) by seeing what she did, and it helped. I finished a race there.

(Quick summary of my takeaway - don't do stupid stuff and you won't get dropped.)

What I didn't know is that not only was the "Kenda Girl" not just a smart rider, she's a doctor to boot.

I learned this second bit while on the pavement.

When I sat their leaning on SOC's shin, with two good guys drilling questions at me through the pain haze, I started getting a bit worried. The two guys were friends if you will, and their concern seemed, well, concerning. I felt like maybe this wasn't one of those "Ah, frick, now I gotta drive home" kind of crashes. It started to become more of an, "Um, can you tell me what's really wrong?" kind of crashes.

The thing I noticed was that the pain seemed a bit more... resistant, maybe that's the word. The pain wasn't going away. My body actually started getting numb with pain.

The fact that someone had already called an ambulance really threw me off, but I knew it was probably right - I generally say that if a rider is down for a lap they're really hurt, no matter what they say.

That night, for the lap it took the riders to cool down, I was screaming "I'm okay, I'm okay, no you don't have to call an ambulance!"

Then I'd try and sit up and I simply couldn't. SOC lent me a hand, sitting me up, and unfortunately that masked part of my symptoms. I was now "ambulatory" I think.

I kept denying that I was really hurt, but my actions weren't really matching my words.

Kenda Girl rolled over pretty quickly and took charge of the situation. My two friends deferred to her, just like a Cat 3 would defer to a Cat 2. She checked the two major points I complained about - my head and my shoulder. I felt pain all over my body but I decided that it was just a reaction to the tumble. I figured it was just cramps in my legs (we were just about to sprint when I hit the deck) and the road rash on different parts of my body setting my nerves on fire.

Part of the comfort was that professional doctor's tone. She spoke to me in a soothing, calm voice, no worry or panic in her tone, looking me straight in the eyes. She asked me slowly and clearly what hurt. She did some basic tests (I'm guessing they were tests but why else would you walk your fingers along a collarbone and then ask someone to look at a finger moving around and stuff like that) to make sure I hadn't scrambled my brain or destroyed my shoulder.

When she stepped away and got into a discussion with some other person (perhaps an EMT?), I realized that, regardless of her tone with me, she had strong feelings on what needed to be done, and done now. A huge thing is that she had the ambulance take me to a slightly further-away hospital, one that's closer to my home. This made the Missus's trip shorter (and less stressful since it involved no city driving). Kenda Girl wasn't just thinking "get him to a hospital", she was already thinking of the post-visit logistics.

Some folks loaded me up on the ambulance with those stretchers where the legs kind of disappear when you roll the stretcher into the ambulance (which I think is really cool). I don't remember a lot of visuals because I was covering my eyes. It was just easier that way, tears and sweat and pain and some instinctive "hide oneself by not seeing anything" feeling.

No one discovered that I'd fractured my pelvis, neither at the site of the crash (I was just sitting on the ground until I got loaded into the ambulance) or at the hospital (where I had x-rays and where it was clear I couldn't walk without significant pain).

Only when I broke down in agony a day later (trying to get to the bathroom, ironically in the now-den, and our bed was where Kenda Girl set up her bed) did the Missus call the hospital for a second look. We went for x-rays, I heard someone say "Stat!" for the first time ever in a real life situation, and I got the bad news. Later that day I had my very own wheelchair, at least for the month.

Note: the reason you don't hear "Stat!" in an emergency room is because, by definition, everything's already an emergency. The "Stat!" is implied and understood.

A cheerful picture, trying to cheer up the Missus. The first one was less so.

Of course I recovered from the fall. The human body is extremely resilient, able to recover from incredible injuries. Mine weren't so bad, in the scheme of things. No ten units of blood each night (someone told me that one recently), bloody footprints (I'll get to that), nothing quite so crazy. I started working again two months later, riding another month after that, and I returned to racing the following year.

Shortly after the fall I'd written a short note to the Kenda Girl, thanking her for her help. The Missus, more than anyone, appreciated the Kenda Girl's presence at the race that evening. I'd told the Missus just how much Kenda Girl's demeanor helped me deal with the situation.

It's one of those things though. If you helped someone put a chain back on their bike, it's no big deal, right? I mean, what, like a minute of your time? To make sure the rings were straight and the derailleur wasn't twisted off the bike.

But to the rider who dropped the chain, it's "a big deal".

To a doctor it's not a big deal to help someone who's hurt. To the hurt person, it's a big deal. The the hurt person's family? It's a big deal too.

Trust me on that.

I really couldn't offer much in return. Semi-pro type of racer, with kit and bike and all that already supplied to her. It's not like Kenda Girl was lacking for bike stuff. At some level I felt it would be good to be able to offer her something in return, but in another sense it wasn't something that would happen now. It'd be later, I was sure, but at that moment it'd wait.

Well, a year and a half later, Kenda Girl figuratively raised her hand in the "life" peloton, a signal for "I need some help". She lives out of state now, enough so that she has to fly to get here. She'd be returning to do Battenkill, arriving in Hartford at some late hour Friday. Kicker was that she needed a place to stay that night, hence the "raising of the hand".

We live 20 minutes from the airport. We have two unused rooms, although one is kind of full of stuff; the other had its own bathroom (a nice amenity for a guest), it was a floor away from our bedroom (privacy), and it had no critical cat things in it (so a guest could close the door for the night and not isolate the cats from food, water, or the litterboxes).

I called the Missus and ran the "Kenda Girl at our house" thing by her; she was fine with helping the doctor person who helped calm me in the worst crash I'd ever had. In fact she was all for it.

We prepared the house a bit when we both got home from work, cleaning up some of the ubiquitous cat hair, prepping our old bedroom (now a den) for our overnight guest, and set up a bed-like thing on our couch (we don't have a futon yet). The Missus turned in for the night, exhausted after another tax season day at the office.

I stayed up doing some race stuff, waiting for either a call or the cab. Eventually my phone buzzed; she was on her way. I put on the lights everywhere on the first floor, the walkway and driveway lights, and waited for a few minutes.

She arrived shortly after, bike case and backpack in tow. The cats immediately scattered, realizing that Something New was coming to the house. I showed her her room for the night, our den. A frantic Hal scrambled out from next to the couch, scurrying off to safety. She got settled in quickly - as a seasoned cycling person, she traveled with an air bed and sleeping bag. We left her bike/carrier in the living room, she got comfortable, and Seemingly clear of cats, and giving them a chance to escape by retrieving some stuff from the bike case, I left her in peace.

The cats slowly trickled back into the living room, checking out the strange grey box on the floor. I headed upstairs (it was past 1 AM at this point). Significantly neither Tiger, our orange cat, or Bella, our smallest tabby, fought for "under-the-cover" rights (apparently they don't like sharing under the covers with another cat, so one will get settled and the other will poke their nose in, see the other cat there, and leave).

Tiger, on the case. Hal likes the straps better. This was in the morning.

In the morning, Saturday, the Missus went to work; tax season demands a lot from an accountant. I had to get stuff ready for Bethel, and I worked on all the never ending things - wrong team, can you move me from here to here, questions about the race, stuff like that. I hadn't published the overall standings so I was working on that when I heard some noises from upstairs, more than a 10 or 15 lbs cat would make.

Kenda Girl was up.

The Missus got some food for breakfast, not sure what KG would eat. In the end it didn't matter - she brought her own food. I remembered the first day of the Tour of Pennsylvania, when I learned that most of the racers brought a lot of their own food. This was one of those pro things, carrying around your food, kind of like having your bed and stuff with you. She munched on her healthy looking stuff, sipped some coffee, and we talked a bit at the kitchen table.

Ends up that Riley, our shy white female, probably ended up hiding under the den couch, probably with Bella, when she first arrived the prior night. Usually, for the cats, the den's a good bet since guests normally stayed in the living room. And even if they came into the den they'd leave at some point.

I can't imagine their thoughts when, after an hour or two, the stranger actually went to sleep.

Bella (probably) got curious, like she does, and I think ended up curled up with said stranger. Riley ("a white cat") investigated too, getting an attempted scritch from Kenda Girl and scrambling away when KG actually moved her arm in response (Riley keeps her distance from everyone, given the choice).

Interestingly enough, as we talked, Tiger appeared and cautiously approached Kenda Girl at the table. After a wide-eyed look around for any feline-fatal traps, he jumped lightly onto her lap. After a minute or so he promptly curled up, happy and content.

When Tiger approves of a house guest it's a done deal.

Kenda Girl had to get to Central Wheel that day, a local shop and sponsor of a team, heading to Battenkill from there. She packed up most of her stuff, I helped sit on the bike case to close it, and we headed off in my "high school" (meaning it should belong to a high school kid) red car, burbling down the road.

She talked about some of her experiences racing and doctoring, both from vantage points I don't see, as I'm neither a doctor or a UCI racer, and I don't take care of injured people nor do I do "big" races. I liked one story where she left the emergency room in Hartford with a cycling friend who had crashed, i.e. a person like you or me. They walked out of the doors to see a car wrapped in police tape, a bullet hole in the window, and a trail of bloody footprints leading into the emergency room.

"Eyes like saucers", she laughingly described him.

I laughed too. If I'd seen that walking out of an emergency room...

Once we unloaded the car at Central Wheel I tried to escape quickly. I didn't want to "creep" Kenda Girl (I learned that term from the registration girls at Bethel - it means what it seems like it should mean), but Jeff, the owner of the shop and an avid cyclist and racer himself, intercepted and invited me in. He also demonstrated the term "creep" perfectly when I explained why I was trying to head out so quickly.

I hung out for a while, checked out their bikes. They carry the ubiquitous Cannondales, Look bikes, which I haven't seen anywhere except on the West Coast, as well as Guru. He even had the new Guru time trial frames (one is his personal frame), a very nice looking frame if I do say so myself.

Jeff even let me fondle a bar that's intrigued me, the FSA compact bar, a crit bend bar without the crit bend per se. It's his favorite bar, inexpensive ($40), and I may have to try it on my bike. It would beat buying new old stock (NOS) crit bend bars for $100-150 a pop. It bends forward only slightly, enabling an out of saddle sprinter to not really bruise his forearms in an all out sprint.

With a final wave bye and a hug to Kenda Girl I got in the car and returned to the house. I had to get the rest of the Bethel stuff ready, hopefully get a ride in, and head down to Navone Studios for the final 2011 Outdoor Sports Center Bethel Spring Series race.

I left feeling that I had, in some small way, been able to help out Kenda Girl. Maybe helped return that feeling of security that she gave me when I was sitting on the pavement, that things were going to be okay. For her it was just her duty. For me, well, it was more significant than that.

I could help grinning spontaneously to myself on the drive back home.