Saturday, June 21, 2014

Racing - RI Masters Olympic Games, M45-49, Shelled

Ninigret Park, Rhode Island. For us now it's about a 2 hour drive, about the furthest I'll go for a bike race. Last year I didn't do well here, a small field, marginal fitness. This year, with less fitness and only five pre-registered riders, I actually contemplated not going to the race. In the end we did, partially because we planned on visiting family (that were visiting the area) after the race.

I felt a bit of optimism when I saw what had to be 50 or 60 racers line up for the M50+ races (it was actually closer to 35, according to the Missus). However when I lined up and there wasn't even a full row of riders…

The whole starting field, minus one guy way off to my left.

Although we got there sort of early I still managed to do only a marginal warm up. I didn't feel much like doing any efforts anyway and the typically ferocious wind kept my motivation down. The tailwind leg of the warm up loop (the parking lot) felt not-that-fast and the headwind leg felt really slow.

On the nice side the bathrooms have been redone. New walls, ceiling, the stall, I think the toilet was new, sink, hand dryer instead of paper towels, the entry door to each side, everything is really nice. I don't have a before picture so I didn't bother with an after one but, yeah, much nicer now.

Tip: if the little windows are open up top then it's probably open. If they're closed then it's probably locked.

Backstretch, heavy wind from right-front.

On doing the first lap I realized that the backstretch would have the most wind and therefore the most shelter. The last stretch before the sprint would be the weird one, the one with pretty high brush on both sides making the stretch a swirly wind thing. The main stretch would be a tailwind and therefore ideal for attacking or for shelling marginally fit riders.

The first attack, going into the tailwind bit.

The first attack happened as we entered said tailwind section and it seemed fine. Everyone responded and I thought, okay, this is good, it seems not quite so frantic.

Goaded into pulling on the last bit before the tailwind main stretch.

A short while later, it might have been a lap, maybe two,  I ended up near the front and obligingly took a pull. No one came around when I eased and instead of sitting up I kept going.

After three turns I decided that I would encourage the others to pull by putting them in the gutter (the unsheltered side of a crosswind section of course). I attacked out of the second turn of the course, intent on stringing out the field into the cross-headwind backstretch.

Exiting Turn Two.

Steady effort on the backstretch, on the left side of the course.

You might be able to see that I'm doing a quite unsustainable 700+ watt effort on the backstretch. I didn't know it, I wasn't looking at the computer, but I knew I was going way too hard. When I looked back everyone was strung out, there were gaps, and I knew that no one was benefitting from being behind me. After I sat up and they all regrouped someone took a pull.

Of course I'd gone deep into the red also but that was a different problem.

I never quite recovered from that effort and started getting in trouble first on the hidden wall-of-bushes last bit and then in the front stretch in the tailwind.

Trouble, wall-of-bushes section.

I chased back onto the small field on the main stretch after the first minor crisis I had, but I knew that the group hadn't been attacking as much as just "riding hard". I started hoping that the guys would ease up a bit.

Trouble again.

The next bit of trouble came on the tailwind section, when my legs wouldn't turn over fast enough and lacked the power to push a bigger gear. My heart rate wasn't high so the whole thing puzzled me but basically it's caused by something called "you blew yourself up and you haven't recovered".

I chased desperately into the wind and managed to latch back on, but I knew that I had very few efforts left before I really had to ease.

Trouble, the third time, this time on the main stretch.

The third time I got gapped happened on the main stretch, even before we got to the start/finish. I focused on getting back to the guy in light blue but when we came out of Turn Two I realized that he, too, was gapped. I tried to pass him after Turn Three, going into that backstretch bit, but by then the gap was too big for me.


When I saw the gap I almost immediately sat up. I had been redlined from the beginning of the main stretch, I already closed one gap (to the rider in blue), and now to close another?

Of course the group sat up just as I did so the gap didn't grow much for a few turns, and in fact I think the rider in blue got back on at about the start/finish.

The group opposite me, fragmented.

The group fragmented a bit after I'd dropped way back. I think the eventual winners were in the second group. Even if I'd made it back I think I'd have had problems with the group splitting and such, so my getting shelled was appropriate.

"I'm stopping this lap"

The Missus and Junior watched from the other side of the backstretch. I'd done one half lap of effort, then about one quarter, and now I was rolling around on the tops. Obviously I wasn't chasing hard but the Missus had to be a bit confused on what I was doing.

The race had two "finishes", the 20km and the 40km. I knew that if I finished 20km I'd get some kind of place because there weren't that many riders in the field. This pushed me to do a few laps on my own.

Plus I could do a practice sprint.

When I saw the Missus I was on my last lap, my 20km finish lap. I was reasonably recovered, I decided I'd sit up even harder just before the sprint, and I'd try to do a good sprint.

She said something back to me but I couldn't hear with the wind and such, but she pointed over to the car so I figured she was saying "I'll meet you back at the car".

With that I did my sprint. Ultimately the numbers were good but my starting speed was too low to make it an actual fast sprint. I did a 1200w jump and sustained 900 watts average for 20 seconds. This compares favorably with the best "race" sprints I've done, with a 1250w jump and 1100w sustained for 18-19 seconds.

My very low starting speed, about 22 mph, meant that I spent virtually my whole sprint getting up to speed - my power dropped off a cliff as I hit 37 mph and it was all I could do to maintain something close to that to the line.

Bike throw.

Note how I'm down to 755w in the picture. The screen doesn't update super quickly - I've learned not to try and correlate points on the download to images I capture on the helmet cam - but 755w is the end of a sprint. I'm actually applying zero power since I'm not pedaling at that moment. I don't know how the SRM figures that out, if I throw the bike and complete the pedal revolution a half second later.

The Missus, with Junior looking back.

When the Missus heard me say I'm doing one more lap she figured it would be at the same pace as when I talked to her, i.e. on the tops and such. She got the spare wheels (that's what she told me she would do, not meet me at the car). As she leisurely started to cross the course she heard me barreling down the straight and hustled a curious Junior off the course.

I did half a lap to cool down and went back to get my wheels. When I saw the wheels weren't there I realized that the Missus had picked them up.

I rolled by the trailer rig used by the finish line folks. I thought it pretty funny because their tow vehicle is about the same year as the Expedition (based on the similar color) and their trailer looked pretty new as well. It was like a 2/3 scale version of the set up I ended up with.

Compact trailer set up.

I thought about my trailer, if maybe I'd been over eager to get a big trailer. After some mulling I realized that having two registration windows makes sense and that by itself required at least 14' of trailer (the windows are 6' long). Once at that size the larger trailer, except for navigating narrow driveways (ahem), becomes almost the default choice based on virtually identical costs and weights.

The barn doors in the rear make a lot of sense. I got the ramp so I could get the leaf blowers and snow blower in/out easily as well as to increase resale value. The ramp is heavier, added a few hundred dollars to the cost, but my thought was that if I had to sell the trailer it would be much easier selling it as a car hauler than a registration trailer, and car haulers need the heavy duty (5000 lbs rated) ramp. For registration and finish line stuff, though, the barn doors are fine. The big advantage with barn doors is that you can close just one door, leaving you room to tape results and such, and helping keep the wind/chill down inside.

The trailer had mosquito netting hanging in the window, that makes a lot of sense to Mister Mosquito Magnet me.

With the race out of the way I got to change and take pictures of the finish. I thought the guy in purple would win based on my limited time in the field, and I thought he did, but then I realized later that I'd watched him win the 20km race from atop my bike. The 40km finish he got second.

The Missus was chuckling over stuff she overheard the racers say as they rode by. Apparently when I got shelled for real one of the riders told the others, "Hey, we just dropped one of the better sprinters, let's keep it that way."

The next lap, with me noodling around way back there on my tops, the rider concluded, "Yeah, he's done."

I'd had some recent discussions with others about various riders, talent, and such. Based on the sound thrashings I've received from really good sprinters I consider myself about an 80% sprinter. In comparison I'd rate myself as the bottom 1-5% in time trialing and climbing, so there's that. At any rate I understand my place in the world, and although I can sprint okay, I know many who can really trounce me.

But still, to hear that I was a threat, that was nice.

Apparently I'm one of the better sprinters.

Let's keep it that way.

My number that day.

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