Thursday, August 25, 2011

Racing - August 24, 2011 Ninigret NGX Series

I headed down to Ninigret for one last race down there, with the following two weeks off, and the final week one where I'd be elsewhere. For me, then, this would be it for the Wed night series.

I'd be joining SOC, as usual. Another would be bostongarden, a racer that does the Rent and who I first met, appropriately, at Ninigret in the 2010 Mystic Crit.

Finally, as a special guest, I'd be seeing botto, he of the intraweb world. And Clogland, if you want to be technical.

It's amazing how bits and bytes can assemble themselves into something resembling a bike racer. Whenever I see botto it's like seeing someone (or something) out of a movie. We interact in one venue (the intraweb) often, the real world not so much.

I headed down solo, kind of unusual for me. The Missus normally sits next to me, sometimes piloting, sometimes navigating, but we normally sit side by side when going to races. I realized just how many tasks we share as I worked to set up navigation, the dash cam, get a drink from the cooler, and get an idea of time, all in the first few minutes of the drive.

I drove the new car ("red is the new blue"), one that is, relatively speaking, loaded to the gills. It came with nav, normally something I wouldn't get, but it was that or mudflaps, and as cool as mudflaps can be ("rallyesque"), I can always put them on. Installing a computer in the dashboard, not so easy.

Normally I use the very competent, very easy to use Android Navigator in the phone. It's easy, it has real-time traffic (for pretty much all roads), and the Missus and I used it for all our trips.

The only drawback is that it doesn't allow me to dash-cam with the phone (a DroidX), something that I prefer to do when I drive.

So, with the new car barely broken in (using its first tank of fuel), I used the built-in nav, allowing the DroidX to do its recording thing.

I realized, somewhere along those early minutes, that the nav system shows the ETA in time format, not "time to travel" format. So instead of telling me I had 1 hour 49 minutes to go, it told me that I'd arrive at 5:50 PM.

Since the races started at 6:00 PM, the little numbers in the bottom right corner suddenly took some significance. The earlier time I could get the numbers to show, the more time I'd have to get ready to race.

Of course I immediately got stuck in some bumper to bumper traffic, got stuck behind a car going 28 mph in a 35 mph zone, etc etc etc. The ETA rose as high as 5:55 PM before I got on a highway (it's a 1:50 drive).

I missed the DroidX's real time traffic reports, which come in the form of green, yellow, or red roads, reflecting travel speeds of other Verizon Wireless customer's phones I think. I had to guess where to go, although I quickly peeked at the road colors when stuck at one light for a couple cycles.

I got onto some of the more clear highways, get up to an edgy cruising speed, and watch the ETA drop a minute here, a minute there.

5:49 PM.

Then I'd hit some traffic, or get behind two cars going 58 mph side by side.

The ETA would bump up again.

5:51 PM.

I mentally rehearsed what I'd do when I got to the race. No number, I already had my shorts on, so I'd just slip on the jersey, stick the wheels in my bike, pump them up, grab shoes and helmet, go.

Oh, the SRM. And the bottles. One bottle. I should drink the Coke before. Right, get the Coke out of the cooler. I need a bar too, that's in my gear bag, which is behind me, which... crap, it's much easier when the Missus can poke around and get it.

I got closer to Ninigret, mainly highways, the ETA creeping down below 5:50 PM.

I got stuck behind a distracted Z3 driver (2.3 liter) on Route 1 just before Rhode Island. I drove such a car once, it was fun, but it didn't have a lot of power. It was so low you could see everything around you, especially with the top down.

The driver of that car almost smashed into the car next to him when he started to change lanes without looking right. I don't know how he managed to miss the big SUV there when he had the top down - the looming shadow should have been a clue.

I passed him as soon as I could.

That distraction out of the way, I continued on. 5:48 PM, 12 minutes to get ready to race.

When I pulled in the clock said 5:46 PM (and, conveniently, the nav system updated to the correct time of arrival). I stopped to use the bathroom, headed on towards the spots and saw, in the prime parking spots, SOC. And botto. And, although I didn't realize it, bostongarden was there too.

Strangely they didn't look very... hurried.

Pretty casual for 14 minutes to race time.

"Don't the races start at 6?"

SOC looked at me, grinning.

"Yes they do. But not ours."


I relaxed a bit, still got my bike ready. A guy driving a Hummer pulled up next to me, changed in a flash, and was out there before I realized he was gone. I kept looking over and grinned to myself - he left his keys on his tire. I understand that - when there's no one to hold the keys, you hide them somewhere discrete, like on a tire or under the bumper lip.

But on the Hummer, the top of the tire was a foot away from any body work.

You could see the keys from a hundred feet away.

The emperor has no clothes on.

Yada yada yada.

Find the keys.

I got on my bike, rolled around a bit, caught up with botto (I hadn't seen him this year), bostongarden, and a bit with SOC. I headed to the car to drop off a bottle, realized my cranks didn't feel right, and, on examining them, realized they were pretty notchy.

Of course we had to line up at about that moment so I just rolled over to the line, next to bostongarden.

"Check this out," I said, picking up the bike and plopping it down next to him.

When I plopped it down, it didn't feel right. I thumbed the rear tire.

It was basically flat.

"Hold that thought, I'll be right back."

Back to the car, unlock, put clincher rear wheel down, flip off tubular, slap the clincher on, roll back to the line.

Bostongarden looked at me.

"You were saying?"

"Check out my bottom bracket. It's notchy."

"Hm. Yep, it is."

I noticed when I lifted the rear wheel the tire wasn't spinning. I spun the wheel. It stopped on the rear brake. Campy, in its brilliance, made the rear brake an old fashioned single pivot brake. You can't just twist it to center it.

Mentally I shrugged. It wouldn't help me to have the rear brake rubbing lightly but it certainly wouldn't hurt me that much either.

And with that we got ready and started the race.

Unfortunately the race was somewhat uneventful. I rolled up to SOC at the start, after our first neutral lap, pretending to attack.

He didn't notice.

Neither did Botto, who was busy launching a huge move at the start. He said before the race that he ran a 5k kind of on a lark a few days ago and still couldn't walk right.

When he went his form looked fine to me.

Botto at the front, about to go.
SOC to the left, waiting to see what develops.

I sat in. I groveled in the gutter in the crosswind. Chases went. SOC went with the main one when a guy rolled a tire in Turn Two, fragmenting the group just before the critical crosswinds that hit you after Turn Three.

I didn't make the junction. Bostongarden didn't either.

I suffered again and again, digging repeatedly. Just a couple weeks ago I couldn't make the effort to break 200 watts, to break 165 bpm consistently. That night I was a bit better. I averaged over 200 watts, barely, for 20 minutes. My heart rate regularly went into the low 170s.

I tried to bridge a gap to a chase group, failing miserably, but reintegrating somehow when I blew up.

I was racing.

Team Kenda racer.
She reminds me of the SoCal Training Camp hostess.
That's a good thing because the Kenda rider is a Cat 1.
In this race she did a lot of work chasing.

Eventually came off, a lapped rider waiting for me to pass him, me waiting for him to get on the wheel. When I realized he wasn't going, that he wasn't coasting just for the corner, it was too late.

Ten feet might as well have been a hundred or a thousand. Mentally I blew, my mind unable to comprehend efforts and bridging and pedaling a bike. I wanted to yell at this guy, why didn't he wave me on, why didn't he say he was lapped. But that would take too much energy and I didn't think I could enunciate the words anyway.

I rolled around a bit, watched the break lap me (sans SOC - he didn't realize the power of some of the riders with him). The chase caught me too, then the next chase.

SOC was in that one so I tried to pull a bit for them, two straights.

Then, with nothing more to do, I rode a lap, did a sprint (I thought it was good until I looked at the SRM numbers - a pitiful 36 mph), and pulled out.

Botto was waiting, already dressed. He'd rolled a tire in turn two while in the break, effectively ending his race.

Before anyone gets on his case, it was, get this, a clincher.

We headed out for some food. Although we didn't necessarily set the world on fire, we had all earned some nourishment, SOC especially.

I settled on a bucket of ribs (an appetizer, not a meal) and drank a few Cokes. Other people had more stuff, some had less.

I had ice cream too. Screw it, right?

When I started back the nav system didn't take me along the same route as before, sending me a bit further on I95 than before.

Just before the Frontage Road exit, before the bridge before the Frontage Road exit, something caught my eye to the left.

I looked.


A huge one.

Okay, it wasn't that huge. I read about the "Mum for Men" team with some mysteriously named racers in South Africa. I didn't read about it in a book - I had the actual magazines covering the races. A certain Sean Kelly was one of the dominant racers, and when they found out he was racing in the then-off-limits South Africa, he became ineligible for the Olympics.

But that's not why I mention that magazine. They wrote about the stage race, about some of the challenges the Europeans faced when racing there.

One stage had a huge stack up in the middle of a nice, normal road. Nonetheless the field piled it up. When asked what happened, the wide eyed Euros talked of a spider.

A huge spider.

It was a foot wide.

Panicked Euros swerved out of the way, shocked by the insanity of something you only see in B series horror flicks.

No word on the spider's fate.

You get my drift here, right?

I'd have been the first one to have swerved away from the spider, all normal bike instincts out the window when the sheer terror of such a creature hits me.

So, although this spider was probably 1/12 the diameter of that foot wide one, it totally freaked me out.

I cringed to the right, my body bent sideways over the gearshift, going 63 mph, my head under the rear view mirror. The spider sat there nonchalantly.

I tried to stay still, thinking that would help keep the spider in place.

If that thing dropped on me...

I passed a cop sitting in the median. He didn't see me or he thought it normal to drive while leaning into the passenger seat area.

When I got to the Frontage Road (which, when I was 15, I thought was pronounced "Frahn-Tahj Road", so I've called it that ever since), I pulled over, drove slowly down the interminable lane, and, seeing no parking lots, pulled onto the curb.

I carefully opened the door, trying to keep my arm away from any projected spider-drop paths.

When the light went on the spider cringed, shrinking away from the light.

I cringed too, shrinking away from the spider.

I gathered up my courage, leaned forward just a bit and blew hard at it, sending it out into the night.

Then, my skin crawling, I slammed the door shut, shot off of the curb, and took off.

After a minute I realized that maybe he fell into the door pocket. He was right over it.

Nah, couldn't be.

10 minutes later I jumped with fright, almost swerving the car at 75 mph.

The spider had just sprinted up the driver side door pillar.

I was on Route 9, well on my way home. I decided that I'd just drive bent over, and when the spider made way toward the back, I leaned forward.

When I got home I spent a good half hour with my NightRider light looking for the thing, carefully moving stuff out of the car. I think it dropped out of the car when I opened one of the back doors, or it fell out when I was moving bags from the car to a "containment zone" in the middle of one of the garage spaces. The zone had a clear lit area around it so I could observe any 8-legged skittering.

I laughed about it afterwards but spiders in cars can cause problems.

Luckily I made it home alive.

And, truth be told, I think the spider made it to the house as well.

Spiders aren't bad. They eat mosquitos and other bugs.

But when they're big enough that you can see them cringe and brace themselves, just like a cat ducks when a shadow flies by...

Those spiders I leave alone.


botto said...

just got around to reading this. my, how time flies. almost as quickly as clinchers on a corner.

Aki said...

Yes, time flies in the blogger world when a blogger can pre-date an entry so it lines up with the event date.

botto said...


Aki said...

It's a dirty little secret but it does work both ways. Sometimes I'll post-date posts so I have a few posts done automatically.

Of course it sucks when the race didn't happen exactly as I expected and I have to re-write a post. Heh.