Sunday, June 02, 2013

Racing - June 2, 2013 Limerock Circuit Race

Ah, yes, another race. This time it was at Limerock, the race car course. I've never done it in the direction they hold it in now, counterclockwise. This is against the motorsports direction. Therefore it's all left turns with one right, rather than all rights with one right. The big swooping downhill becomes an uphill, and the short bump on the backstretch is now a little dropoff.

I went with low expectations. I'm not really fit at this point, getting into difficulty after just one effort. I was also a bit intimidated by the swooping downhill.

In fact my intimidation with the swooping downhill is probably the reason why the race is held in the opposite direction as the car races. When the club first mentioned the course to me I recalled the time that the Cat 1-2-3 race hit the swooping downhill on the last lap. A ferocious leadout by a friendly acquaintance meant the group was going 50 mph down that little drop. Some guy got up on the curb on the inside, tried to get back into the group in about 5th spot, and didn't make it. Those that didn't hit the deck ended up in the very wide grassy run off area that, in those days, had a Camel billboard above it.

(Today, when we looked at the billboards, many of them had casinos on them. If it's not one thing it's another.)

Anyway there was a good 50 or 75 people that didn't finish the race unscathed.

Where was I?

Well, ironically I'd been in a last lap break with two other guys, a really strong time trial type teammate and some guy that came along for the ride. I don't remember how the break formed but at the bell we had 10 or 15 seconds and a chance at pulling it off (if you could measure percentages to about 5 decimal places).

We got caught at the small bump of a hill on the back stretch. I was so cooked that I missed a shift, dropped the chain, and ended up falling over on the soft sand next to the curb.

I took my time remounting, got over the bump, and crested the top of the hill. The bridge blocked my view but as I started seeing stuff under and beyond it my jaw dropped. The whole road was covered in bikes and bodies and an equal amount of carnage lay in the grass to the left. I rode a bit numb through everything to the line. Worried friends and teammates asked if I was okay. I told them I didn't crash there, I fell over on the uphill.

Anyway when I relayed that story to the guy who wanted to "revive" the Limerock race he took note.

To add to my non-fitness and swooping-uphill woes there was a severe thunderstorm type watch in effect. Nothing really crazy but still, to be racing a bike in that stuff, not good.

At home it was brutally hot, about 90 degrees. I had sweat pouring down my face just loading up the car. I read that in a morning half marathon in town 15 runners had heat stroke and they ended up stopping the event. It was only 78 degrees, I thought, how tough could it have been. Well, if I was struggling just to put a few bags in the car, running a half marathon might have been enough to knock down some people.

As we drove out to the race the temperature dropped a bit, a few degrees, into the mid-upper 80s. I figured it couldn't be that bad once we got racing. I had my Podium Ice bottle, a couple Podium Chills, and a cooler full of ice water.

I was ready.

As we got closer, though, the skies turned dark and threatening.

The clouds going left-right. No rain yet.

I didn't take a picture of the clouds that rained on us because I didn't want to have my camera out when it was raining.

I saw my teammate Mike in the parking lot so I pulled in next to him. He pointed at the clouds.

"What do you think of that?"
"Ah, I checked before we left, it's not going to hit until 7 pm. See? They're going left to right, they won't hit us.
Mike looked doubtful. "Well, okay."

He rolled off.

I started putting my bike together. In my heat affected state I'd loaded my two tall front wheels and my tall and short rear wheels. I had no short front wheel. It was a bit windy so I would have liked the low profile Bastogne/Ardennes front wheel but that wheel was sitting in my garage.

I put the Stinger 6 on up front. In the rear I went with the Stinger 9. I'd planned on bringing the Stinger 6 rear and the Stinger 9 rear but I didn't have the Stinger 6 rear. I got the front and back wheels mixed up, bringing the shallow rear instead of the shallow front.

Whatever, I could make the Stinger 6 front work.

My bike. Before the race.
Note the dry pavement.

The wind picked up suddenly. A metal sign fell over nearby. I quickly lay my bike down on the ground - the wheels were acting like sails and threatened to carry my bike off to Never Never Land.

Not good.

A few minutes later the skies above us were gray. Although those clouds were going left to right some other clouds had sneaked through the valley beyond the backstretch.

You could see the wall of rain approaching.

In a few minutes I was soaked.

Mike, a sardonic grin on his face, rolled by.

"So much for 7 o'clock."


My number after the race.
Note that I had only 8 pins. Enough for one number. Not ideal for two.

I warmed up in the warm rain, letting myself get totally soaked. It felt comfortable, not too bad, temperatures in the 80 degree range now.

I had an annoying little skip in my drivetrain but I figured it was just a small barrel adjuster turn kind of thing.

I noticed that the swooping downhill wasn't as bad as I thought, which meant that the swooping uphill (as we'd hit it) wouldn't be bad at all. I felt a glimmer of hope.

We lined up, all of us wet, but the rain having stopped a few minutes before. They were going to hold us for a minute until the official start time, which was fine by me. We were all reasonably comfortable, soaked but warm. Then suddenly the trees in the distance became more gray. One of the guys yelled.

"You can see the wall of rain!"

It hit us like a gazillion buckets of water. Chilling rain dumping down on us. I could barely see 30 yards in front of me, my glasses all wet. Some of the guys complained about the cold rain.

The official told us 30 seconds to go.

Jeepers, time was moving like molasses.

Finally the officials released us. We got out of the pit lane, where it was neutralized, and then with a double honk of the pace car (a Suburban) we were off.

The hill wasn't bad but my chain was skipping something fierce. I tried using a bigger gear, a smaller gear, and finally decided that I needed to sit. My chain kept skipping on the flats, in the 11T on the fast backstretch, in every gear.

My chain had bit the dust. Something was wrong with it. Brand new in March, I didn't know why it was acting up.

I faked it for a couple laps but the chain kept skipping. I looked to see if there was any obvious broken things down there but I couldn't see any missing rollers, no plates skewed sideways, just a chain rolling forward and skipping every now and then.

The bike felt a bit sketchy up front too, not like a couple weeks ago at New Britain. What the heck?

I gave up the fight pretty quickly. I wasn't fit, I couldn't even make surge type efforts without the chain hopping around, and I didn't want to take anyone out. I hung out at the back, hoping that maybe I could just roll with the group but my legs protested vociferously.

I sat up.

The Missus just made sure I was okay. I stopped, checked the chain by moving the pedals backwards slowly. I looked for a long line of chain links skewed just a bit. Between them and the straight links there'd be a twisted link.


Well, that was that. Another mechanical. This isn't good. Broken bolt, now a twisted chain.

At least I didn't crash, I didn't push the part until it failed. For now I need to work on fitness, on weight, and, as I now realize, on my bike.

Junior was running around having an absolute blast. He had a lot of room to work with, no traffic, no riders zipping by, just an empty pit road lined with barriers and filled with perfect kid-sized puddles. He was exhausted but you couldn't tell from his smiles, his running around, his excitement with every new thing he saw.

Absolutely fantastic.

The backdrop looks like a Kurosawa movie.

In the middle of all this I left to change. It rained suddenly while I was in the car so after I finished putting the bike stuff away I drove the car closer to the grandstands (or whatever they're called).

Bike after the race.
I put the only shallow wheel I had there back on the bike.

I haven't taken a close up of my pedals yet.
They have less clamp force than the Carbon Max pedals.

My saddle. It stayed on this time.

Bob Sharp Datsun. I'm assuming it's a 280Z but it could be a 260Z or a 240Z.

The Bob Sharp Z.

A side story. Bob Sharp lived in the town where I grew up. He gave a talk in the auto mechanics course (taught by Mr. Dey). He mentioned the 240Z, a car he helped develop. He's a tall guy, taller than the average Japanese guy in the late 60s. I think he's something like 6'4" or something. Anyway a main complaint of the older Japanese cars is that they're made for guys like me, 5'7" with a 30" inseam, not guys that are 6'4" and have a 35" inseam.

So when they asked him to help get an American specific touch to their new sports car one of the first things he did was he made sure it would fit a tall guy. You know, like, oh, I don't know, like Bob Sharp himself. He was a racer at the time, and as you can guess, all car racers have their favorite seat position. It's like a custom top tube length with a particular stem and a particular bar. When it all works out you know it because it's set up for you.

Bob Sharp's custom position is easy to figure out. All you have to do is sit in a 240Z and push the driver's seat all the way back.

Presto. You're in Mr Sharp's perfect driving position.

Fit is really important. But I digress.

Junior found this vine-stick. He really liked it.

The rain started again so we waited a bit until it eased, then we packed up the car. Stroller, all my wheels, Junior. As we put him in the car the drops started falling thick and fast. The Missus quickly jumped in the back and closed the door. I hopped in the driver's seat and closed my door.

A few seconds later I could barely see out the windshield. I grabbed the camera to take pictures.

Third downpour. I'd shut the door to the car about 20 seconds earlier.
The first was while I was warming up, the second when we were waiting to start.

Then I heard "ping, ping, ping, ping". Hail. No bowling ball pieces of hail, just quarter inch, maybe half inch tops. I felt bad for the guys out there in the hail, racing, little airsoft pellets hitting them all over.

We cranked the AC to dry stuff out and headed out.

An hour and change later, as we drove into our town, the rain had stopped. The roads were actually dry - we could see the tire tracks left by the car in front of us, fading as the tires dried out until bingo, no more tire tracks.

The clouds were coming though and we knew what to expect. We unloaded the car quickly, got inside, and got all hunkered down.

Then the rains came.

1 comment:

Justin said...

Only been to limerock when I was time trialing via race car... must be interesting to do it in reverse on a bike. The uphill change has made it a little less scary if you miss the apex (for the racing direction). Makes sense to use it for a cycling race... crazy weather for sure ...glad everyone is ok.