Monday, March 31, 2014

Promoting - 2014 Criterium de Bethel

I have a sort of resigned acceptance to the whole race promotion thing. I try to do it well but it isn't intrinsically fun. It's sort of like focusing on a project at work and forgetting that maybe the work isn't that enjoyable. You get engrossed in the task at hand, at the goal, and you stop thinking of other aspects of the project, like "I really prefer not to be vacuuming" or whatever the task may be.

Normally it's okay, the behind-the-scenes work, I just slog through the stuff. It's just a chore like doing laundry or the dishes or shoveling the driveway or even mowing the lawn. They're all tasks that you wouldn't necessarily do if you had a day to do anything you want but there's a sense of accomplishment when you finish. That sense of accomplishment drives me.

So it is with promoting races.

I really don't "want" to promote races. If I could just race then I'd just race, I wouldn't do the chore stuff related to it. At the same time though I feel a sense of duty related to promoting races. If I can promote a race and it adds to the calendar and people enjoy it then I'll do it. If things get too busy or hard or the intrinsic return drops off then it'll be time to stop.

Saturday I hit one of the low spots that I sometimes hit as it relates to Bethel. Outside it rained pretty steadily, I felt this overwhelming fatigue, and I wasn't keen on getting out there, packing the Expedition, and heading to Bethel.

What I really wanted to do was to get cozy in the warm house, have a cup of coffee, and hang out with the Missus (after she got back from work) and Junior.

Instead I trudged out to the garage and started loading up the Expedition. After delaying my departure as much as possible (hanging out with the Missus and Junior) I finally headed out for Bethel. This year I normally go to the course on the way to my dad's. With the steady rain, though, I knew that I couldn't get much done at the trailer so I just headed to my dad's.

When I got there I was happily surprised to see one of the non-family band members of Linus, URT, and some of the other bands whose music I use in the clips. He, his wife, and two kids were visiting, and so we got to hang out a bit.

I thought of something a rider told me about getting to the course early to get more stuff done before the others showed up. Accordingly I set my alarm for 4:30 AM, to give me an extra half hour.

And then I fell asleep.

I did wake up at 4:30. Then again at 5:15. So much for the extra time.

I headed over to the course (Joel was waiting) and we went about setting things up. It wasn't really raining, just a bit misty, and the wind seemed to be calm. As the rest of the crew rolled in we got into our familiar rhythm and the whole machine started turning its gears.

Tent set up for release forms.

For the first time we set up a tent at the back of the trailer. We anchored it to the trailer and it worked really well. In the future this will be a regular thing in inclement weather.

One thing we noticed was that the water ran into the trailer from the window hatches. The trailer was tilting slightly away from the windows (due to the road crown) and it was just enough to allow water to trickily into the trailer. For the future we'll drop the window hatch down just a touch so water runs off to the outside.

Other than that the trailer seemed pretty good in terms of organization, good enough that I didn't feel the need to bring it home this week. I ditched a lot of the snow related stuff the other week and that helped make room inside.

Outdoor Sports Center, CCAP, and registration.

We had three tents next to the trailer, the first being our registration shelter. We also had the CCAP tent, doing a bake sale for CCAP (and manned by the Junior team), and of course Outdoor Sports Center's tent, the main sponsor of the race series.

Finish line area - tent, officials, camera.

At the finish area the officials had their tent. We had to set up two of the four sides, to keep the spray and wind off of the officials. When we were setting up I realized that we hadn't used the sides since 2009, the last year we were outside until now. It's been a while but the old routine came back quickly and we had reasonable shelter up pretty quickly.

Mike the camera guy set up the camera with its waterproof case. That worked out well also. He put the laptop in a bin on its side, making a 5 sided case that kept the laptop dry. A propane heater kept the penetrating chill out of the tent.

The weather really annihilated the turnout. We had just over 100 racers show up instead of the regular 200-250. On a good day 300 to a record 400 or so will show. Today we had about what we had in the first year of the Series, back in the early 90s.


Of course the wind picked up. A racer called it "the Bethel Triangle" because it's always windy at Bethel. The winds weren't so strong that any tents flew away but I did have a heart stopping moment or two when a couple of the tent legs lifted up. Overall though it wasn't that bad, as evidenced by the prevalence of aero profile wheels out there.

Mist. Break. Chase.

The field chased down the above break but I like the picture so I put it in.


This attack, out of the remnants of the minuscule P123 field, won the race.

The move.

Eneas has been the strongest racer in the P123s this year and in the exposed race this day he demonstrated that strength.

We packed up pretty quickly, with the results process much quicker than last week. With such a small field, with an obvious winner, we were done quickly.

I set off for home to try and catch Junior before he fell asleep. Unfortunately, even with my incredible driving skills (haha), I got home after he fell asleep. This didn't help my mood as I realized I left stuff behind that I needed to bring home.

After uploading the results I decided to call it a night. I had nothing left to give, not at that time.

Monday morning Junior found my laptop as I left it the night before. He tapped away at the keyboard, moving his finger on the touch pad, and clicked a button here and there.

"Okay I finished uploading the results, now what?"

I have to go back to pick some stuff up, I need to do some GC spreadsheet updates (it got all screwy somehow), post the GC, and then it all starts again on Thursday.

It seems like just yesterday that I was stressing about the races even happening. Now we're two weeks from the end of the Series. Incredible.

I'll be there this Sunday, hope to see you there too.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Racing - 2014 Bethel CDR Gold Race

So the race.

The race posts are different from the promoter post mainly because I do so little relating to race prep compared to the promoting stuff. After last Sunday's race I couldn't get on the bike, for fatigue and time commitment reasons, until Thursday. I managed an hour that day, almost an hour and a half on Friday, and then that was it.

Thursday I was cramping pretty quickly - it seems like if I don't ride for a day or three then I cramp pretty quickly and pretty easily. Friday I felt a lot better, a lot more fluid. I thought to myself that I'd want to ride Saturday if possible but it just didn't happen.

Saturday evening and Sunday morning also factor in heavily with the race bit. Saturday I'm unable to do much until 2:30-3:00 PM, when I can hand off Junior to the Missus. For me it meant running around with the Expedition and the trailer. I stay at my dad's overnight, a 30 minute drive from the course, but I didn't get there until about 8 PM, maybe later. My normal 5-6 PM dinner would hold until 8-ish. I logged on to check for last minute emails and such (there are always a few) and called it a night.

Basically I didn't ride Saturday and I didn't fuel quite right.

One odd thing that's happened in the last week or so is that I've had this incredible craving for Coke. I'll drink it every now and then but to have this craving is really unusual. I had a liter with dinner and brought another liter to the race (that was all I bought). Even with the liter of Coke I could barely stay awake enough to get settled in bed.

Sunday morning I was out of the house by about 5:30, hit up the local Dunkin' Donuts for a couple egg sandwiches and a coffee, ate one sandwich on the way to the course. I ate the other sandwich at about 9:30, after the initial craziness of setting up dissipated. I managed to drink about half my coffee I think.

After that I didn't eat.

At about 1:25 PM, when I was changing, a gel popped out of my gear bag. I tossed a bunch in there and had been consuming them as emergency rations, sort of like right then. I quickly downed it, looked for another, failed to find one, and kept dressing.

At 1:30 PM the race started.

I felt so lightheaded the top of my head felt tingly, and not in a good way. I was woozy, I felt really weak when I pushed on the pedals, and I figured I'd be dropping out in a bit.

As a last resort I went to my teammate Joel who had a few things in his pockets. I saw a phone in the middle pocket but something like a gel or a bar in his right one. A bit desperate I asked him if he had a gel or a bar.

"I got a gel."
"Can I have it?"
"Sure, let me get it out of my pocket."

20 seconds later, after navigating around his wind vest, he held out a gel.

It took me three laps to get 2/3 of it down. My hands weren't working right, the wind blew my bike around, and I generally felt like garbage.

After I took the gel my legs started feeling a bit better, like they were full instead of empty.

I decided that this might work.

It's kind of funny what I hear at the back of the field. Guys talk pretty openly about their plans, and although I can't hear a lot of it, it's still kind of humorous when they turn, see me, and lower their voices. I always think that they could tell me exactly when they planned on attacking, exactly what kind of effort they'd be putting down, what their breakaway goals were, and it still wouldn't make a difference. If I can't hang with them then it simply doesn't matter.

At any rate the Devil's Gear guys, Matt and Jeff (on this day), seemed to be semi-keen on being near the front, but at that moment they were talking at the back of the field, directly in front of me.

So after we saw 3 to go, when I saw the two guys start rolling up, I decided to tag along.

Jump on the Devil's Gear train

It wasn't a major move but it was one of those freebie type things, one where you can move up without worrying about getting boxed in or whatever. You just follow the others and hope that the lead rider gets through the gaps okay. Mentally it's not stressful, not like if you try to move up yourself.

Train eased on the right.

At some point the group eased pretty hard on the right. I could see it about to happen so I moved a touch to the left, and as the group really eased I rolled by the Devil's Gear guys.

Approaching 2 to go.

As we climbed the finishing hill to the 2 to go mark, they rolled by me again. With so many riders in front of me I decided to save the moving up bit for another lap.

Approaching the bell.

I was still buried on the hill approaching the bell but I rolled sort of hard, followed the Pawling guys up the middle, and found myself at least within shouting distance from the front.

Sixcycle at the front just after the bell.

I was, what, like 20 back? It's hard to count but it was a decent amount, a good 20-30 yards. Sixcycle had at least one guy in the break (it was two I found out later), and the six breakaways dangled precariously in front of us.

I figured it was a really low chance of catching the break unless some team did a massive leadout. For example, a Cliff leadout, like the one he did in 2010, probably would have bridged much of the distance, and I'd have been reasonably confident of sprinting into the remnants of the break.

Alas no one went, the pace remained somewhat normal, and I prayed the break would muddle about and slow down. With two Sixcycle guys in the break that wouldn't happen but I didn't know that.

Couple guys gap field with 2/3 lap to go.

The front of the field was so uncommitted that when Sixcycle gapped off a couple riders no one really did anything.

Mass confusion on the back stretch.

The Sixcycle guys in the field sort of blew up on their own, putting all of us wheel suckers in disarray. I tried to navigate through the mess, always pushing for openings, try to read the flow of the pack.

Sixcycle to the left going backwards, to the right easing.
I decide to go right.

As Joel opened up on the left side (really early), the left side actually stalled. With the yellow line, with the wind from the front left, and with plenty of room to the right, I went right.

Following BWolf as it gets dicey to the right.

I ended up on BWolf's wheel. He's a long time racer, very solid, and doesn't mess around in the sprints. He is a great wheel to follow because he almost never blows up. Therefore I sat there at 300m to go, hoping he had some legs.

Howling wind but open to the left.

As we rounded the bend to the right the wind really socked us hard on the left. I was actually shocked at how hard the wind hit me. If this was a video game and I had a bar of "sprint strength left" then the bar was rapidly shrinking. I was using up my sprint just to maintain formation with the guys around me.

I wanted to go right to get shelter but I also needed to keep a lane open so I could sprint. If I went right I'd be close to boxed in, between the pink bootie Sixcycle guy and BWolf.

Therefore I had to stay left so I'd have an open lane.

And if I stayed left I'd be in the wind.

And if I was in the wind then I had to go before my legs blew.

Tight right, everyone eased, I went left.

Then in a heartbeat things changed. The right side swerved a bit. I didn't see what happened but the result for me was that the Sixcycle guy almost touched BWolf. The Sixcycle guy stalled, BWolf stalled, and I launched.

Going to the left curb.
Break is ahead.

I went to the left curb because I knew I was clear left. If I got to the left curb then I'd have a lane all the way to the line.

Break wins the race.

In front of me I could see the break finishing. With no one committed to the chase the break had pulled off another win.

Around me, though, I didn't see anyone. I inadvertently moved a bit to the right, then more so when I looked back.

No bike throw today.
Finish line camera still.

Unusually I didn't throw my bike. The places were up the road, yes, but my move to the left, in the wind, had apparently gapped off everyone.

The trailer.

I turned left to the trailer, our refuge from the wind, instead of doing a cool down lap.

The tow vehicle and the bike.

Then I took a portrait shot of the Tsunami. I don't know what it is but the last two weeks it's been great. I felt great in the sprint last week, I felt great in the sprint this week. The power numbers are low but it seems that relative to the others it's not bad. Maybe everyone is a bit off this spring in terms of power.

The last two weeks I've been running the Stinger 6s, not the 7/9 pair. It's a bit lighter, okay, but not substantially so. I've run the 6s primarily because of the wind. It's nice because I only have a few races on the front tire, ditto the rear, because I stopped using them early in the Bethel Spring Series last year. Now they're my main wheels again.

The Steelman custom stem is working well. I don't notice it in the drops since the drops are simply in the right place. The tops are definitely lower, ditto the hoods, but it's fine. But the lower drops, compared to when I had the -20 degree stem, the lower drops are incredible. Super stable under full power out of the saddle.

I got in the Expedition and changed. I accidentally called the race the Tour de Kirche on Strava but the ride itself is right of course. You can see that the last few laps the race really slowed, before doing a fast final lap. Sixcycle had controlled the front well, and with a couple other teams represented in the break, no one committed to the chase. With laps rolling by 6 or 7 seconds slower than normal the break built up enough of a lead that the sprint didn't catch them. It was only 6 or 7 seconds to the back of the break, another few to the front, and that represents just two laps of moderately hard pulling.

Ah well. Next week, right?

Monday, March 24, 2014

Promoting - 2014 Bethel CDR Gold Race

Promoting always starts a few days before the race. I mean, okay, it starts months before, but the final stuff can't even start until pre-registration is closed.

Last week I drove the trailer home so that I could work on it. Unfortunately the reality is that since I don't park the trailer at the house.

Since I can't work on it when Junior is around I had all of maybe four or five hours to work on stuff, while he was at day care. To make things a bit more awkward I can't get the trailer to our garage due to the steep driveway so I walked everything up the driveway. I spent most of that time emptying out the snow-related stuff, some wood that I realistically won't be using immediately, and organizing the remaining stuff to correct the weight distribution. I spent my free Tuesday afternoon doing that stuff.

I started working on making the folding tables for inside the trailer but gave up when I realized that time-wise it simply wasn't going to happen.

Thursday I did manage to get a few things done. I installed a bracket for the fire extinguisher (right of the door when you step into the trailer), I got a little tool box to screw into the floor to hold the generator accessories, and I started putting up wood on the walls for the tables. I also got some curtain rods up but they seemed way too flimsy for holding up a windproof barrier, so for now they're bare.

I wanted to get some stuff from the storage bay but that meant backing up a 100 yard curving driveway, something I can't do yet with the big trailer, at least not proficiently. Loading up the stuff for Bethel ended up with me spending a good 30 minutes backing up the trailer a few agonizing feet at a time. I decided I had to practice with a little car and trailer, like a Matchbox set, to prepare for the real thing.

Therefore I walked a few of the things I needed from storage to the trailer.

That finished my Thursday.

One of the staff volunteered to sort the pre-reg release forms and numbers so I gladly gave up that job, my normal Friday evening. The Missus called her Victoria at some point so I started calling her that also, leading me to call her Victoria on Sunday.

Which is not her name.


Instead of doing pre-reg stuff I spent the time updating the magical spreadsheet to reflect the additional Junior race. I had most of it in place but I wanted to make sure that things were set up properly.

Saturday, traditionally the day I did Bethel stuff, ended up a bit less productive. I started working on the tables again, realized that I really ought to get to Bethel and drop the trailer off first, and headed down. The gusty wind really played with the trailer which in turn played with my mind.

Just before Bethel (actually the Danbury exit that I take that leads to Bethel) a modded Lancer Evolution burbled by me. I noticed it because, well, because I did, but thought nothing else of it since the driver seemed normal and competent.

A few minutes later traffic suddenly came to a halt. We creeped forward until we came across two cars that had obviously tangled with either each other and/or the Jersey barrier median. The Evolution driver, whose car seemed unharmed, was setting out flares. People were walking or standing on the left shoulder and one guy ran across the highway in front of me.

I thought that, wow, if I'd been a mile or two earlier I could have been in the middle of that. With a car, okay, but with a large trailer it would have been ugly.

Once at Bethel I worked on the tables (are you sensing a theme?) until about 8 PM or so, gave up again before I could finish, and headed over to my dad's.

I first stopped for some Coke and cookies. For some reason this last week or so I've been really craving Coke, and even drank it with my dinner at my dad's. My brother pointed out that I'd be awake for a while, but when I went upstairs I lay down and realized I only had a minute or two before I'd be unconscious. I turned off the light and that was that.

The alarm startled me awake at 5 AM. I was happy I set it earlier in the day on Saturday because I totally forgot about it Saturday night.

Sunday we missed out on the temperature lottery again. I don't remember how cold it was but it was something like 30 degrees, cold enough to make my hands go numb, cold enough that my legs really never felt warm. Initially the wind stayed calm but as the day went on it really picked up.

The big changes for the Bethel CDR Gold Race versus the previous weeks were the following:
 - CCAP High School Race added to the schedule.
 - Powerbar would have a tent set up.
 - Moment of silence for Markus before the Cat 4 race.

The emptier trailer made for a better registration set up but I forgot on my two free afternoons to get propane for the tanks - we had only the smaller heaters in the trailer, not the larger one.

On the other hand I found all the stuff to hook up the generators in parallel. After thinking about it a bit, though, I decided to leave the single generator for the trailer. We don't need 3200 watts for the trailer and to do the parallel hook up I'd need a screw driver, I'd risk ripping the cord if I moved the generator without remembering to remove it, etc.

I think I need to make a little trailer for the generators so we can move them in tandem, we can keep the parallel cables in place, and we won't accidentally rip the parallel cables off by picking up just one generator.

I spent some time on the course taking pictures between handling the various promoter issues I needed to handle. These include questions on the races, comments and suggestions, instructing the new-to-the-race-series police officers, trying to keep the promised areas clear, speaking with local tenants, organizing the various tents, replacing wonky radios, and stuff like that.

The Junior race was really good at so many levels. The older Juniors were intent on helping and encouraging the younger ones, so much so that the best riders were at the back sometimes literally pushing the youngest Juniors.

The competitive ones.

One CCAP rider helping one of the younger riders.
This was the first chase group, if you will.

Another rider receiving help from two CCAP riders and his older brother.

An encouraging look.

One of the actual attacks of the competitive group.

The four rider chase.

The sprint for the win.

The second chase finishes.

The Cat 5s were next, followed by the 4s. This marks the second anniversary of Markus's passing and the Pawling Cycle guys said some words and the field had a moment of silence. You'd think that all these racers were hard core tough dealing with the weather and such but you could see that some of them had, ahem, some early spring allergies. Or something.

Cat 4 field, Rob from Pawling saying a few words.

The Markus Memorial.

The women's race had an impressive number of riders with a slew of well represented teams. It was great to see the camaraderie amongst the women before and after the races.


One of the early attacks.

The field getting into action.

Post race huddle.

More post race huddling.

Happy team.

I'm happy with the Women and Junior races. For all my complaining about various things relating to promoting, it's the emotions that I feel when I see the Juniors or the Women racing that help ease those complaints.

After my race I sat out the P123 race in order to start breaking down. In the past I'd do the P123 race and then help break down stuff. This year, with little fitness, with a lot to do to break down, I haven't even bothered putting myself in for the P123 races.

The worst part of the day was the prolonged P123 protest period. The race is tough on everyone, the racers (intentionally) as well as the race staff. The results were changed a few times and finally the remaining hardy souls and the official hammered out the details on who placed where on what lap. Since I wasn't in the race and didn't even watch it I can't comment on what happened but it was a bummer since a number of the race shakers and bakers left before the results were finalized.

I left the trailer behind this week, realizing that I won't be getting much done in it if I took it to its home base. This naturally allowed me to drive home as quickly as I dared. Unfortunately when I got home I missed seeing Junior as he was already asleep. The huge thing for me has become not seeing Junior, not being able to share the race stuff with him.

With some tasks that I really needed to get done before I went to bed I set about posting the results. I uploaded the 200-odd pictures, doing some very rough picking (horribly out of focus shots got ditched as well as the photo bomb arm-back-shoulder in the way ones). I couldn't get done before 11 PM and by then I realized I was so fuzzy headed I had to get to bed.

On that note the fourth week of the Series finished up. It seems like just yesterday that I was stressing about the first week, that we had the rental trailer. Now the stresses are a bit less severe, my back isn't killing me, and the whole process seems to be running a bit more smoothly. There are always problems, else I wouldn't have to even go to the race, but now they seem a bit more manageable.

My big hope is that the Junior turnout increases for next week. I've had two people already contact me about bringing a couple Juniors to the race, one disappointed dad was late for this last week's race, so with those folks in mind I hope that we have a 20 rider Junior field.

It sounds a bit sad, to be excited about a 20 rider Junior field, but right now that's the state of Junior cycling. That's why CCAP is so important. And that's why we're basically giving away a 30 minute slot to the Juniors, to try and get the kids to give this sport a try.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Training - Group Ride Behavior

A great article that basically describes the responsibility us cyclists have when on a group ride. The most critical takeaway from the article is that a group ride needs a "patron" (ride leader) who sets the ground rules, and who keeps the ride in line.

The article is at People For Bikes.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Racing - 2014 Tour de Kirche

I had a whole slew of stuff happening before the Cat 3-4 race last Sunday so racing wasn't so much on my mind. Although there was a lot of stuff the main things that affected my racing were things like:

 - about 25 minutes of riding, in two sessions, on Saturday, due to interruptions while on the trainer. I prefer an hour of riding the day before a race.
 - 4 hours of working on the course on Saturday, using a power broom (Echo SRM with a broom attachment) as a regular broom, i.e. sweeping motions, as well as pushing a leaf blower around. This resulted in incredible upper body soreness/fatigue.
 - 2 hours of working on the course on Sunday, same deal as Saturday.
 - Bringing clothing worthy of the 55 degree Saturday to the 34 (high) degree Sunday race.
 - Not having enough time to go get food so eating two egg sandwiches and one cup of coffee on Sunday; the first egg sandwich at around 6:00 AM, the second, with the coffee, at about 10 AM or so.

By the time 1 PM started approaching I was really sore, close to bonking, chilled to the bone, and I wasn't ready to race. Earlier in the day I had noticed earlier that my vest still had my last week's number on it, the same number that I happened to be this week. Being a vest it wasn't gross or anything. I decided to leave last week's number on it, saving me a minute or two of precious time.

I also took the time at some point in the earlier morning to put the wheels on the bike. I decided on the Stinger 6s for this week, with the wind blowing so hard the marker stakes were bending in the wind. The Stinger 7/9 set, which I've used so far, seemed too sail-like for the day's wind conditions. I pumped them up right after putting them on the bike, saving me a minute or two of time before my race.

I saw that the front brake rubbed virtually the whole revolution of the wheel and made a note to myself to unclamp the brake cable a touch later. At that moment I had other things I had to do so I left it for when I got ready to race.

Finally I'd left the SRM head charging at registration. The rest of my stuff sat in the Expedition. By the time I got back to the trailer it was 12:58 or so, and I still had to get dressed in time for the 1:00 start.

I was late enough that my teammate for the day, Joel, had already decided that I couldn't possibly be racing and had volunteered his legs for a friendly rival team.

I decided with the temperature in the 32 degree range with very gusty wind that I'd skip the knickers and go for the warm tights. I'd also use a base layer, then a rain jacket (as an all-direction wind jacket), then a LS jersey for the team appearance bit. The wind vest with my number would be on top, mainly as a vehicle for the number, not so much for the wind.

I only found one head thing so that went on my head, no neck thing, and I struggled to get my tights on, my shoes on, and even my helmet on.

I didn't know where my bottle was, saw a Coke bottle in the center console (unopened, a reserve bottle for the drive home), and slipped it into the bottle cage upside down.

I rolled up to the line, slipped my gloves on, and the race started.

I realized a few things right away.

First because I hadn't spent the time adjusting my tights I felt like I was wearing a low hanging diaper - the tights were way too low.

Second, my helmet cam wasn't on.

Third, my right shoe buckle seemed to be letting go. The instep strap is a bit bent and it loses grip on the teeth that hold it in place. On the trainer I've had times where the strap just totally let go, my foot flying out of the shoe. With the bootie in place I figured it wouldn't happen but it slipped. I made a note that I had to put tape on this for next week.

Fourth, I realized there was no way I could use the Coke bottle in a race. Plus it would explode when I opened it, bouncing around in the cage. The plastic bottles fit better upside down because the neck of the bottle serves as a handle to stick through the bottom of the cage. I learned this trick watching a Rabobank pro (Marc Wauters) at the Gimbels ride many years ago.

Finally I heard the brake rubbing slightly on the front wheel at the slower points of the course. Once we got going the wind drowned out the zzz-zzz sound but at Turn One I could hear it. I had forgotten to adjust the brake cable. I tried the barrel adjuster just in case but no, it was already down as far as possible.

(I just now realized I have the quick release lever in the brake lever but I forgot about that since I never use it.)

By the end of the first lap I knew the Coke bottle wouldn't do me any good. I debated what to do with it for a couple laps and finally tossed it into the finish line tent. I watched in horror as it headed straight for the heater. If we came around the next lap and there was a cloud of Coke steam I'd know that the bottle melted on the heater, blew up, and covered everyone in sticky Coke.

The next lap there was no steam.


(Ends up the bottle flew into one of the official's bags. Fortunately for me they saved it for me.)

I spent a good 5 to 8 laps trying to get the helmet cam working but with no success. The wind and the abrupt pace changes meant that I had to have both hands on the bars and pay attention to what was going on around me. I almost lost control a couple times in the group fiddling with the camera so I stayed at the back after that. I actually sat up and drifted off the back trying to turn on the camera but after I made a good 200 meter effort to get back on I decided it wasn't worth it.

By about 20 laps to go I'd given up on the helmet cam, trying half-heartedly once or twice from there to the end of the race.

I spent the next 5 or 8 laps trying to pull my tights up. I start at the calves, pull them up over my knees, do the thighs, then finally up around my waist. They're bib tights, yes, but they're really tight, and it takes a few minutes for me to get them adjusted when I'm standing around. On the bike… yeah, it didn't work. I raced with a diaper-feeling pair of tights. They caught on the saddle almost every time I sat back down.


I let the right shoe buckle stay loose. I didn't want to ratchet it tighter and have it let go. I focused on pedaling a bit harder with my left leg, kept that buckle tight, and decided to postpone the risk-reward decision on whether I should try to ratchet the right buckle tighter until later.

In the meantime I was in a race. There were guys going off all the time, with Six Cycle the most active. Joel actually chased the first move for four laps but ended up stuck in no-man's land. He sat up, let the field absorb him, and recovered while the next set of moves played out.

That's about all I noticed while I fiddled with my helmet cam and tights. I did notice a few break type riders sitting at the back. One guy was sitting so far off the back of the field that he wasn't even drafting. I ended up behind him, distracted with tights and helmet cam stuff, and realized, oh, we're 30-40 feet off the back.

It took an enormous effort to close the gap.

Yet he stood post there, in the wind. I realized just how strong he had to be to maintain that kind of effort.

And think it was nothing.

That's the part that gets me. For him it wasn't worth the two pedal strokes to get into shelter. He sat in the wind nonchalantly like it was no big deal.

He and another break type rider talked a bit, planning moves. I listened a bit but the only thing I could think of was my right buckle - would it just let go one lap or would it tolerate me ratcheting it tighter?

I didn't know.

The moves never materialized from the two break type people so I decided it had to be planning for the end of the race.

I did notice that I could get up the hill okay this year, and this week seemed better than the prior two weeks. I don't know why - the 6s aren't that much lighter or anything - but somehow things were a bit better.

I was also not cramping and not bonking. I felt hungry, yes, but I wasn't getting those chills and cold sweats that I get when I bonk for real.

As we started counting down into the last 10 laps I decided to risk the ratchet thing. I clicked it once and the shoe felt instantly better. Instead of a slipper on the upstroke it felt more like a… snug slipper. My foot still moved a lot but it felt much better.

To keep my in "balance" I also tightened the left buckle. That side felt right, like my foot was in a (gentle) vise.

Due to the massive headwind on the backstretch I decided that I'd need to be further up going into the sprint. I could make up a lot of ground on the hill but the group would be going so slow that there wouldn't be enough time to make up a lot of ground during the sprint.

Therefore I tried to move up a bit, something that's not my normal race tactic.

I could see Six Cycle trying to organize something with three laps to go. I wasn't sure if they were going to gap off one of their riders (I think they did) but when that rider came back it seemed that the field had resigned themselves to a sprint.

Which, of course, is fine by me.

I gambled on another click of the buckle and it held. Now the shoe felt loosely snug. I didn't feel like I was pulling out of the shoe on every upstroke. I'd want 2-3 more clicks under normal conditions but this was all I wanted to risk.

At two laps to go I made an uncharacteristic effort to move up, landing myself in about 15-20th spot, maybe a touch closer to the front. I could see the Six Cycles guys at the front, other guys trying to make last minute moves.

I spent the lap surfing efficiently, cresting the hill on the bell lap in about 10th spot. I felt this was pretty good - I could move when the front moved but I was further back than say five spots. I felt the first five spots would hit too much wind on the backstretch, except if a guy was getting led out.

See, a guy getting led out would not have to worry much about what was going on in front of him so he'd be able to shelter properly, safe in the knowledge that he didn't have to leave himself an out to pass his leadout man, at least not until it was time.

On the backstretch it stayed sort of strung out. I was probably 10th spot or so going into the "wooded area" just before the mirror building. The left side started surging hard, and I could sense a lot of people passing me on the outside. Not great but it was what it was.

Then the wind showed its hand and the left side of the field came to a virtual stop.

I went right, again, knowing I had to go early because I was too far back.

I jumped on the right side, kept on about the yellow line, and clawed my way past one or two riders. No jump like the old days, that's for sure, I'm now a diesel struggling to accelerate to the line.

The guy to my left, a few feet over, suddenly fell over.

With about 20 feet to the line I kept going, throwing my bike instinctively.

Then, rounding Turn One, I stayed right so I could loop around immediately and see how the rider was doing. He was relatively fine as was the guy that crashed over him. Not happy, of course, but walking away.

I had no idea how I'd placed. I'd focused on holding a clean line, on trying to pass the guys in front of me, but I assumed that the left side surge had blasted 5 or 10 riders up the hill. I paid no attention to the left side so I figured 5 or 10 guys were duking it out for the win over there.

If I had to put a number to it I'd have guessed maybe 10th place or so. If things were good I'd place better than last week's 12th.

Then someone told me I got 5th.


I guess the left side really did come to a screeching halt.

I got back to the Expedition, the front brake rubbing, thirsty from no bottle, hungry from no food.

5th place!

I saved the Strava thing on my phone, I texted the Missus to let her know the race went reasonably well, updated her on the promotion side of things, changed, and headed back to the trailer to help with the end of day stuff. There's a lot to do and we try to get as much of it done as possible before the P123s finish.

At some point I looked at the results sheet. 5th was good enough that I'd want to make sure I wasn't missed or whatever.

My first glance saw something wrong. I wasn't in 5th, someone else was.

Then I looked up a line.


Even better!

After a long day that brought a good smile to my face. Wow, 4th place.

Of course I immediately started doing the "what to do next week" inventory thing.

Okay, next week I gotta adjust the brake cable so it doesn't rub. I need to have a bottle ready on the bike. Maybe half a bottle of water. Maybe a quarter. I need to not eat too much during the day. Coffee is good. Dress warmer. The 6s seemed to be fine, maybe use those.

Yada yada yada.

The phrase "There's always next week" is a ubiquitous thing for virtually all racers, perhaps except the winner. It's a way of saying that although this week wasn't perfect we can all try again next week.

So yeah, 4th.

We'll see how it goes next week.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Promoting - 2014 Tour de Kirche

So this has been the trying year with the Series. First was a tenant complaint regarding the races in 2013. The second has been an immense increase in park traffic due to a couple new businesses in the venue.

Aside from that I've had the normal issues with promoting races.

Race Results

The main thing from the prior week was post-results "protests" for lack of a better word. "Protest" implies something negative (have you ever heard of a "good" protest?) but it's the term used when someone disputes their finishing place. The standard rule has been, and has always been for as long as I remember, that any results need to be protested within 15 minutes of the time the results get posted.

Now, at Bethel we do understand that racers often do back-to-back races, and typically those racers are strong enough to place in their first race. Therefore it makes human sense to allow those racers to protest results that technically become official while they're on their bike racing their second race.

Anyone else, though, falls under the 15 minute rule. The idea is that anyone that has an interest in their place will check the results when they get posted, note any discrepancies, and then the results will get resolved.

About 15 people asked questions about their results from the Ris Van Bethel, the second race of the Series, as well as results from 2013.

Therefore, going forward, the officials made a point of having laminated signs posted at registration, made announcements at the start line about the 15 minute protest period.

Nevertheless a few racers contacted me regarding missing numbers in the finishes of the Cat 3-4 race, even after the efforts of the officials to explain the protest period rule.

Screenshot from the 2014 rulebook.

This was the biggest racer-related issue for the Tour de Kirche so it was relatively minor.

One thing I've done in the past but have not been able to do this year is to upload results before leaving the venue. I used to be able to upload the results immediately after the P123 stuff got finalized, but now it's not possible due to the amount of necessary packing up. If I can get stuff more honed in the "end of day" bit then I can devote energy to cleaning up and uploading results from the venue.

Course Control

The ongoing issue with traffic on the course was the main promoting issue for the Tour de Kirche. The traffic going to the two new businesses on the course kept the marshals and police officers busy with traffic control, and kept racers on their toes.

We have to keep in mind that the bike race is NOT the primary reason for the business park's existence. We borrow the park with the town's blessings but we have no right to it. Not keeping the stretch from the driveway->TurnOne clear was problematic and I had to kick three cyclists out of one of the off-limits parking lot.

I spent a core part of the day handling tenant complaints and working out solutions to their complaints, to the point that I did little else.

Course Conditions

The course was in admittedly less-than-ideal condition on Sunday morning, and even Sunday afternoon we had spots of sand on the course. The issue was the warm weather during the prior week melting all the snow and exposing a lot of sand and pebbles. By Saturday the course was such that there were 3 or 4 feet of sand sometimes inches deep along the shoulder of much of the course.

I arrived as early as possible on Saturday to try and clear some of the sand, but after 4 hours, and with the sun completely gone, I ran out of time. My initial goal was to break up the sand and let the sun dry it out, but then it became spreading it to the other side of the road (the non-racing side) so that it could dry overnight.

Unfortunately in the dark I didn't see how much mud there was, and that's the stuff that froze to the ground. We spend two hours with a couple leaf blowers, a power broom, and regular brooms, and until the temperatures climbed into the low 30s it was fine. However the frozen sand got a bit loose towards the end of the day.

On the other hand the very rough patch jobs I did last year seem to be holding up well. The patches feel solid and pretty smooth, much better than when I first put them down.

One unexpected problem was that when I headed down to the course on Saturday the thermometer stood at about 58 degrees. I dressed appropriately in relatively light clothing, leaving off my heavy coat, any heavy sweatshirt hoodies, and only packing some warm pants because it was easier to put it away in my bag than in the closet.

This resulted in me being dressed for 58 degree temperatures in the 20-odd degree morning. I don't think I warmed up completely until I took a hot shower Sunday night. I'll have to remember to bring "everything" next week, regardless of the current conditions. I bring everything in terms of racing kit, it should be the same for my street clothing.


With the strongest winds of the Series thus far I was really glad we had the trailer for registration. We ran out of propane for the little heaters and I hadn't gotten any "weatherproofing" done with the windows, but it was better than sitting on the pavement under a tent with the tent sides threatening to blow the whole thing to the other side of town.

The finish line tent was a different story - it was really gusty, they had no sides, so it was brutal out there. My goal to make a platform for the officials has transformed into making wind barriers for them. I'm not sure how to do it yet but that's on my agenda.

Race Logistics

One thing that has been a solid anchor for me has been the crew working the race this year. With a lot of changes to the staff (one family dropped out due to the demanding schedule, another dropped in), I was a bit worried going into the Series. However the staff has been exemplary, to the point that the actual race logistics have been the least of my concerns.

It used to be that I worried about registration, I worried about incorrect info, incomplete registration lists, racers racing without a license or signed waiver, but now I know that stuff gets handled properly. Questions come to me, of course, but it's usually stuff like  me promising a Cat 5 to get him in the race just as I fall asleep on the computer. This results in no entry for said Cat 5, as was the case Sunday, but with plenty of open spots it was fine.

Overall though I consider registration to be a mature and fluent process. It's no longer something I worry about each week because the combination of the spreadsheets, the pre-race prep, and the staff's knowledge make the process self-managing.

Another issue in the past has been the camera. I worry about the finish line footage because it's a one time thing. The camera person has just one chance to get it right and if it screws up then I hear from the whole field of racers. Although rare, any camera errors really weigh heavily on me. I realized the hard way that if I let the battery die in the camera then it reverts to default settings, one that auto adjusts shutter speed. We use 1/10,000 shutter speed so if it auto adjusts it blurs all the numbers.

This year, with the extremely detailed documentation provided by the last year's camera guy, things have gone 100% smoothly. In fact during the first week the camera guy Mike mentioned to me something about the screen saver lock on the laptop. I panicked and asked him if he got locked out and he nonchalantly replied that he just entered the password and got in.

Puzzled I asked him how he knew my screensaver password.

"It's in the documentation."


This year there have been no errors with the camera - the numbers, when legible, show up properly. We get the occasional obscured or illegible number but we rely on the racers to protest if it's their number. However such instances are due to non-camera things.

On the other hand I'd like to have two cameras going for each finish so that we can reduce the number of missed/illegible numbers. Either that or get the camera up higher to get a different angle on the line.


During one of the colder bits of the day (meaning I was particularly cold) I had this realization that I really need to work on the trailer during the week. We had a lot of stuff in there that we didn't need, I didn't have any organized way of storing things, and it really reduced the efficiency of setting up and breaking down on race day. It also made the trailer colder than necessary.

I listed goals last week but all that got throw out because of the course conditions - that took precedence over the trailer things.

I decided that I had to drive the trailer back home and work on it here. Since I'm 90 minutes away from the course I don't have time to head down, work on the trailer (after unloading it), and getting back at a reasonable time (after loading it up).

Also many of my tools are here at the house. I don't know what I'll get done this week but the first thing will be to jettison some of the extra stuff, to organize some of the random bins, and then to try and do some build up work inside (shelves, tables).

Part of this will be to try and build up the stuff for the finish line tent, camera stuff, wind breaks, tent stabilizing stuff, etc.

Finally I want to try and think of standard spots for the leaf blowers and other "standard" equipment that I expect to bring to every race. Once these get their "spots" then it'll be much more straight forward to pack and unpack the trailer.

On the way back I had my first trailer scare, when a particularly strong gust pushed the trailer right at the exact time an 18 wheeler was passing to the left. The trailer pulled the Expedition to the left pretty hard, hard enough that the 18 wheeler swerved away from me and the traffic behind me slowed hard. It took me a bit of time to get calm again but I otherwise felt okay. I made it back without hitting anything, not even a curb.

I forgot to mention this last week but I discovered, to my dismay, that the hatch on the Expedition won't open all the way because it hits the trailer's V-nose. However, once we jacked up and stabilized the trailer, the hatch opened all the way.

We just forgot to close the hatch before dropping the trailer back onto the hitch. We puzzled why the trailer wouldn't drop onto the ball but it finally did. At some point I reached up to close the hatch, wondering why it was so high, and then I realized - the hatch had been holding up the trailer, and only when both the trailer and hatch bent (yes bent!) did the trailer drop. I had to detach the trailer, jack it up, close the hatch, and lower it again. I suppose the good thing is that I've now broken in the trailer officially.

The Expedition also.


The unusual demands of the race this week meant that I spent a lot of time and energy dealing with specific tenant complaints. I felt enough discomfort that I gave the town a heads up about the complaints.

I implied in the last promoting post that this has been a particularly trying Spring Series, and that I don't see the Series continuing on this venue in this fashion. Although I stand by that thought I've been asked to pause and wait until the Series finishes up before I make any decisions. That makes sense and it's what I'll do.

In the meantime I will work on improving our processes and procedures. Not doing that would be giving up altogether and that's not in the works for now. For actual race logistics that means the trailer, improvements to the finish line set up, and trying to upload the results quicker. For the race itself it means better course control, more organization on my part in terms of marshals and signage, and having a cleaner, clearer course.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Racing - 2014 Ris Van Bethel

The second race of the Bethel Spring Series p/b Outdoor Sports Center went better for me than the first week. Previously I started cramping less than halfway into the race - I don't know if it was the cold, the Sweep Day before, the loading the trailer the day before Sweep Day, or what, but I was pretty much a wreck by the time the race started. I used my sprint to get out of the way and fortunately did a decent job at that - no one ran into me and I didn't run into anyone.

The second week went smoother. I did do some hard labor the night before, moving stuff between trailers, but nothing like chopping ice for hours on end.

The promoting part went a bit smoother, too, with the crew now used to the procedures and such. We were short two people but the race still ran smoothly, so that's a testament to the folks that work it.

Last week someone took a picture of me and I looked positively massive, and not in a good way. My jacket, which I typically buy thinking, "Oh, man, I'm never going to get under 180 pounds", looks massive on me. This week I decided that if I could I'd wear a long sleeve jersey and a wind vest.

Of course it was pretty cold and pretty windy. I didn't wear knickers, so that means it was under 40 degrees by a lot. I even wore my heavy tights, with windproof front panels, due to the wind. The jacket seemed more and more appealing.

When I rummaged through my bag I remembered an old trick I used to use before we had such things as "team jackets". I'd wear my jersey as a top layer, a long sleeve black base layer as my second top layer, and a rain jacket as my third top layer.

With this technique the world would see my jersey and long sleeve base layer but no baggy windproof stuff.

So with the wind gusting enough that I tried to anchor the finish line tent a few times I decided to do the rain jacket trick. I wore a LS base layer (then put the bib tight bibs over the base layer), the rain jacket, a LS team jersey, and a team vest. I pinned the number to the vest, stuck my phone (for Strava) and a marshal radio in there, and decided that would work.

Before the start. Marshal radio in my pocket.
Way fewer than 18-20 pins.

I also had regular socks, regular shoes, booties, my favorite winter gloves (discontinued Canari gloves), a neck tube thing, a head tube thing, and my untaped/un-winterized helmet. Last week my head got a "chill headache" because my head was so cold. This week I wore a much heavier head covering and it felt better. I want to tape all my vents but I forgot to do it. Maybe next week.

For a warm up I did a lap I think, maybe two, but definitely one. It's super unusual for me to get on the bike before the field is lined up so I reveled in the freedom of rolling around the course.

When I got to the finishing hill someone pointed ahead of me.

"They already started, you need to chase! Go! Go! Go!"

I panicked for a moment but then realized no one else was saying anything. Then some kind soul murmured to me that the officials had made the field do one lap. I turned around and here they were.

Neutral lap done.

When the race started no one moved. Actually, as I learned later, one guy moved, no one else did, and that one guy ended up in a break for a few laps. Not knowing any of this I just thought that, wow, this was going to be a tough race.

Strung out.

Then it bunched up a bit - everyone came back. The early season races are like this. The guys with legs try to break everyone because they know that they have legs. "Everyone" tries to hang on because they all know that the Legs guys are putting down a good 20-30% more power if you can hang onto their wheels, and hopefully even those Without Legs can do a 30% weaker effort for a bit.

The leads to a flurry of attacks, a split, then a desperate chase. When it comes together it pauses, bunches up, and then it happens again.

Then, as the weeks go by, those Without Legs gain a few percent and suddenly holding 30% less isn't that hard. This means every move gets chased, every break gets chased, all the time. No pauses between efforts, it's just go, go, go. This means it's strung out for virtually the whole race.

Bunched up. It would go fast, slow, fast, slow.

After a few failed breaks the field paused to collect its breath. This only encourages those with legs to give it just one more go.

Really strung out.

The later attacks really hurt. The riders with Legs know that they can break the field, they just have to do a little bit more, dig just a bit deeper. The field knows that if they can hold on just a little bit more, dig just a little bit deeper, that the Legs guys will blow themselves up. It's a bluff game and the first one to blink loses.

Bell lap.

Well the field lost this week. A four man break was up the road, containing some strong break type riders (obviously). A fifth guy bridged, injected some power into the break, and then won the race even though he dropped his chain before the line.

Of course for me all that is sort of abstract. I'm not a break type rider, except when it's really weird, and my focus is always going to be the field sprint. With virtually all the places up the road the sprint became a bit weird. No early attacks, no punchy moves with half a lap to go, so the field sort of rolled into the last bit of the lap together, not going super fast.

Normally in this kind of situation I really enjoy things but this time I made one mistake after another. I can't say it cost me anything because I have no idea what would have happened but I knew even as I made my choices that I should have done the "other thing".

Backstretch, first mistake.
It's totally clear to my right, like there's no one there.

My first mistake was at about 400-500 meters to go. I had a choice of sliding up the right side or to hang out to the left. I knew there was ice and such on the right and I didn't want to encourage others to follow me. Therefore I stayed left. And as I did I thought, "I should go right, I should go right!"

And I didn't.

Didn't go for the gap right away, distracted at this point.

If I'd slid up the right side - and based on the relatively low speeds I definitely could have - I'd have been about 3 riders in front of where I was, maybe even four. I was behind the orange, behind the yellow/red, and behind my teammate Esteban (black with the yellow/orange stripe across his shorts).

Instead I was pretty far back.

At this point I could have moved forward but for some reason I didn't. I didn't feel gassed. I think I was thinking of where I could have been instead of thinking of how to improve my position.

"Coming through!"
Now committing to the gap.

Of course when the gap simply didn't close I snapped out of my daze and decided to go. A guy was on my left, moving in a bit, so I yelled "Coming through!" and went through. In retrospect I can't believe I said that but I did so, yeah.

The field starting the sprint. Not me.

Now I found myself with a possible gap in front of me. It'd be tight but if I committed and the other riders didn't move I'd be okay. In this situation it's just too careless to commit 100% without taking into account the other riders' actions.

Fortunately for everyone I didn't try and barrel through.

Boxed in, pause.

Well both riders moved just a touch. Only a bowling ball would fit through that gap now so I had to ease, stop pedaling, and wait.

Open, decided go chance it and go left.

The FGX racer, Etsu, accelerated up the right side so I followed. I stayed a bit to the left for some reason, whereas normally I like going to the right. I already had that feeling of regret, like I should have overlapped to the right. I know the left gets bunched up, I know the left can stall, yet I went left.

Yet another bad choice.

Problem was it was crowded left.

Guys were flying up the left side and so the guys there were moving a bit to the right. I ended up directly behind Esteban, riders to both sides. If I'd gone right when I was behind Etsu I'd have been able to go for the line. Instead I had to wait again.

Another pause as I'm in the tactically weak position.

Technically I suppose I could have really pushed here, but for a sprint that at best would get 6th it simply wasn't worth it. I knew both the riders to my right and left as well as other riders not visible in the frame but riders I knew were directly to my right and over to the left.

Therefore I eased again.

At the line pretty much everyone beat me.

Finally I got to do a couple pedal strokes. I instinctively did a throw at the line but I got beaten by everyone next to me.


All six guys.

By a lot.

I look back at the clip and if I'd made the move up the right side when I first balked I'd have been in a position to almost lead out the sprint. I have no idea how I would have done - the wind was a bit strong from the left - but I definitely wouldn't have had to ease so many times in the sprint.

As it was my max power was about 1100 watts and my 20 second power was 650 watts. Normally at Bethel I can hit 1200 watts and sustain about 1000-1100 watts for about 18-19 seconds. This leads to a 20 second power of about 900+ watts. 650 watts means I barely sprinted since I went just over a typical effort of just climbing the hill, 400-500 watts, not sprinting it, 800-900 watts.

Bike after the race.
Bike worked fine, the rider wasn't as smart as he should have been.

The bike worked great again, which is good. Due to limited space I haven't been bringing my spare bike or even spare race wheels. I have no wheels in the pits so it's just the bike. If anything fails on it, at least right now, my race ends.

Next week I hope to be a bit further up in the field. I'll try and follow my instincts instead of thinking and rethinking each move as I make them. For equipment I want to try and bring a second set of race wheels and I'd like to tape over all the forward and upward facing vents on my helmet.