Sunday, September 22, 2013

Racing - 2013 Aetna CCAP Hartford Criterium Cat 3-4

Saturday during the Aetna Silk City Cross Race I kept checking the weather. Rain until noon or so on Sunday, maybe 1 PM, maybe 2 PM, but that was that.

The Cat 3-4 race in Hartford, scheduled for 10:15 AM, didn't look likely. I didn't want to risk racing a technical circuit in the rain, and I thought about, and decided against, doing the 3:30 PM P-1-2-3 race. I felt it so unlikely that I'd race that I didn't bother doing a short spin on the bike, I didn't pack my gear bag, I didn't do anything to prepare for a race the next day.

Sunday morning I briefly woke up when Junior got up earlier than normal, maybe 5 AM. I fell back asleep, still tired from the long day at the cross race.

Then, having drifted back into a semi-conscious state, the Missus woke me up with an alarming voice.

"You have to get up now!"

My first thought was that Junior was choking on phlegm (he's teething and coughing up a bunch of the stuff). I sprang awake, hurried to get to where ever the Missus was, and hollered out what was wrong.

"It's clear outside. You're going to race today! We have to get ready!"


Well now.

I checked on Junior just to make sure that he wasn't choking on phlegm because the thought still stuck in my mind. He wasn't. Then we set about trying to get ready to go within the hour. Since it takes me 45 minutes to get out the door with Junior, an hour to get Junior and my bike stuff would be cutting it close.

I started making the various trips to the car, Junior wanting to join me. Since I don't leave every morning he got pretty agitated watching me go out into the garage without him. The Missus corralled him, distracted him, and I could make the trips to the car. I got the race wheels, bike (it was in the office), gear bag (ditto), clothing (laundry room), helmet (on a credenza - I plugged it into a USB port in the car because I couldn't remember when I last charged it), SRM (table), HR belt (desk), shoes (office), gloves (desk), a couple bottles (not insulated due to the cool temperatures), so on and so forth.

The Missus got Junior's bag together, we got in the car, and we were off at 8:30 or so, literally an hour after I thought Junior was choking on phlegm.

We got a bit lost in Hartford but we used the "where are we" GPS powered map on the phone and navigated by feel (i.e. compass direction) to the parking lot.

"Isn't it the lot by Black Eyed Susan's? Where we ate that one time?"
"Black Eye Sally's"
"Right, Sally's."

When we pulled into the lot I looked around.

"Hey! There's Black Eyed Susan!"
"Black Eye Sally's"

I got dressed and went to find registration. Thumping music drew me across the street. I saw a huge tent marked "Registration" but when I turned the corner to enter the tent I didn't see any bikes. I looked around for a bit then went to the tent marked "Information". I knew something wasn't right because, first off, there were too many tents with too many signs. And second, I didn't see a single bike.

At the Information Tent I asked where the bike race registration was.

"You're not doing the Walk?"

Oh. Wrong event.

I tried a different tact.

"Where's Asylum (Avenue)?"
Three people pointed in three different directions.
"Over there." "There." "I think it's that way."

I headed over in the direction of the average of the three directions. Less people. Not good. I turned around and headed over for some police officers.

"Hey, how you doin'?"
"Good, you?"

Politeness out of the way I got down to business.

"You guys know where the bike race is?"
"You mean there?"

The office pointed about 50 yards up the road. I saw orange metal crowd control barriers and racers zipping by.

"Yeah, that'd be the one. Thanks."

I left the officers shaking their heads. Sorry bike racers visiting Hartford, I made us look bad.

(If you look at my Strava data you'll see all the meandering - I turned on Strava at the car so I could put my gloves on earlier than later.)

I found registration, got a number, and then set out to find a bathroom. I saw a bazillion of them at the Walk but none around here. After a few laps of the course I realized that, yeah, just on bathroom. I didn't know about the Home Suite bathrooms, the nice indoor ones. As sponsors they opened their bathrooms to the racers.

I headed to the Walk, used one of their basically "just cleaned" portapotties, and headed back. I did a few more laps on the course - the first turn (a right hand turn) really made me feel sketchy, the wet pavement, significant crown, and my front wheel catching the gust of wind combining to make the bike go left.

I needed to get my heart rate up and then back down since I didn't ride yesterday. I figured on this next lap I'd make a huge effort. 5 or 10 minutes to go, plenty of time.

I rounded the last turn and an official was waving us all over. They were shutting down the course to do the staging for our race.

So much for my big effort.

My race... there isn't much to tell. I started at the back, the first right turn wasn't fun, I couldn't make up that much ground without going into the red, and in the course of moving up I blew up. It sounds like that took place over 15 or 30 minutes but that all took about two laps.

Lining up.

Sean, who sort of accidentally got 4th in the 4-5 race, is a friend and former teammate from a long time ago. He's to the left, in the Pawling colors. I told him the first turn made me a bit sketchy so he half-seriously asked that I stay to his outside. I moved to the other side of the road before the start so I'd hit the turn slower than if I was on the outside.

The cornering wasn't great in the field. I don't think I was good either, but there were others way worse than me. I did what I could to move up but it was hard on me. 

The closest I got to the front.

If I had some fitness I'd have been okay. I got to about 20-25th spot, give or take, and at that point I should have been okay. In the old days these kinds of tough, technical, attrition crits were my favorite. They hurt like mad, they were super hard, but if 20 guys finished a hard crit I'd be in there (in 17th or something, but still). I remember a few races where this stuff happened. In one race, out of 127 starters, there were 13 finishers (I was 12th but got the only money prime); another had 125 starters, 14 finishers, I was 8th or so (and got every money prime - no placing money due to the rules); yet another 125 starters, 24 finishers, I was 22nd or so (20 places for money but I got gapped on the last lap - that was an 8 corner course on a half mile - half the length of this race - and it was pouring rain the whole time).

Without an elastic heart rate (that, for me right now, comes with fitness, a spin the day before, and an effort or three just before the race) I couldn't go into the red zone, for me that would be anything over about 158 bpm. I don't have super high heart rates anyway, with 175 about my max, but I spend a lot of time in the 164-168 bpm zone. With a capped heart rate I was doomed.

(Note: I have yet to check the SRM data so I'm just theorizing here on my HR - I don't look at the SRM until I download the data. I'm not letting a number on a cyclometer limit my riding/racing.)

My bike after I stopped.

Once I blew I did much of the lap slowly then got on the sidewalk on the final straight. I headed for the Missus and Junior. She'd seen my throat-cutting motion a couple laps earlier (I made the motion when I knew my fate) so she expected to see me pretty quickly.

Junior was a bit puzzled by my appearance.
You can see some stragglers flying past the barriers.

I was out of the race in four laps. I was fine by the time I rolled onto the sidewalk but that was obviously too late. Next time, next year. My mantra for 2013.

CCAP banner in the sky!

As we got ready to go home after my race a plane slowly flew overhead. A CCAP banner! Junior loved it. "A dieu" which is what he says when he sees a plane.

My number after a few laps of use.
Long finger gloves for safety.

Any wrinkling was from me taking the jersey off. I did the same number of laps in warm up as I did in the race.


I saw one of my teammates, Heavy D. An eternal optimist, super outgoing, super supportive, he had just a 99% grin on his face instead of 100%. I wasn't sure what was wrong but he wasn't himself. I found out from someone else that he'd hit the deck in the first race, when it was still really wet on the course.

I saw him again and asked him if he had Tegaderm and such, if he knew about road rash. He's a former motorcycle racer guy so I figured he knew about this kind of stuff. He admitted he didn't know much about road rash - his knowledge was more about dislocated joints and such.

Right. Motorcycles weigh hundreds of pounds, not tens of pounds.

I went into my road rash spiel. He told me his significant other had gone to get Tegaderm. I told him I'd give him some that I had in the car. I went through the road rash care steps with him, cut up a bunch of Tegaderm (I buy it in 100+ sheet rolls, for Bethel, and it costs about the same as buying 12 sheets at CVS), and sent him on his way.

Just in case you need a refresher the road rash guides are here (not illustrated), here (illustrated and a bit gross), and some before/after here (illustrated and not very gross). Most regular road rash will skin over in 4-5 days if you take care of it right. In fact it will heal quicker than a little scratch on your hand or whatever.

With that we headed home. Junior was missing his morning nap and was an absolute wreck. He was so tired that we could transfer him from car to crib without him complaining, one of maybe three or four times that's happened (and usually well into the night, like 1 AM or something, not noon).

He slept for two hours, a very long nap for him and indicative of just how exhausted he was. We took the time to settle down, unpack the bike race stuff, and I tried to get some of the data off all my devices and onto the computer or into the intraweb.

When Junior woke up we changed him, dressed him, put him in the car, and headed back. We'd get there just in time to see the Juniors finish their race.

"Our" parking lot was a pay-by-license-plate-for-24-hours so we drove in and parked "for free" since we'd already paid until the next day. We got out of the car, walked toward the race instead of the Walk, and saw the Juniors zip by.

Junior Triumph

I went specifically to watch one Junior race but I didn't see him. I have to find out if he started and had a problem, or if he was a no show. Disappointed not to see him we decided to watch the rest of the race. The Juniors had all levels of racers, from kids on 3-speeds, kids on bikes way too small, really young kids, to about 6 kids that were riding like Cat 2s or 3s.

I didn't get shots of it and now I regret it but during the Junior race I watched a real class act. The Farm Team had three riders in the field, two of them super strong and clearly superior to the rest of the field (the third was a much younger rider and although the two older kids eased a bit when they lapped the younger one they had to keep going eventually). The two ended up alone, time trialing together off the front.

The Missus and I watched the pair. I sort of knew one of them, the older of the two at 17. The two had lapped virtually all the field save a couple riders, and in the closing laps they shed one lapped rider that had managed to stay with them.

As they hit the bell I wondered out loud how the finish would work out. Two teammates, one stronger than the other. The older one I think will be a Senior next year so this would be his last year as a Junior. It would be understandable if he took the win - he was stronger, this was his last year, and he'd done a lot of work.

I briefly contemplated the idea that he'd let his teammate win, but I didn't give him enough credit to do that. Such a prestigious race, his last year as a Junior, of course he'd want to take the win.

Sure enough, on the last lap, he dug a bit deeper and opened a tiny gap to his teammate. It was only a length or so but it was in stark contrast to the precision formation flying they'd been doing until that point.

Even as they rounded the third last corner, visible from where we stood in the middle of the figure 8 course, he'd maintained that slight gap. He was working super hard, emptying the tank on this last lap, and his teammate looked to be struggling to hold onto his wheel. The older rider rounded the last turn in the lead, that same gap there, still working hard, determination etched on his face.

Then he sat up and looked back. I didn't take pictures as they were too far away but you could see the gestures he made to his teammate.

"Come on up. Yeah, come on."

They soft pedaled down to the line, the stronger lead rider obviously sitting up, the second rider gaining rapidly without even trying.

They cross the line not quite side by side, the win officially going to the teammate. The older, stronger, and wiser rider had given away a chance for glory to help his teammate take a huge win.

Although I feel impressed when I see a rider do incredible tricks on the bike, although I am in awe of the mountain bike downhillers, that was nothing compared to the pride I felt for the 17 year old. I've watched him beat me, he's won at least a few of the Tuesday Night Worlds, but this move was by far the most impressive. His class, his humility, his respect for his teammate... Incredible.

He showed wisdom far beyond his years. As a new dad I struggle with how I'd deal with difficult future conflicts with Junior. Obviously whatever this kid's parents had done worked well.


Saturday the forecast called for rain in the morning, i.e. during the 3-4 race, and sun in the afternoon during the P-1-2-3 race. I thought about doing the later race to avoid the potential wet pavement. When I saw some of the names - at least two ex-pros, one real pro, plus a slew of high level NYC riders as well as some of the Adam Myerson guys, I decided that an out of form Cat 3 would definitely be out of place.

Therefore I'd resigned myself to not racing (until the wake up call from the Missus).

Of course now that I saw the course I really wanted to watch the P-1-2-3 race. It would be absolutely intense with the tight corners and short straights. I wanted to watch the race stretch into single file and then shatter into pieces, now that I knew that I wouldn't be one of the fragments cast off to the side.

Local racer, now pro for Jelly Belly, Ben Wolfe.

Ben put on a proper show. He ramped up the pace on the second lap, blew the field apart, and then gathered some riders to form the winning break. Some non-cooperation caused fractures in the break, with the most noticeable loss, at least to me, being the ZipCar rider Sam R. He'd bridged to the break, did the work to get there, then ended up sawed off the back.

Ben took off, did a few laps solo, but the rest of the break knew he could hold a gap once he had it. They worked super hard to bring him back and that was the race.

Rolling around the course with two bells.

The Missus and I decided to walk the course backward, mainly so we could see the riders coming toward us. We stuck to the inside loop so we wouldn't have to cross streets. As a bonus we'd get the inside view on most of the corners.

Local Junior Austin leading the field.

There were a few Juniors in the field. Although I grew up racing a few Juniors who would then sit at the front of the later-in-the-day Cat 1-2 races in those days gear limits didn't apply once you entered a Senior race. To see the Juniors take the start was impressive, and to watch them make moves that their older peers couldn't make, that was even more so.

Local Junior sensation Austin was out there in force. He's won two national titles, the 'cross and the 'crit, a couple years ago. He's obviously really strong and very talented. It'll be interesting to see how he goes in the next few years.

Watching the racers go by.

Running with his bells.

 We picked up one bell from the street, the other came from a nice woman handing out bells.

The "Adam Hansen" approach to fit - this dude was fast!

The above rider, who started the race with twin deep profile wheels, had what had to be the most radical position of any of the riders out there. The combination of narrow bars, extreme drop, and very high and forward position looked super aggressive, just like Adam Hansen (currently on Lotto-Belisol).

I wasn't sure how to judge his position but in the end his legs spoke volumes. Although he missed the big move of the day, triggered by local hero Ben Wolfe, he made the second move, the big chase group. He did a lot of pulling, at least as far as I saw. Eventually, though, the second group seemed resigned to its fate of not bridging.

The break, in the meantime, had lapped the field.

Suddenly the Adam Hansen lookalike took off on his own. He worked relentlessly and managed to cross the gap to the break/field, the only rider to bridge to the break after it got established.

Whatever the effect of his position, that guy can ride a bike.

As Junior got tired we kept him in the stroller more.
He's eating here, the Missus feeding him.
Note his firm grip on the bells.

When the break lapped the field I thought that Ben's chances had gone out the door. He wasn't a sprinter as much as one of those super powerful motors. He needed to get clear of everyone to win, and unfortunately there wasn't a lot of long drags on the course where he could really put his motor to work.

Therefore when the break lapped the field the New York City teams took over, keeping things together, keeping their sprinters to the front. They let Ben sit near the front but on the last lap they aggressively moved him back. I could see, but couldn't capture, significant contact down the main straight.

I felt bad for him, knowing that really they didn't need to do that. They could have gone against him head to head with a pretty good chance of beating him. He's not a sprinter so he'd definitely go early. They could work off of him instead of trying to shove him back into the depths of the field.

The winner, with the yellow shoes, going into the sprint.
Ben is in the center of the picture.
Note the "power slide" by the rider from Champion, on the orange bike.

The sprint was almost anticlimactic for me. I was rooting for Ben. I've seen other pros, on their own, trying to fend off a swarm of lessor riders, and it's tough. In one race a long time ago I tried to help a pro friend of mine, built more for the long hard miles of a pro rather than the shorter bursts of power that amateurs dish out, and I watched as my pro friend got beaten. Therefore I hoped that Ben could break the field and go on his own.

Too heavily marked, he ended up finishing a bit back in the sprint, at least for a favorite, getting 5th I think.

However, I think it appropriate that the NYC teams came away with 2nd at best. The winner races for the team that local racer/hero Adam Myerson runs. Although the racer was heavily outnumbered in the finale he rode smart, jumped later in the severe headwind final straight, and clearly won the race.

With that we headed back to the car. Junior was getting tired again, we were tired, and we had a lot of stuff to do at the house.

All in all a great day at the races. I wish I'd ridden better but I can't not train and then expect the world in a race. It was fun watching the pros deal with that super technical course. Next year I hope to return with a bit better form. The race taught me just how fit a racer can be, needs to be, to compete at the higher amateur levels. I hope to hit something close to that, at least in terms of speed. I can't imagine competing at a much higher level but it happens. Crazy.

No comments: