Saturday, August 03, 2013

Training - Tokeneke Classic Road Race Registration Recon

With the Tokeneke Classic Road Race (New England and State RR Championships) coming up I felt the need to do some reconnoitering, specifically of the registration area.

No, I won't be racing the TCRR, but I will be working registration.

For the other events I've worked I've always had a cell signal, but the TCRR is in an out-of-the-way area and I remember specifically that we didn't have a great signal up there when we were house hunting a few years ago.

Since we'll need to use the Internet to transfer some data I wanted to make sure that we'd have access to the Internet. I planned on driving up there while running other errands - we live 30 minutes drive away from the registration location  - but the errands kept popping up in the wrong direction. I didn't want to do a drive just to check the cell signal so I did the next best thing - I rode there.

Now, since 2012, I've studiously avoided riding any roads except for the Quarry Road Loop (I call it that after the name of one of the roads on the loop). I did do a Rails To Trails ride with a teammate, I did go dump truck hunting, but I'm pretty sure that literally every solo training ride I've done outside has been on the QRL. It's a flat, 15+ mile loop, all right turns except one where I don't have a stop (and the the other two roads do). Very simple, very straightforward, and very flat.

Berg Field, the TCRR's registration spot, sits at the top of the biggest hills in the area. A hint of that comes from the road leading directly to it - Mountain Road.

Now I have some history with Mountain Road. We looked at a house on Mountain Road, eventually dissuaded from it by the listing agent's ridiculous lies and threats. For example she claimed that in that particular town homeowners needed no permit to do substantial work to a house, like finish a basement (including electrical, heat, and plumbing for a bathroom). She also claimed that they'd already done an inspection and it came clean. We did our own and the inspection turned up bacteria in the water, some minor issues, and, luckily, no problem with radon. The agent claimed that the inspection belonged to the owners since they owned the house, and threatened to withhold our deposit if we didn't give it to them.

Which doesn't make sense if they already had an inspection done.

Anyway it was a miserable experience and I'm glad we walked away from the house.

The important bit, related to this post, is that when we planned on looking at a house I'd ride there on my bike first, to check things out. Riding gives you a feel for the area much more so than driving there. The day I rode to the Mountain Road house it happened to be absolutely pouring. I didn't even think about what "mountain" might imply in the name Mountain Road, but when I took the left and looked up the hill... It took everything I had to get up the hill, rear tire slipping if I stood, and I thought, wow, if we live here I'm going to have to climb this hill all the time.

I decided that on my TCRR recon ride I'd skip Mountain Road and go up a less steep road that intersects with Mountain Road at Berg Field.

I headed north and beared left toward Berg Field. I had a minor decision where I had to bear right or left at another intersection and I beared right, the way the group ride would go a few years ago.

I got a mile or two up the road when I realized that, oh, I'm riding to the base of Mountain Road. I should have beared left at that second intersection.


No worries. I took in the sights, like this gun that I always forget about.

Some kind of gun. I'm guessing anti-aircraft? I don't know US guns.

It's a busy road but in the mid-afternoon traffic seemed pretty light. Much quicker than I expected I got to the bottom of Mountain Road.

Approaching the turn to Mountain Road.

I'd be heading left, traversing the entire length of Mountain Road. The house we looked at sat at the top of the first steep bit. The fastest I've gone up to the house is about 7 minutes but I basically sprinted at the bottom of the hill.

This time I shifted down as I turned so I started at a more moderate pace.

The sight that greets you when you turn onto Mountain Road.

The first time I turned left on Mountain Road it had been pouring so I could barely see 50 yards away. My glasses made everything look much more fuzzy, water beading and dripping off of them. The spray from the rain hitting the road made the pavement look a bit white, and the cars zipping by would throw spray into the air. That day I made that left turn and looked forward. The road tilted up so I peered up just a bit.

Then up a bit more.

Then up a lot.

"This house better be good", I thought.

On my TCRR recon ride the hill seemed just as steep as I remembered, but the sunny conditions meant that I could stand if I wanted, that traction wouldn't be a problem.

I churned away in my bottom two gears, seeing 600w at some point early on. The numbers stabilized much lower than that, somewhere in the 300w range. Unsustainable for me. To give some idea of my pace I did the climb in a touch under 12 minutes. The Strava KOM, held by a local racer, is a few seconds over 6 minutes.

I trudged along to the other end of Mountain Road. It wasn't as bad as I remembered - either I'm more fit or, more likely, I was riding slow enough that I wasn't working too hard.

Berg Field, across the street.

I finally made it to Berg Field. I saw some stuff laying around - it looks like they'd broken down an amusement park or something. There's a wood pavilion in there and that's where we're going to have registration.

To get a few things done at once I took pictures of the pavilion area - dirt/gravel floor, very big posts, very high roof - and then uploaded one to Facebook. It uploaded almost immediately so that meant we had some kind of decent signal.

The pavilion. The posts are probably a foot wide - it's huge.

Once done I carefully got back to the road and headed back home. It would be mostly descending. I realized recently that I can't spin well right now - 120 rpm seems fast - so I worked on spinning a bit. I think last year's 55/44 chainring set up really killed my spin. I'm running a 53/39 now so back to normal.

I did one acceleration on a bit of a descent but eased because I wasn't pedaling smoothly. Later I caught up to a truck at a light just as the light turned green.

Following the truck.

I followed it for a bit but the bike wasn't feeling quite right so I backed off. I glanced down at the SRM after I sat up - I was only going about 30 mph, so I had sat up well under 40 mph. I felt disappointed as I normally go a bit faster behind trucks and such, and in fact on my own (on a minor descent) I'd hit almost 50 mph a few minutes prior.

As the truck rolled slowly away the front of the bike started acting a bit oddly. It steered slower and seemed to want to go in a straight line. I thought for a second that maybe the headset had seized somehow. Looking down, wiggling the bike side to side, I realized that my front tire was basically flat.

I looked up at the truck, almost out of sight. Good thing I sat up when I did, when I realized something wasn't quite right.

Up ahead I saw a perfect spot to change the tube. I didn't want to stop on the side of the very busy road, nor did I want to trample into bushes near the road because of the insane amount of poison ivy this summer.

Orange cone a few feet from the curb. Perfect.

Tactical thinking isn't just for races. I saw the construction bucket and realized that changing the flat just after the bucket, near the curb, would be perfect. The orange and white bucket would delineate a border between traffic and me. The space between the bucket and the curb would give me room to change the flat. I rode up to and around the bucket, then took out my "stuff I take with me in case of a mechanical".

Mid flat fix.

I checked the tube and found that it'd been punctured from the inside. Ends up the rim strip migrated a bit, exposing a few millimeters of a spoke hole. That was enough to cut the tube, leading to a relatively slow flat.

(Note: since I mount my tire with the label next to the valve I can line up the tube with the tire to check for damage. In this case the damage was on the inside of the tube.)

A better view of my "flat tire repair space".
Note the frame pump mounted between the front skewer and the handlebar.

Once I got everything back together I stood back to take a shot with the phone. The helmet cam captured it too. You can see how perfect that spot was, with the orange bucket, a curb with just grass next to it, and a wide shoulder.

I got back on the bike, it felt normal again, and I got home. Recon trip done, good signal strength up there, and a nice spot for registration.

(Bonus notes: First thing I should point out is that when I last raced on the TCRR course I almost got lapped on the 22+ mile loop - I stopped at the finish line a lap early and a minute or two later the winning break crossed the line. I'm that bad. Second, a much more interesting thing - I'll reveal that this story took place at the Tokeneke RR. Based on almost getting lapped it makes sense why I worked the wheel van instead of doing the previously-unnamed race.)

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