Monday, July 29, 2013

Training - Family MUP Ride

This has been the summer of bike racing discontent. With what seems like an infinite number of @TuesdayTheRents canceled due to rain/storms/thunder/lightning, one of the worse Spring Series (on the bike), and various hop scotch races (meaning the ones that give me something to look forward to, instead of a vast period of no racing) getting canceled, it's been a not-so-great year of racing.

Even when the race isn't canceled and the weather isn't bad I still have a hard time pulling a decent ride out of my admittedly undertrained legs.

Combined with non-race related stuff my racing has been not so great.

Therefore when a couple of the guys on the team said they'd be doing a weekend ride starting just a couple miles away from the house I thought it'd be a great break from the trainer, from the preparing to race but then getting on the trainer, and from moving stuff around to get to the trainer.

I've only done one team group ride, and it ended in quasi disaster when I hit the deck. Generally speaking the rides are on the other side of the river, just after/during rush hour, and with questionable form at best it's hard to justify figuring out a way to ditch Junior so I can get in the car and go somewhere.

This planned ride had none of the excuses. It was so close that I could ride there (although, due to the planned after ride activities, I drove). It took place on Saturday so the Missus could hang out with the slightly-under-the-weather Junior (teething, again).

And the pace would be moderate at best.

The plan was for the two teammates to pilot each of their tandems with a daughter in the stoker seat and another daughter on a trail-a-bike. That's six riders on two bikes, meaning two bikes with steering/brakes/shifting controls.

Another, the only boy of the group and the oldest of the lot at eight years old, would be on his own bike.

The two significant others would be on their own bikes.

I showed up solo, a semi-guide since I'd ridden the Rails To Trails before. The Missus asked what I'd do on the ride. I told her I figured I'd be shadowing a miscellaneous kid that was on his/her own bike, acting as an extra set of eyes for teammate Joe (three kids). Dennis has two kids and they'd both be on the tandem train rig thing.

With the expected pace a maximum of 11 mph I decided that it would be a perfect ride for the mountain bike. I last used it when I rode from the storage bay back to the house after parking the Expedition

Even in the month or two between then and now the tires were basically flat (I pumped them up to 60 psi). The rest of the bike isn't in much better shape - the rear wheel is missing a spoke so the rear brake is open quite a bit (I trued the wheel just enough so the tire doesn't rub the frame), the shock fork has totally collapsed (I replaced most of the MCU "springs" with solid spacers), the middle chainring is so bent that the chain won't stay on it (but who uses anything but the big ring while riding on the road?).

Importantly the bike fits me, it rolls, it stops, and just like driving a beat up truck can be fun this bike is just fun to ride. It's my SUV of bikes - I roll over everything and everything.

Except poison ivy.

But we'll get to that in a second.

The mountain bike cockpit.

The other thing about the bike is that it has no computer on it. I'd removed the lights (charged and in the car but I didn't put them on), it's never had a computer, and it felt a bit refreshing to ride 'sans electronics'.

Of course I very conscientiously charged my phone and Strava'ed the ride. And I used the helmet cam (all the pictures are stills from the cam footage).

So much for escaping technology.

The roll out. Joe driving his tandem with Sam between us.

With just one kid on a single bike I knew exactly what I'd need to do - look after him. Sam is 8 years old, has his own geared and hand-braked bike, and rode really well. His shoulders reminded me of Junior's and I realized that if/when Junior rides this will be part of my life.

He had plenty of zip at the beginning of the ride, bridging gaps, attacking, stuff like that.

Dennis driving his train. Sam in front of me, again.

As soon as we got off the most heavily traveled and maintained part of the trail I realized that poison ivy bordered virtually all of the trail. If it wasn't in the bushes and growing up the trees it was poking out from between fence slat and spreading along the grass. Even at the first main intersection, where we had to wait for a Walk signal, I spotted poison ivy directly next to the trail.

My mantra became that of the saucier from Apocalypse Now, modified just a bit.

"Don't leave the trail."

Or, in the movie, "Never get off the boat." (warning: language)

I'm pretty sure I was telling every to stay on the trail every time we slowed down. Annoying, I suppose, but not as much as having poison ivy everywhere. If Sam has some illogical fear of poison ivy that's why, because every time he veered to the side I reminded him to stay on the trail.

Sam about to thread the needle, going about 5-8 mph faster than the tandem rigs.

Sam enjoyed the whole outing, from what I could tell. He'd maneuver around the larger, less agile tandem rigs, at one point threading the needle as he launched a big move. Other times he'd start flagging a bit then rally hard to bridge back to whatever tandem rig loomed ahead.

After that "threading the needle" move I hit 28 mph bridging up to Sam. Strava claims I did 32 mph at one point at the end; although Sam was riding fast here and there we never hit those speeds. I'm pretty sure that Sam could hit 22-24 mph though, so that's pretty good.

Approaching the end.

With the sun getting low on the horizon we got close to our start point. At some point I was to lead out the tandems for their final race (the girls were the instigators, for real), but my sense of duty looking after Sam kept me at his side. The tandems had to race on their own and apparently finished so close it was impossible to tell who won.

Riding with Sam was quite the rewarding experience. I started thinking about the whole "protect the kid with your body" thing - when we crossed streets I entered the road first and then he'd cross under my watchful eye. There's a whole post there because the same idea of "blocking" for Sam applies to drafting, to covering moves in a pack, playing Go, and even to playing baseball. I'll leave it alone for now, let it simmer, and do a post at some other time.

For now, though, this ride was a preview of what to expect. Maybe not in the sense of the exact experience, but the idea of looking after a human being that is self-mobile, understands mechanical gadgets, knows some more complex rules, stuff like that. 

After the ride we all had a bite to eat. The kids were pretty hungry after a two hour ride, and Sam had faded hard in the last mile and change. I thought I faded hard but it took him about 50 meters to go from "keep trying" to "exhausted". At the table I saw mannerisms in him that reminded me of Junior, while at the same time Sam was much more developed, being over six years older. I came home after Junior had fallen asleep so I didn't get an immediate compare-and-contrast experience, but I'm looking forward to all that stuff. I can't imagine Junior doing that stuff - it's beyond me - but I know logically that he'll be like that, talking, thinking of what he wants to do, thinking of the rules. He does some of that now but not at Sam's level.

I also learned that when a family heads out for a ride you need to bring everything. I rode a bit risky - I had no spare tube, no pump, no nothing. It meant that I didn't have things like a 15 mm wrench (adjusting the chain on the trail-a-bike), bug repellent (requested when we stopped), or even some allen wrenches (adjusting chain on the remote cranks for the stokers). I picked up some CamelBaks at the last Interbike I attended and they'll come in handy for our future family outings. With the Missus expressing interest in joining in next time, with me hauling Junior, I hope that we get to do a family ride soon.

For me the ride was a nice change from the trainer grind. More smiles per mile, that's for sure. Here's to the next ride!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

How To - Cornering, Looking Habits (Pictures)

I often address questions about cornering, whether the rider asks me directly or someone pleas for help on the intraweb. One of the most important things in cornering is to look ahead in the turn. If you keep looking directly in front of you then you won't be able to see what's coming up. It's sort of like the first person view in a driving game - you can't look around corners. It's also the reason I prefer to view helmet cam footage versus bar cam footage. With a bar cam you can't tell what the rider is looking at, where their head is pointed.

Every ride I do from the house and every drive home in the car, I have the privilege of taking a very interesting right turn. It's an acute turn, more than 90 degrees, almost a 180. What makes it interesting is that it's apparent that the designers initially pictured it as a T intersection with a severely bent stem on the T.

However, instead of making it a real square T they widened the entry side (from my "going home" direction). This resulted in a multi-radius turn and severely encourages an early turn in. I'm guessing they made it so that any 18-wheelers would be able to clear the turn without destroying the curb or maybe they adjusted the curb after it got destroyed by the first moving truck that came into the complex.  Whatever the reason the extra room on the right side of the turn makes this a weird turn. The first part is a true 90 degree turn, but then the road immediately swerves right in a very wide radius 70 or 80 degree turn.

In the car it's pretty apparent it's quite sharp, and in fact for a while I was going really wide at the exit of the turn. I mean I live here and I try to be very aware as I drive so to screw up the turn... I wasn't happy with myself.

Approaching the right turn.

As you can see it's a pretty sharp right. The road doubles back on itself to create a 180 type turn. It's not so apparent in the picture but it's quite a steep down hill - on the bike, coasting, it's easy to hit 35 mph. In the car I have to brake to keep the speed under 35 and I typically come down the hill at about 30 mph.

Dash cam has limited sight lines.

Here you can see the problem with the dash cam's aim (and, to a certain extent, a bar cam's). Even though you're setting up for a really hard right turn you can't see it in the image.

About 45 degrees into the turn.

Mid-turn there's very little to see. The landscape just slides sideways across the screen as I turn the car hard to the right.

Turn out.
I'm about to get to a speed limit sign but you can't tell from the dash cam.

At the exit of the turn, or the "turn out" point, I'm parallel with the curb and on the right shoulder. Most residents here (there are probably 60-70 families who live down this road) end up virtually kissing the left curb before they move over to the right. It's a bit annoying to someone like me who drives the other way when I leave the house. For most people it's not a big deal but for us we live at the point where most people are just getting back to the right side of the road.

Note the green thing on the right. It's some kind of utility box.
This is after the puddle from the earlier picture.

I included the last picture to show the green utility box. It's a good point of reference.

Now let's take the same turn from the point of view of me, the rider, while noting where I'm looking, where my head is pointing. Okay, granted, my helmet cam (ContourHD 1080p) is of better quality than my dashcam (DroidX phone, 1080p, running Daily Roads), but still you'll see the differences.

Approaching the turn.

So far things look the same. It's a sharp right turn, curbed so a hard border, downhill, coasting at about 30-35 mph. My hands are on the drops, I'm slightly on the brakes, and I've shifted into an appropriate gear for rolling out of the turn.

First look right.

My head turns most of the way but my eyes are actually looking further right. I'm looking through the trees for any movement - cars typically drive 35 mph or faster and if they do I'll end up at the intersection as the same time as them. Since most drivers here drive in the center of the road it's not good for me if I meet a center-of-the-road driver at the intersection.

Look forward again.

I look forward again. I need to get my bearings down - it's not like I'm going to go through the whole turn looking ahead.

In this shot you can sort of imagine the line. Better yet let me use my incredible Photoshop skillz and draw some lines.

Solid line is the late apex.
Dash line is the early apex.

(Solid line is supposed to follow the curb but it's hard drawing those lines with a touchpad so it veers up  a bit, even though it's not supposed to do so.)

Most people tend to do the early apex. It's not just in bike racing, it's in life. Watch someone rushing to beat a light or take a turn in front of oncoming traffic. They veer to the side as if getting to the curb somehow helps gives them help going around the corner.

When people get scared or unsure they turn in early. I do, when I'm scared or unsure, because the panic instinct is very hard to overcome. The key is to not be scared of cornering, to understand cornering lines, and to apply your knowledge when you corner.

(As a side note most fast descenders are also extremely good corner-ers. They descend fast because they know how to take corners. Since both cornering and descending generally don't take fitness it would be poor strategy to ignore the benefits of proper cornering. This is where a less fit rider can make up a lot of ground. It's also where a lot of fit-but-unskilled racers lose tons of ground.)

It took me a few tries to figure this turn out. Since I live here I got to try the corner every time I drive or ride home, and after carelessly ignoring the tricky corner I finally spent a minute of energy thinking about it. It's nothing too tricky (car racers will probably be shaking their heads at me) - it requires an especially late apex with a hard turn The turn out ends up really early - at about the first tree or so, maybe the second tree.

Most people who drive here take the dashed line. It causes them to veer way to the outside, and if I'm riding from the house (i.e. towards them) they have to slam on the brakes and almost come to a stop so they can get to the proper side of the road. It makes for interesting situations when you consider that many people leaving coming out from the right will stop in the middle of the road, about where the second-last dash sits.

Using the correct line I can enter the corner at a higher speed than a "stay-on-the-right-side" early apex--er and still stay on the right side.

Going through the turn.
My bike is pointing towards about the 11 o'clock direction, not straight ahead.

At some point I'll do a clip of this but in the above shot I'm looking towards the turn out point, where the trees are to the right. My head is pointed to the speed limit sign but my eyes are looking further right. My bike is pointing to the left a bit, leaned way over, turning very hard. It's pointing to about the 11 o'clock direction, so a bit to the left of straight up.

Wide radius part of the turn.

I'm at the wide radius part of the turn. My bike is starting to get closer to the curb, I'm still looking forward at or to the right of the trees. My eyes are being pulled forward like there was a string tied to them, a string pulled by someone just disappearing from view up the road.

Now my bike is almost in line with my head.
No puddles because this cam footage is from a different day than the dash cam stuff.

I'm about to even out with the curb - I'll be next to it as the bare patch in the grass ends and the curb straightens out.

With the early apex I'm parallel to the curb before the curve ends. It's safer for me, safer for oncoming traffic. In a group ride this is excellent because I'm staying out of traffic's way. In a race it's even better -  if you have a mishap mid-turn you have a lot of space to work with, but more importantly you can really accentuate the accordion effect (if you're at the front) or save a lot of energy (if you're tailgunning at the back).

Waitaminute. You forgot one thing, you say to me. Where's that green utility box, the one that signaled the turn out point from the dash cam?

Well if you look past the speed limit sign, between it and the first tree truck, you'll see it way down the road. It's about twice the distance as to the speed limit sign.

With the helmet cam it's clear what line I took and where I was looking. With a bar cam (or a dash cam) it would be much harder. I basically take the same line in both the car and the bike. The dash cam is mounted just to the left of center in the car so it's about 3 feet further left than my helmet cam, but it's clear that the dash cam simply cannot illustrate how I took the turn.

Remember that cornering lines are habits. If you got yourself into the normal habit of turning in early you need to break that habit. You shouldn't practice cornering only on the bike. You should practice it whenever you're taking a turn with a wheeled vehicle, whether it's a car, a shopping cart, or a baby stroller. Break that early apex habit and improve your bike racing.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Life - Heat and Stuff

So the blog has been sort of slow, so I apologize for that.

The main thing is that it's been hot around here. For the last week or so we've had some pretty high temperatures, in the upper 90s consistently. This put a kind of drag brake on life in general, at least for me. I don't work well in the heat.

Luckily we have air conditioning at the house. We try to be economical about the whole set up - we don't have central air but we do have permanent wall mounted units. The house is a modified cape - two stories with a very open floor plan.

In the summer we run just one small air conditioner upstairs. Normally that's enough to cool all but the den and the bathroom attached to it - it's really meant to be a master bedroom suite but it's a den / guest room for now. During the extended 95-100 degree temps (we hit 101 in both of our cars once) I learned that the "One AC" tactic effectively dropped the inside temperatures about 20 degrees. This meant that we were at 75-80 degrees at best. We have a second small air conditioner but we haven't turned it on in years, and there's room for a third but we removed it and put a pellet stove in its place (and we learned that the pellet stove alone, on low, will drive the interior temperature up 20 degrees as compared to outside).


What's that got to do with bikes and such? Well, my trainer has been in the office, which, being a dead end room, doesn't get much air flow. This means that my trainer room, if you will, ended up at about 85 degrees most of the time. I had the trainer in the den, which has its own large air conditioner, but due to some circuit issues I can't use the AC and a large fan at the same time so I would do trainer rides with just a large fan, typically in a 75 degree room. By the end of my rides the room would be close to 85 degrees. When we had a guest over I had to move my set up to the warmer office.

This makes it less appealing to ride the bike.

I've also been trying to get outside to do some yard work. With just two half days free I don't get to do much on my own. I typically get about 3 hours twice a week, between about 1:30 and 4:30 PM, not enough to do more than one or two major things. I could go for a long ride or work in the yard or clean out the garage or clean up inside the house but usually not more than two of them. I enjoy doing yard work, especially on really hot days (because there are less mosquitoes).

In fact I really hate mosquitoes and will avoid being outside for even brief periods of time when they're active (70-80 degrees, winds under 2 mph). I'm a human mosquito magnet - I would often get bit just getting out to the car. I also don't like to slather DEET all over myself regularly (main exception is for yard work) so I keep indoors in prime (mosquito) weather conditions.

Tuesdays I don't ride because I want to race. With the iffy weather patterns (sunny and hot until 6 PM then clouds rolling in and sometimes severe thunderstorms or even a tornado or three) sometimes the race doesn't get canceled until 20 minutes before the race. I spent more than a couple Tuesday afternoons not riding only to have the race that night canceled. When the race gets canceled I've committed to spending an hour organizing the office - so far I've done two of those hour sessions.

Thursdays I try to ride, but if it's too hot or it's pouring out then I'll focus on other things, usually housework or a few particular things that need some work. One day I fixed a loose baby gate + cat door bar, re-anchored another baby gate, and worked on a little RC car that Junior likes to chase around (it's still not working, after sucking up some cat fur and mucking up its gears). Other days I'll run some errands, do housework, stuff like that. If I have an event services gig coming up I spend my time working on that.

Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays I have Junior the whole day so I hang out with him. I try to bring him places - he loves running around in big open stores. He has a limit of "Car Seat Cycles" - the number of times we strap him into the seat. At about four he gets pretty cranky, and five or six and it's not really good. With him the supermarket becomes a 2 hour visit. A fun 2 hours, naturally. I'll even bring him into stores I don't need to go to just to let him explore a bit.

I should also point out that the Missus is super supportive of my riding. She's usually the one that gets me out the door on the bike, or on the trainer. I stay indoors when it's pouring out (and some of these storms have been doozies) and although I kept telling myself I'd ride outside when it was hot I ended up doing other things. The last free half day I had I spent it outside pulling vines that were threatening pretty much all of our trees and shrubs in the front yard. Luckily I didn't spot any poison ivy and I'm still free of any rashes after six days.

July is the time when my bike starts to falter a bit. The travel to the races means a lot of wheel removals, maybe some marks/scratches, tape starting to get a bit tired, stuff like that. My rear tires are starting to wear a bit (the training rear tire is two years old already). My BB30 bearing are creaking like a pirate ship. I haven't cleaned my bike in forever. I still need to check my new deeper drop bars. I want to try 40 cm wide bars. I want to set up my cranks so the two bikes are the same (one has 170s, one has 175s). My tape is a bit ragged on both bikes. I want to get some other minor stuff done - even out the levers on the red bike, re-do the SRM harness on the black bike, stuff like that. It all takes time and it's all time that I haven't put into the bikes.

The blog has suffered too, obviously. It's not a job per se, it's only for fun, and to be frank I really haven't done or experienced much worthy of the blog.

I did get a few helmet cam clips going. One is "simmering" - I finished it a week or two ago and I know that there will be some minor errors that I need to correct. It's a long clip - 18 or 19 minutes - and it should be both educational and I hope a bit entertaining.

I have two other clips, both still in the formative stages. It's tough working on them in the hotter office but it should be a bit better now with the cooler temperatures outside.

I realized that I race the same races over and over. This year isn't the best year to record clips for me because I'm not very fit, but I was still hoping to get New London and another Naugatuck. Unfortunately both those races were canceled. My next races will be at Rocky Hill, a new race this year, so I hope to have a clip from there.

I have a couple pet projects I'm working on so that's taking time too. Most of them involve sitting in front of the computer, and time just flies when I'm tapping away at the keyboard.

So for now I don't have a lot of news. I'm just hanging out, sort of in a status quo type of situation. I hope to change things in the next week or so, trying to unplug my queue and get things flowing again.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Racing - July 9, 2013 @TuesdayTheRent

Another @TuesdayTheRent.

Initially the plan was to go in separate cars but various factors meant that we headed out in the same car after picking up Junior from his twice weekly half day at daycare. Fortunately I have the whole "pack 4 wheels plus my gear plus all of Junior's stuff into the car" down pat and we headed out. I used to think cold weather races had more stuff but I think it's warm weather - a big cooler, more towel stuff, more wheels (because warm weather races tend to be more important and further away), and stuff for Junior to hang out outside (in cold weather we hold him).

The weather cooperated, finally, allowing the promoters (CVC) to announce that the race would be on midday instead of waiting until 4 PM to make the call. Although there was a few drops here and there in the afternoon it was essentially dry during the evening, with a almost literally just a few drops falling just as the A race ended.

The thermometer also cooperated, with temps in the 80s instead of the upper 90s. It felt pretty good to be outside, relatively speaking.

For me I wanted to see how hard I could work, how long I could last in the race. CCNS had a little gig going for CCAP so there were a lot of people at the event. I hoped that the larger field size would help me deal with what I expected to be a high pace. Ben Wolfe, Jelly Belly pro, was the star of the night, and we all expected him to do his normal mind blowing pace during the race.

(To be fair I also expected him not to actually go for the win, although he'd give it a semi-honest shot. Really, for him, this was just the end of a long training ride as he rode some crazy distance from the shore to get to the race. Pros tend to be like parents "competing" with their kids. I could sometimes win at chess or Go when I played with my dad but for me that meant I had to play really well. For him it was casual enough that he could read books, usually on strategy for chess or Go, while he was playing me.)

I have to admit that I almost never give out unsolicited advice, and I tend not to be very generous with unsolicited compliments. The only rider whose form I complimented in forever was Ben, when he was a Junior racing for CL Noonan (the blue/yellow team). He impressed me at a Rent back then and I made some casual comment about his impressive strength.

When he got really good, winning solo in really tough races, I thought that would be it. But for him to turn pro with Jelly Belly, to be thrown into all these big races in his first season, that takes the cake.

For me, then, I felt privileged to be able to race with Ben, even if his monster strength would make the race hard for me.

Ben obliges by attacking towards the end of the first lap.

Ben of course started the moves almost immediately, going about 3/4 into the first lap. Although everyone watched him go a few pedal strokes, within 50 meters the whole field latched onto his back wheel, leech-like.

Field all strung out behind Ben.
Note tents to the right side - CCNS and CCAP stuff.

The problem with being the only pro in the field is that you're totally marked by everyone. Everyone figures the pro is strongest, let the pro do the work, hang on for dear life. Usually when the pro peels off everyone else sits up too.

The exceptions are the racers that want to take advantage of the pro's quiet times. A savvy and strong racer can get clear just after the pro peels off, try to establish a gap, and wait for the pro to rocket across the gap. At that point the group may solidify off the front and go all the way to the finish.


For the first time in a while I saw Secondo at a race. I met him somewhat inadvertently after deciding to try and give him help at an early Plainville Series. I even made a clip of that race. He raced like he hadn't been away, smooth and powerful.

Splits start to appear.

As the race progressed - it's all relative but for me that's 15 minutes or so - the legs started feeling a bit tired in the field. As Ben piled on the pressure, as others tried to keep pushing, the single file field started to splinter.

With only a dozen or so racers truly strong enough to work so hard so consistently at the front, the field didn't blow apart as quickly as it might have. Sitting in is always easier so us pack fodder just hung on for dear life, hoping the strong guys up front would finally tire of the massive pace and ease up for a bit.

Wind from the right, field splitting, guy in front jumps...

As I started getting tired I would stay in shelter just a touch too long. I'd enter the next section unprotected or slightly off a wheel or lose the wheel as the guy in front drilled it out of the corner. I had to dig into my reserves often, digging deep just to stay on the wheel.

At the same time I knew sitting on the back of any group would be about the same. Pulling is tough, yes, and bridging a gap is tough, yes, but once on a group it's the same almost-too-much-pace-for-me effort. Therefore it made sense to try and make it to the front group because then I'd "be in the race".

Guys drilling it to get to the break forming ahead.

When a couple guys really drilled it to get to the group ahead I tagged along. If we could close that 10 second gap then I'd be in the front group, with all the strong guys. If I could hang on that would be phenomenal. Of course I had to get there first.

The three guys ride away from me.

Alas I couldn't even stay on the wheels. They went just a bit too fast for me and I blew up.

The group blowing by me.

On top of not being able to stay with the chasers I was so blown that I struggled to get back into the main group. I guess it didn't help that they were going really hard, but still, I was there for, oh, maybe 100 meters.

The group rides away

Ultimately the three guys that launched the chase made it to the break. The group coalesced behind. The three guys were the move to follow, if you could. I'd read the race properly but couldn't back it up with my legs.

Waving to Junior
Note full finger gloves

I spent a couple laps recovering, trying to get some of the lactic acid out of my legs. I waved to Junior each lap. His eyes would smile from behind the bottle. When I was warming up with some teammates he didn't recognize me but alone he had no problem.

I jumped in when the group came by. The rules state that a lapped rider can't work with a break but they can work with the following group. I wanted to work on my high intensity efforts so I decided that if I had a chance I'd try and help the group get up to the break.

Group is about a straight behind the break.
Break is about to go around the next turn, at the end of the straight.

When I got my wits about me I realized that the group was about 15 seconds down on the break, really just the length of the back straight. This was doable, and when two guys committed to the effort I decided this was the time.

Second guy about to pull off. Break is about 100-120 meters away.

Pulling. 485w, 171bpm.
Really I think it's should be about 400w, based on the error I've seen between the two SRMs.

I pulled hard after the second guy pulled off. When I eased, two turns later, no one was behind me. I kept pulling, trying to encourage the guy to get on my wheel. He dug deep and followed me.

I went again.

Break just rounding the first turn.

At this point I was totally at my limit, pushing as hard as I could. I had no legs left, I was definitely deep in the anaerobic well, but I hoped that the guy on my wheel could bridge.

He goes... break is not much closer than a lap ago.

Alas he didn't make it. He closed a bit more but the relentless pace up front meant he couldn't cross. Incredibly the field had fallen back to about half a lap down, so far that I have no still that captures the two groups together. Although the chase didn't quite get across it obviously was the fastest group for those laps, getting closer to the break and dropping the field.

Bonus footage:
By David Wells, the whole race is here, including a short cameo by Ben.
Spectator recording his (?) kid riding next to the field, here.

With Junior well past his bed time (the A race starts at about the time he starts thinking of going to sleep), we had to pack up quickly and get going. We gave a jump to a CVC rider (I thought we didn't have jumpers but the Missus had put them in the Jetta Sportswagen when we first got it), and then we headed home.

Junior was exhausted and didn't really wake up when we got home, something he's done only a few times before. I wasn't much better - I wasn't hungry and had a couple cups of seltzer water before hitting the sack.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Racing - July 7, 2013 New Britain Crit, Cat 3s

Back to the Future.

Or something like that.

What makes me say that?

I'll give you a code:
19, 19, 12, 16, 15, 14, 14, 12, 11, 11, 9, *, 7, 2, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1

(Two notes: * means I didn't catch the number on the helmet cam so I have no evidence of the actual number, and if you count the start you need to add another 19 at the beginning of the list.)

So what is it?

It's the lap count down to the finish. If you thought it was supposed to be in reverse order then I'm with you. This time, though, the numbers got all screwy. To help everyone out I made the screwy numbers bold.

Note that we got to do 5 lap cards twice, hence the reference to Back to the Future.
(Note: 1985, the year of Back to the Future, is also the last year that the race ran clockwise at New Britain. A terrible crash on the then-downhill S-curves led to the reversal of course direction along with the eventual removal of these cosmetic rocks lining the S-curve. 
Proof of the direction: 1985 Junior 15-17 field at the start, facing the "wrong way".
I have a blue jersey with pink sleeves, red bike, white helmet, towards the right.
I got slaughtered in this race.
Picture by Charlie Issendorf from here 
End historical note.)

The problem was that I only saw the last error. I was suffering too much to look at the lap cards before - in most of my races I wait until I can't bear it anymore before I look at the cards, hoping that I'm near the finish. I remember looking up at White Plains after a gazillion laps and seeing "32" (laps to go) to my horror.

At New Britain I actually looked at one of the 11s, then again at 9. I looked again at 7 because I was basing my bottle usage rate in 7 lap segments, giving me 21 laps for 3 bottles. I'd have extra water at the end at that rate. I knew that I was well ahead of the curve with almost two full bottles left (I used up and tossed one bottle at around the 14 lap mark). But that first 2 threw me for a loop.

So, with some lap card shots here's the race report.

Heat Issues, Bike Issues

The day was hot. I mean it was hot. The forecast called for 88 degrees, feeling like 102 or something weird like that. I figured, "Upper 80s, I can deal with that." I seem to have lost one of my Podium Ice bottles so I had to deal with just one Podium Ice and two Podium Chills.

Due to a hectic schedule during our July 4th vacation week (the Missus admitted overbooking us) I never got around to putting a second bottle cage on the bike. It takes some doing, with a front derailleur clamp and some necessary mods to both cages in order to make the tall bottles work. Therefore we headed out to the race with just one cage on my bike. I'd carry two bottles in my pocket, dump some ice water on myself before the start. I hoped to make the three bottles last an hour, plenty for what was scheduled. I'd use one up quickly so I'd have one center-pocket bottle and one bottle-cage bottle.

My bike also got a bottom bracket creak, after a few hard days in the rain. BB30 is sort of known for it but at the same time I'm not a BB30 super-mechanic (I've only worked on three BB30s, all mine). It's probably me. Whatever, my BB is creaking and it's annoying.

We got to the race and I went through the regular "catching up with new and old friends" thing. This inevitably slowed down my race prep but I think I did a lap before stopping to dump water on my head. I also made a last minute effort, literally, to get my camera out of the car and into the capable hands of Heavy D, the team's Director of Sales and Marketing. Okay, he's not, but that's basically what he is to the team, and it sounds better than "Team Cheerleader" or "Team Peptalker". If you see a real cheerful post on Facebook in all caps about how much fun Expo is then that's  Heavy D. He's an absolute hoot and always enthusiastic.

(He happens to be a strong rider also, new to the sport, but strong enough so that every time I see him at a race I ask mostly-seriously if he won. To my disappointment he didn't win earlier in the day.)

Expo Plan

For today the plan in the 3s was to see if Mike could get off the front in a group. He's been riding really well this year so both Jeff and I felt it would be good if he could get up to a group. It's much easier to sit at the front and block than it is to chase things down so we were both game for that part of the plan.

The second part would be to see if we could help Jeff for the sprint.

My goal was to just finish. I expected to be out in a short time - the heat just brutalized me and I wasn't feeling too fresh after our "vacation" week.

The Race

Rolling to the start from the 1985 start line.
It was about 95 degrees F, really hot for me.
We'd see 97-98 degrees after the race.

First lap - 19 to go.

This makes sense. We were to race 20 laps and the lap cards already read 19 when we lined up. I always think that technically it should show 20 but that's splitting hairs. If I was the official that's what I'd do but I haven't been an acting official yet so I'll shut up about it.

Second lap - 19 to go.

In my heat addled state I didn't realize the lap cards were not good. Whether the numbers were sticking (they have this sliding shutter kind of lap card product that, when I've used similar ones, inevitably have numbers stick together) or if the officials were dazed by the heat (they were out there all day), I don't know, but whatever the reason, the lap cards were funky.

(As a side note I've been hard on myself for not buying "official" lap cards for Bethel. With the potential for error I now realize that the home-made ones, made with laminated numbers flipping on binder rings, is a bit more fool proof. It's impossible to "merge" two numbers where you can't see either, it's very difficult to skip numbers, and it requires virtually no maintenance. This is on my To-Do List for Bethel for 2014.)

Unfortunately on this day I only saw the last error. You can scroll up to see the last bold number - it's the second worst number to show a racer if it's not correct, and it's the worst one to show in terms of legality.

I should point out the rules that govern this situation and you'll see why the mistaken lap card is the worst one an official can show.

If the bell rings to finish the race on the wrong lap then the officials need to score the next lap as the race's finish. They have the option to re-run the last part of the race but basically if the bell rings for the finish you need to race the last lap like it's the last lap.

That's the rule (1M3 in the 2013 rule book, page 39 here.)

This means if you see 1 to go and the bell is ringing you better go for it.


There are non-rules. For example, there's no rule about listening or not listening to the announcer, but basically the announcer is not an official so racers have to ignore what they're saying. Racers have to listen to the officials.

It's most obvious when the announcer makes a mistake with names, typically in a field sprint where maybe the announcer says that some favorite won when it's the favorite's teammate that won instead. The erroneous thing/s the announcer says is not official unless the officials also made the same mistake/s.

Also since the officials usually ring the same bell for primes the racers have to listen to the officials to see if it's a prime lap or the last lap of a race. If the officials aren't saying anything then the racer has to guess because the announcer isn't an official.

Mike in the group in front. I'm sitting 4th wheel in the bunch, sitting in and marking wheels.

This is a picture by Heavy D of that lap.
Note I have two bottles in my pockets.

Mike obliged by riding like a madman. He made it to a lot of the groups that went off the front, usually collectively chasing some brave soul off the front. All of the solo or duo moves came back, the brave soul/s cooked from the heat. 

Third lap - 12 to go.


Right? We went from 19 to go showing twice to 12 to go. I didn't see this lap card error. I was too focused on the race and I knew I had time before I would have to look at the lap cards. If I'd seen this error then I would have had some inkling that maybe the lap cards aren't right.

My teammate Jeff mentioned some errors after the race but I thought he was talking about a different race. I didn't realize he might have been talking about our race, but by then I was so out of it from the heat that I couldn't think straight (and hence I'm writing this entry a day later).

This is the first time I've seen these kind of consistent lap card errors in over 30 continuous seasons of racing. I painstakingly took stills from the helmet cam because it's so unbelievable that this happened that I felt it necessary to show the stills of every lap, right or wrong. I missed one lap because I had my nose glued to the stem that lap, but I caught every lap otherwise.

Fourth lap - 16 to go.

By the fourth lap I was suffering badly. I had no idea what was going on except there was a guy off the front by a lot, maybe 20 seconds, and I felt like I was in front of a blowtorch. I actually found my teammate Jeff and asked him if he wanted any ice water. I had two full bottles and if I dropped out I wanted to give up my ice water to my teammates instead of wasting them on myself.

Jeff, much more at ease than I could ever be, thought I was offering him an extra bottle, and declined, pointing out he had two bottles.

I told him to take a bottle because I was going to drop out and I had ice water if he wanted it. He told me to sit in and hang on.

Reluctantly I agreed.

That was just about when the following happened.

Seven go and three follow.

A bunch of guys went clear, with a few more going after them. As we approached the final turn of the course it looked pretty dangerous. With seven guys clear and another three approaching them, plus the fact that everyone was looking a bit beat due to the heat, I figured I should try and get up there to take a pull for the Expo boys. This would be my last hurrah before I dropped out of the race. If Mike or Jeff didn't want my bottles I'd dump them on my head after I stopped.

I got to the front of the field and was pulling them up to the turn.

If you look at the above picture you should note the second rider's posture. He's about a wheel length off the next rider, seems to be set to make it through the turn.

Second rider starts to dip.

Second rider hits the deck.

The two behind the guy try to avoid him.

The guy directly behind the faller avoids him.

Unfortunately the next guy falls.

It looks like the second guy behind the faller gets caught up in the bike that's on the ground or maybe the rider himself. Either way he goes flying off his bike.

Second faller hits the deck pretty hard.

Even though I say to look up and all that it was only around this point where I realized that there were guys on the deck. I was so cooked that I had all my focus concentrated on the wheels in front of me.

As the two riders scramble out of the way you can see the rolled tire on the first faller's bike.
Note one rider in the parking lot.

This is the second Sunday race where someone rolled a tire in the Cat 3 race. The first was at Keith Berger. This one wasn't quite as bad as the "full-off" at KB. This tire only came a bit off. The tire, skewed sideways on the rim, slammed into the brake, locking up the rear wheel. This is why the rider recovering the bike can't roll it - the rear wheel is probably locked in place. A hard tug backward on the rear wheel should free it up but it will only roll about 7/8 of a revolution before it hits either the brake or the chainstays.

Nonetheless rolling a tire is an absolute no-no, in both official terms as well as cultural (peer-pressure) ones. It's a shame that yet another racer has rolled a tire in a race, taking down someone else with them. It used to mean an automatic 10 day suspension, which, in the days of a 10 day suspension for a positive dope test, was pretty significant.

Fifth lap - 15 to go.
I pulled for a while but everyone behind me was sitting up so I sat up too.

At this point the racers seemed to ease a bit, at least until the line, mainly because of the crash a couple hundred meters back. As we went past the stand a few riders rocketed up the right side. It was game on again.

With the heat the racers were hard pressed to react quickly to moves. It seemed that attacks would immediately get clear, the elastic would stretch and stretch, and then, unable to snap, the elastic would pull the rider back into the field.

One guy was gone pretty much from the start - Jeff came up to me and said, "Man, if that guy can stay out there by himself to the finish he deserves to win."

Well he shot backward so quickly that he went off the back and withdrew from the race. He had a good 20 second lead last I saw and I was so out of it that I never saw him come back. I even thought he may have won the race.

Bottle toss, the first of three bottles.

I had three bottles, two tall insulated Podium Chills and one regular height Podium Ice. Just before the start I also dumped ice cold water on my jersey, around my neck, and on my legs. Two bottles in my pockets felt awkward so I tried to use one up quickly. When the pace eased on the fifth lap I decided to douse myself with what was left in the third bottle and toss it.

Now I had two bottles - one on the bike and one in my pocket. Things were much more balanced. I knew I had to get 7 laps per bottle to make it to the finish - if I could stretch it out more I could really douse myself in the last two laps and bring down my core temperature. It would be a balancing act between not overheating during the race and saving something for the finish.

Sounds familiar, right?

Sixth lap - 14 to go.

Seventh lap - 14 to go. Again.

Again, in my head addled mind, I didn't catch the lap card error. If I did I would have been more suspicious of any weird lap cards popping up.

Eighth lap - 12 to go.

Ninth lap - 11 to go.

Photog Heavy D to the right.

I only show this shot of him because it happened to pop up on the screen as I fast forwarded through the clip. Based on the shots it looked like he walked around the exposed part of the course before heading back to the finish area for the end of the race.

The picture he got. I'm third last.
Note one bottle, center pocket.

At this point I knew I would be tossing the second Podium Chill bottle. Therefore I wanted it accessible. I moved it to the bottle cage and put the Podium Ice in my pocket. When I was ready I'd toss the Chill and use up the Ice. If I could make it to 4 or 5 laps to go before digging into the Chill I'd be really happy.

Tenth lap - 11 to go. Again.

And again I didn't catch it. I was suffering pretty hard just hanging on the back and I wasn't paying enough attention to the lap cards. I'd see them one lap, skip a few, then look again. I missed all the screwy lap cards. In ten laps four of the lap cards were wrong, and I missed every single one.

Eleventh lap - 9 to go.

Thirteenth lap - 7 to go.

He has shoes like me, down to the buckles up front.

Someone must have been hammering up front because I was dying for shelter here. I assessed my situation on the backstretch of this lap. I had basically a full Podium Ice bottle in my pocket - I took a couple sips but it was otherwise clunkily sloshing on my back (clunking due to all the ice in it). I also had about 2/3 to 3/4 of a Podium Chill bottle in my bottle cage.

I figured that I'd sparingly use up the Chill until 4 to go, really use it up in the next two laps, toss it at 2 to go, and switch to the Ice for the last two laps. If I got the chance I'd be super aggressive with the Ice. If I could save it until 2 to go then I'd use most of it on that 2 to go lap then use the rest at the bell. Because the last lap can be ferocious I figured I'd use virtually the whole bottle at 2 to go. It takes me about a lap to heat up after dousing myself with ice water but by then I'd be finishing the race.

Fourteenth lap - 2 to go.
And the bell was ringing for a prime.


Obviously something happened. Remember that us racers have to listen to the officials and ignore the announcer. Whatever the announcer is saying is off limits in terms of rules. So with 2 showing on the lap cards it meant the officials thought it was 2 to go.

I know that promoters run into scheduling problems or other unknown things. Whatever, if they needed to shorten the race then they needed to shorten the race. I immediately went into "2 laps go go" mode.

First, in the space of about 50 meters, I took a huge swig from the Chill, dumped what I could on me, and then tossed the half full bottle towards the pit area. I don't want to toss the insulated bottles just anywhere but I didn't want to wait a full lap to toss the bottle to the Missus. The pits would be fine - my black Tsunami was sitting there.

End of the straight after the "2 to go".

Second, I pushed really hard to move up, using up virtually all my reserves. I wanted to be near the front at the bell because I didn't trust myself to be super jumpy in the very hot sprint. I doused myself with water from the Ice, my last bottle now, around most of the lap - I figured I'd barely have any time to touch the bottle on the last lap so I used virtually all of it up. I knew I could make one hard lap fine if I was properly chilled, and I was dumping that ice water on me to set myself up for the last lap.

Mike went off the front because it was "2 to go".
He's waaaay off the front, about to disappear out of the picture.

I wasn't the only one to go into "2 to go" mode. Mike went flying off the front of the bunch, bridging up to one guy and bringing one with him. He took monster pulls, trying to gauge his effort for a 2 lap break. With good momentum, a pack that even going hard wasn't closing the gap, it looked like a good move.

Fifteenth lap - 5 to go? What?

You know that sinking feeling? You got everything all set up and then you realize that not all is as it seems?

Well that's what happened here. We came flying up to the start/finish expecting to hear the bell and see the "1 to go" sign. We heard the bell - for a prime. A prime? On the finishing lap?

Then we saw the lap cards. It said 5 to go, not 1 to go.

Two riders in front looked at each other in surprise.
Note the rider to the left is holding out two fingers.

"It should be one to go! Last lap was two to go!"

Exactly what I was thinking. But the rules are the rules. If the officials put up 2 to go and then 5 to go that's legal. If they rang the bell for the finish then it's 1 to go, period. The rules don't say anything about 2 to go. They can ring the bell for a prime and show 5 to go and, guess what?

It's 5 to go.

And here I am with virtually no water left. $#!@

Sixteenth lap - 4 to go.

By now I was almost empty and getting really hot. My precious Ice bottle had almost nothing left in it and that half full Chill was sitting in the grass in the pit area. I tried to gather myself for the finish though, see if I could bring it off.

Mike, paying the price, sitting up hard. 
I closed the gap.

Mike had blown himself up in his "2 to go" effort. With his 100% effort he went by the start/finish hearing just the bell, not seeing the 5 to go. Sprinting to the line (one of the two others also sprinted) only to see 4 to go, he tried to recover but it was too late.

Seventeenth lap - 3 to go.

At 3 to go I was running dry. I kept pushing because that's what I do. The distractions started getting to me.

2 to go, for real.

A guy went to the front and absolutely drilled it for much of the lap, trying to string it out for his teammate. It worked too because we were single file for virtually the whole lap. I started thinking that, wow, if they do this for the next two laps I'm totally screwed.

Whether he went a lap early or not I don't know but by the time we made it back for the bell the field was bunching up, to my ever-thankful relief.

It didn't help my water situation - my Ice was totally empty of water and I could just blow cold mist into my mouth. It was times like this that I wished the ice would melt just a bit quicker, but the few slim slivers of ice in the bottle really wouldn't offer much even if I could chomp them down.

Bell lap, for real.

Obviously I was sitting pretty far back but New Britain is a place where I can sometimes pull a rabbit out of my hat. It's not quite a Bethel for me but it's close. Therefore I decided to try and give it a shot. I stayed outside on the hill, one of my two favorite ways to move up. (The other is the inside so it's not really a secret.) I tried to push but my legs weren't cooperating and I couldn't get past the hump that forms the front of the group.

Shut out of that group I knew I wouldn't be able to make it towards the front by the finish so I sat up and rolled in for the finish.

Rolling casually to the finish.

Matt E is up front, the next rider in the sun towards the right of the road. He was one of the early attackers, going off the front, trying to break the elastic. Unlike many of the other early attackers he finished the race, but very, very slowly.

I rolled up to him as we approached the line and decided that I'd practice my bike throw. I tried to make it look good while keeping it "tied" in terms of "place".

Slo-mo bike throw.

From Heavy D's point of view.

We were almost at a standstill as we crossed the line. Matt was so out of it that he only noticed me at the line. He cracked a wry smile, saying, "Oh, man, I think you got me," as we rolled away from each other.

Post Race

Regardless of the lap cards I didn't feel great during the race. I gambled everything on one, big, two-lap move but started making that move at what ended up being the 5 to go mark. Everything after that was me trying to change tactics midstream.

Mike seemed more disappointed. He'd made a huge effort to get off the front and worked super hard with two other guys to increase their gap. It's possible that if they hadn't sprinted that they could have gone on for another few laps, perhaps even to the finish.

Jeff, the only one of us three who saw most of the lap cards, got super boxed in with half a lap to go. It's unclear on the cam since I was so far back but basically a guy moves left really hard, almost takes a guy into the grass, and everyone on that side had to slam on their brakes. Unfortunately Jeff was one of them.

Lessons Learned

I have to pay attention to lap cards, even though maybe I don't want to know how much further I need to go when I'm suffering like mad as soon as we get going.

I need to get that second bottle cage on the frame. I had two before, when the frame was orange, and I need to replicate that effort again.

Along those lines I need to locate my second Podium Ice bottle. They're unavailable to buy now and will keep water cold about twice as long as the Chill - it takes 2 hours for an Ice to lose all its ice, just one hour for a Chill. In hot weather that second Podium Ice is a must.

Finally, I need to take care of my creaking bottom bracket. It's annoying at the least. In the worst case it's a warning to other riders that I'm approaching them.

At least my number was pinned on well.
btw I brought the pins to the race.