Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Racing - 2014 New Britain Crit, M45 and Cat 3s

My bike, resting.

Podium Ice bottle, no longer a rarity with the new version coming out soon.

I think I have an 11-23 for the cassette.
Nokon housing.

My one light thing - a carbon railed SLR.

Thanks to teammate Heavy D, who grabbed my camera after the M45 race, I have some pictures of me on the bike. This is unusual since normally I'm the one taking pictures with it. Coincidentally my helmet cam failed to stay powered on so I don't have any video. Therefore the pictures Heavy D took are the ones I'll use to narrate the Cat 3 race.

At the start.

I preach about long finger gloves. They save your finger tips on the off chance that you hit the deck and slide on your fingers. It doesn't happen all the time but it's happened to me. I'd rather not repeat that experience so I wear long finger gloves all the time, even training rides in the summer. I sometimes forget them and since it's not a critical thing like a helmet I'll still go for a ride. However you'll almost always find me wearing long finger gloves.

I use a RoadID. I have a heart thing so if I'm unconscious and someone hooks up an EKG thing to me, it'll look like I'm having a heart attack. Since I don't want anyone to do anything to me to try and "fix" my heart, I wear the RoadID. I carry a copy of my EKG in my wallet as well, per my doctor's recommendation.

They've been a generous and steady supporter of local bike racing for literally decades.

I'm starting again with this bike. Note Outdoor Sports Center, sponsor of the Bethel Spring Series.

I race for that club.


First the M45+. I don't have pictures at all so it'll all be words. I lined up with no warm up, per my Strava. I was running a bit slower than I thought and I didn't feel the need to warm up anyway.

We started off fine, some attacks early on. We had pretty strong winds, with a very strong cross-headwind on the main stretch. I expected a break to go because of that so I figured that I'd go after any bigger move that started rolling away from the field.

One big move went (I think) but I figured it would come back. It did.

Then another, bigger move went. This had a good 10 riders or so, and there were a number of break member teammates in the field. A few of us had missed the move but the chase seemed a bit half hearted. I made a dig, accelerated a bit more than I wanted, and decided to follow through with it. I rolled up to the break within half a lap, connecting on the backstretch. I felt okay, not totally redlined, and I figured that if the break kept at this pace I'd be okay.

Behind me the field seemed strung out but not any more motivated than before. In front of me the break started to splinter, with the front half separating from the rear. Over the top of the hill my chain inexplicably dropped off the big ring, not quite going into the small ring. I must have been in the 53x23, meaning in the big-big, and either stutter pedaled or something to unhook the chain.

I lost a few feet getting the chain back up to the big ring, looked back, and sat up.

By the time we hit the main stretch the field had caught the break. I was definitely working harder than not but I didn't feel in trouble. The field, already a bit stressed, split again, I think under the impetus of some of the stronger riders.

Unbeknownst to me there was an ex-pro in the field, Kurt Begeman, who used to be the resident pro at the velodrome in New Hampshire. Had I known he was in the field I'd have kept track of him, but I didn't so I didn't.

From my tail gunning position I thought the break had come back but it had actually increased its lead so quickly it was around my reference corner (the last one). When I looked it wasn't there so I mentally relaxed. A few laps later I saw that they were actually really far in front, a good 30 seconds or so.

I made another dig, hoping to bring some guys with me, but no luck. Everyone let me blow up out there and a lap later I came back.

Going into the final lap I figured I'd go for the sprint (of course). I actually debated whether I should just sit up and save my legs for the 3s. Ultimately I decided to sprint because I couldn't possibly know what would happen in the 3s. I might crash or flat or get shelled or something because that's what bike racing is all about.

Carpe Diem, right?

Seize the Day, or seize the moment.

An ex-Cat 2 (or 1?), Martin, went really early, gapping off the field I think going clear just before the last turn. My friend (and long time Bethel Spring Series helper) David B sat on his wheel. If they won, so be it, I didn't want to chase them myself.

Another guy followed and I immediately jumped on his wheel. We rounded the last turn and I looked up at Martin and David. They were probably 15-20 meters ahead, a closable gap in the sprint. I knew the powerful headwind would really slow my sprint so I went as soon as I thought I could get to the line.

I thought I'd left it late as it was a big gap to Martin and David, but I think the wind really shattered them. I got past both of them to get 15th. In the Tour that might be good but here at New Britain, not so much.

I'd used up a bunch of water, the day was getting warmer, and I had another race in 2 hours. I realized that I'd made an error in my race supplies - I should have brought more water and some food. Instead I ate a bar, drank some of the precious ice water, and waited. Junior wanted to play and stuff so we played and stuff. Heavy D collected my camera to take pictures of the Cat 4 race. I was hot.

Cat 3

Strava here.

Unusually I'm near the front. Cat 3s.

I didn't intend to line up near the front, I just rolled up whenever and there were more people than I expected in the field. Naturally since I lined up with at least one rider behind me I screwed up my clip in. I apologized to the rider that had to pass me as I clipped in and we were under way.

The Stingers in action.

My teammate Heavy D took control of my camera, with the 55-200 zoom, and snapped away. He'd try to cheer us on while taking pictures. You can tell when he was cheering because there's a whole lot of pavement and grass. The laps where he wasn't cheering there's a bunch of cyclists in the frame. The above picture is one of the in-between ones.

This is interesting. Note the gaps between wheels and such.
Cat 3 race so we're all reasonably experienced.

Keep in mind that the wind really socks us hard from the front left after this turn. Tactically speaking then it would make perfect sense to be shielded to the wind side, i.e. to the front left. This means riders should be exiting the turn behind and to the right of the rider in front of them, giving them optimal protection immediately.

The picture above doesn't show much of that.

Now note the tight formation, center screen.

The crafty guys at the back of the field are a bit better. You can see we're in our own mini-echelon. The rider in orange, the rider  with the white helmet, they're in the wind for no reason whatsoever, using enormous amounts of energy and gaining nothing.

Another picture of the tight formation.

We're overlapped to the right because the wind is hitting us from the left. The two riders in front of me have multiple national titles between them and both are former Olympians for other countries. I'm not so good but at least I know what's up.

A shot of the "kick over the top" pedal stroke I have.
Here the wind wasn't as powerful so being close wasn't as important.

I don't have long legs, as evident in this picture, but I run 175mm cranks. It just works better for me, now that I've lost a lot of leg speed. 25 years ago I was using 167.5mm cranks, and in about 1995 I started using 170s. Over the 2003-2004 winter I started using 175s. I thought 170s would be faster so I tried to go back to them in 2008 and then again in 2011. I tried for most of a season each time, starting sometime in the prior fall (typically Oct/Nov to July/Aug). Both times I went back to the 175s and immediately had better results. It wasn't the power, which I found didn't change much at all, it was how that power translated into fatigue and results. The 175s just work better for me.

Although technically I was okay sitting at this part of the course, at the top of the hill, I needed to stretch my legs out a bit. As the second race of the day my legs were getting fatigued. I also ran out of water so that didn't help on this hot and humid day.

Coasting and stretching. I'm pressing my right thigh against the left side of the saddle.

I'm coasting here, trying to stretch my legs out a bit. The standing at the top of the hill helped but I still needed to do something, my legs felt really blocked and fatigued.

Last wheel in the field, suffering.

I'm last wheel here and not very close to the next rider. This was in the first curve and the trees break up the wind. Still, though, I should be a bit closer.

This picture, more than the earlier ones, shows that I really need to lose weight. No muscle definition - my body fat is in the 25% range, give or take. I'm realistically 20 pounds heavier than I could be, than I was in 2010, and in 2010 I still wasn't really cut/defined. Someone calculated my lean body mass is in the 130s so 10% body fat would put me in the 140s. It'd be nice to be in the 150s again.

More suffering.

We're exiting the tree area I think and I'm closer to the wheels. However I'm still suffering, still at my limit.

My ContourHD didn't work in the Masters race so I removed it for the Cat 3s. You can see the mount on the helmet. No camera though.

Also you'll note that I have no SRM. I forgot it at home.

I ran out of water pretty early in the race, saving a few sips "just in case". At about 10 to go I started thinking about stopping. It was hot, there was a break up the road, and I wasn't recovering at all.

Then, at 8 laps to go, the sun disappeared behind some clouds. It was still bright, mind you, but the sun wasn't beating down on us. I could feel my body start to shed some of that excess heat, finally getting ahead of the recover curve. I hoped that the sun would stay hidden, and it did, at least until it was too late to cook me again.

Sprinting for 13th. I was 12th when I sat up, my wheel just in front of that tall rider to my right.
I would have sworn up and down that there were 20 riders ahead of me.

I was so far back going into the sprint that I really didn't feel like sprinting. On the other hand I'd worked so hard just to get to the finish that I decided to give it a go, even as I saw riders 10-20 feet in front of me sitting up.

I didn't have a good jump and my legs were twinging even as I jumped but I kept going. The pedals turned really slowly, no 105 rpm sprint like last time. I know when I'm not sprinting well because my butt gets lower and lower, and that's what was happening in this sprint. At some point I started to pass a tall, skinny rider, the archetypal non-sprinter, and my legs told me I was done.

I sat up and the other guy passed me back. I saw three guys at the line within passing distance, including the tall guy, but at best I might have gotten past those. No way I could have caught anyone further up.

Ends up I was 13th so if I'd done a reasonable sprint I probably could have gotten 10th. No better though, especially based on the fact that I really couldn't move up in the last lap. If I was so blown that I couldn't move up then I was really on edge in the race itself.

The good thing is that I finished the races disappointed in the Masters to have missed the break and disappointed in the 3s to have screwed up the finish. Previously I'd have been psyched just to finish. I'd bumped up my training in June to 16 hours, double that of May, and more than April and May combined. In July I've already done 10 hours and we're only halfway through the month.

Note the last day's bar in July is taller than any day except that tall day in late January.

Incredibly, with the EVEN Hotel recon ride later that day, this would be the longest day of the year for me since January, and in fact it was the second longest day of the year on the bike period.

With that my next big day is the EVEN Hotel Fun Ride coming up on Thursday morning.

No Tuesday Night CCAP Race tonight due to the thunder, lightning, flood watch, and all that. I even got an emergency broadcast message on my phone. Tomorrow I'm heading down to the EVEN Hotel thing. This weekend is booked solid with family stuff. Next Tuesday there's no race - I may try to figure out a way to do the Wednesday Night race at Ninigret, which is withering on the vine. Hm, they're off next week also. I guess my next race will be Limerock on the 27th? M40 and Cat 3.

Well, I guess that's okay. One way of looking at it is that I'll have time to train a bit. Imagine that.


Anonymous said...

"I'm usually near the front", NO YOU"RE NOT!!!!!!

Aki said...

"Unusually", not "usually" :)

MetalLeg said...

Love reading your race recaps! I've lost 50lbs myself and still have 25lbs more to go before I'm in "race shape" at 142. Being 167 rather than 217 certainly makes for faster training rides - but I don't think I put out much power, so I've got to get as lean as I can. Anyway, keep up the great blog - it's inspiring reading for me as an an aspiring racer (still cat 6 on the roads, lol).

Aki said...

Thanks. I was basically away from the computer for a number of days and I missed your comment, so apologies.

I've been at similar weights to you - 215-ish at my highest (late 2003, early 2004), 185-200 for a while after that, then massive weight loss 2009-2010 to drop to 155-ish. At that point I was weaker but my riding was substantially better. Well except for descents, I was noticeably worse on descents - no more coasting and passing the group, now I had to pedal just to stay on wheels. I never got into the 140s, however I was just saying the other day that if I got to 160 lbs again it would be fantastic, below that would be just phenomenal. 175 right now, and definitely feeling it.