Thursday, June 14, 2012

Racing - 2012 Nutmeg State Games, M45+ & Cat 3s

A couple days before the race I added up my training hours for May and the first part of June. I came up with 16 hours for 5 weeks, or just over 3 hours a week.

This included the races I did, what I did of them. In one race I was off the back in two laps. In the next, later that same day, I was cramping and couldn't contest the sprint. In the third race I was off the back in about 1.5 laps (and I was following wheels the whole time).

My season, as you can see, hasn't started very well.

The Missus, supportive as always, worries a bit when I get shelled in the first lap or two of a race. She knows that although I don't attach a life-or-death importance to racing (waitaminute... did I just say that?) she understands that I feel disappointed when I can't even participate in a race.

With that in mind she came home Friday, took Junior, and told me to go ride my bike.

And I did.

It was just an hour, I rode the trainer, but this was my first hour on the bike that week. I felt good to be on the bike but my legs had that background soreness after an easy ride - 142 watt average, spinning the small ring and a 23 for most of the ride (44x23 - I haven't installed the 39T chainring yet).

Saturday we gathered all the stuff we needed for Junior - he almost has more stuff than I do when we go to a race. We've been using the roof rack on the Jetta Sportswagen these days, with the trunk area full of stroller, folding chairs, and infant supply bags. My bike went up top, my race wheels and front training wheel in the back, and a trifecta of TriSpokes that will be on a lend-program to a fellow cyclist.

Because of my positive experience with my first M45+ race at the Mystic Velo Crit, I decided to do the M45+ race and the 3s at Nutmeg. I'd focus on the M45+ for a result and see what happened in the 3s.


The M45+ wasn't quite the tea party from Mystic. There was an element of taking risks, of pushing limits, a feeling of "well, maybe I don't have to go to work on Monday". It wasn't all terrible but I didn't get that "feel good" aura that I got in Mystic.

Nonetheless my legs felt surprisingly good considering the non-training I've been doing. Maybe not a surprise. After all, as I always tell those over-achievers who train 40 hours a week, you don't get stronger by riding. You get stronger by recovering.

This meant I was 5 days stronger than I was last weekend. And about 25 days stronger than I was at the end of April.

Whatever, I rode a normal race in the field. I moved up at times, much further forward than I would normally ride. In the field of about 60 (I think) I sometimes found myself sitting 10th or 15th. Inevitably I slid back into the field, dropping to the back 10 laps into the relatively short 15 lap race.

With my newfound willingness to ride more forward, and with the nagging thought that "If I move up hard on the last lap I won't have a sprint", I set about moving up before the last lap.

The strung out field rounded the last turn heading into 2 laps to go, some attackers pushing hard to break clear of the front. The move failed, and as the field started to contract near the start/finish (with 2 to go), two guys went.

I suspect that they were the ones attacking just before because the move and followup move scream their names - Bill Y and Mike M. Both riders prefer small breaks to field sprints, both are not afraid of making efforts, and when they go all in they frequently succeed.

I was rolling up the right side, part of the fast flying elastic wrapping around the slowing front. I could either brake to stay in the field or I could go.

I went.

Of course as soon as I took the first two pedal strokes I started thinking, "Dude, just sit up. It's 2 to go, you don't go well for more than a minute at a time, and it's a good 4 minutes to the finish."

Then my Jens piped up.

"Shut up legs!"

I put the smash hammer down.

In fact, thinking back on it, I put it down a bit too hard. I blew by Bill and Mike, so much so that they literally sat up. I think they figured if a sprinter just got on their wheel then the whole field must be just behind.

I rolled around the long bend, willing them to get on my wheel. I didn't have a plan except that I knew that three guys riding along individually made no sense. I was willing to pull and I wanted them to go on my wheel.

Finally, almost reluctantly, I could see Bill put his head down and start riding back up to me. Mike hesitated and followed, but he'd already left a gap so he was riding on his own too.

On the short backstretch we all came together. I was a bit tweaked with my half lap in the wind and pulled off. Bill pulled through to the last turn, then Mike pulled a bit.

Unfortunately the enthusiasm in our legs from the lap before had deserted us, leaving just pain in its place. When I pulled though Mike sat up, and I knew that my fuse was about done. When I pulled off I also sat up. I briefly contemplated trying to go with Bill first, some chasers second, and the field third, but I couldn't move. Nothing worked properly.

With no chance in the sprint I gave up, and on the backstretch I even cut across the grass to try and catch the finish. Even slicing half the course off I couldn't reach the finish area to clearly see who won. Nonetheless I felt good. I made a move, committed, and tried to play it out.

Back at our base camp I couldn't help but grin. It was a lot of fun to give it a go, even if it wasn't the best move or a planned one or whatever. Sometimes you just gotta do what you just gotta do. I understand a bit on why some racers refuse to stick to a plan - sometimes it's more fun to try something outlandish. Maybe not very productive, but still, it was fun.

14.2 miles. I didn't do a warm up other than riding from the car to the start and one slow lap of the course.

Cat 3s

I hadn't registered for the 3s that morning, and, initially, I felt glad about it. After the M45+ race ended the skies opened up a bit. With rain falling I really didn't feel like hanging out and racing. We hung out to watch friends race, and as we watched the skies started to clear. I started getting a bit dizzy with hunger - I'd come here expecting to leave after the M45 race so I wasn't really fueled up for a long stay.

My partner in crime John from my Belgium trip (who registered for both the M45+ and the 3s just before I registered for the M45+) chided me for not committing to the 3s. So did a bunch of other people, and, finally, at 2:21 PM (3:05 PM start time), I relented.

"I'm gonna do the 3s," I told the Missus.

First I had to take care of my bonkiness. Some GU blocks, a GU, and another GU helped with that. Downing that with some water I went and registered, then headed to the car to change, unpack the bike (I'd put the bike on the roof and everything), and rolled back to the start area. I was still in dire straits energy-wise so I bought two Cokes and put them in a bottle (Podium ICE, so it stayed reasonably cool). I barely had time to get my stuff together (pin my number, get Strava going, turn on the Sportsiiiis, turn on the helmet cam) before I had to go line up.

Just before I left our base came area I told the Missus I wouldn't do anything stupid this race. Sit in and sprint. John, standing next to me, grinned. My move in the M45+ race was so unlike me that it'd be eons before I tried anything like that again.

I felt almost giddy in this race, probably because I was experiencing a mad sugar rush after bonking. I drank as much of the Coke as possible, knowing that the sugar would hit my system as soon as I drank it.

Halfway around the first lap I rolled up the left and protected side of the group, cruising past the side of the field. Up the hill the lead riders stayed on the yellow line in the center, leaving a nice lane for me on the left.

I took it.

And I surged.

It wasn't a huge surge per se, about 1000 watts, but I rolled over the top of the hill at about 30 mph. A bit later, on the finishing stretch, I rolled by the Missus who sardonically yelled, "Nice move!"

As in not.

I didn't want to get shelled when I got caught so I tried to catch my breath while I recovered, still off the front. Since it was a suicide move by a sprinter the field didn't chase - this just prolonged my agony. I kept looking at my SRM to check my heart rate but it just wouldn't drop from the 164 range (which is close to detonation for me). My heart felt like it was beating in my throat and I felt vaguely uncomfortable trying to catch my breath.

Finally, after a bit of 15 mph love time on the backstretch, I could feel my breathing change from "panic" to "really hard". My heart rate started to drop just a tad. 162 bpm and the field rolled by me, reluctantly chasing.

I got on right away, still worried about a counter that could kill me. John rolled by.

"What's the last thing you said to your wife, 'Nothing crazy'?" he hollered a reminder.


I spent a lot of time with my mind not really in the race. I followed wheels, I took invitations to fill gaps, but I really didn't think about stuff until my legs started to twinge, my hamstrings threatening rebellion.

Next time around I would check the lap cards, hope we were in the last 5 laps or so, but before I could even get there, I could hear the MC hollering about a halfway prime.


I consciously throttled back even more than I already was. Not too much spinning. Ease gaps closed, don't surge. No high wattage thumps on the pedals. Experiment with standing (not so good after 3-4 pedal strokes - therefore can't sprint).

I thought my race was done.

Then I remembered something Shovel had said about the Mystic race. He'd been totally blown going into the sprint but he relented, just driving as hard as possible to the line. He got a place.

Me, on the other hand, sitting up before the last turn, I got nothing.

I figured that, okay, I'll just ride out this race and see what happens. Unfortunately nothing really did. I felt reasonably okay for twingy legs - my test involves checking how easily I can move up after the top of the hill. If I can surge hard and move up 10 or 15 spots instantly, if I have to brake to avoid hitting the guy in front of me, then I'm feeling good. If I surge hard but don't have to brake to slow, or gain only a half dozen spots, then I'm not so good. If I struggle to stay on wheels then it's bad.

I didn't have to brake every lap but I couldn't move at will - I had to save up for a lap or two before I could make a move. This signaled to me that my legs really were going south and I'd have to be really crafty to get up there for the sprint.

I did what I could, moved up reasonably well, but I couldn't get out and fight for position like I normally do. In the sprint I was pretty far back but I pedaled to the line, seated, just riding hard (versus "sprinting"). At the line I was the first rider behind a wall of guys who were all really close. The winner was well clear of everyone else but for second, let's just say that the finishline picture should be great.

I placed myself about 20th but I didn't really care. I felt I'd ridden as best as I could. Had I been able to jump I figure I would have been in that tussle for second, and I felt like, okay, yeah, I would have been good in that tussle. Next time.

More importantly than my finish was that when I rolled back to base camp after a cool down lap, I had an ear to ear grin on my face.

"That was fun!"

And it was. With no expectations, no goals, and with everything beyond "I'm still in the race after two laps" a bonus, it was great to make a big move in the M45+ race, a similar "flying the colors" move in the Cat 3s, and still take part in the races.

We watched the P123 afterward but as I started getting dizzy with hunger again we started the packing up process to head home. We rolled by the van displaying results so I trotted over to check if I got 20th or 21st.

To my surprise I was 13th. Out of those 8 were from Connecticut, and a fellow town resident named Austin took the Nutmeg jersey. Joy.

We headed home, Junior exhausted after a long day out. A good day. Next up - the 2012 Keith Berger Crit in East Hartford and any @TuesdayTheRent races that don't get cancelled due to rain.

From Kenneth Reilly of Pawling Cycles.
A shot of the Cat 3 race based on my bottles (the white one is full of Coke).
I regretted taking the Cane Creek Speed Bars off, not that it would have helped that much.

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