Sunday, June 28, 2009

Keith Berger Crit: Sometimes, you gotta sit up

Interesting day. Uneventful race.

Interesting day for a few reasons, the best one being the following:

I show up to the course and start pinning on my number. I was standing and chatting with a guy (lets call him red kit) I've raced against a few times, and as these things often go, we've built up a sort of camaraderie. The usual ball busting and 'hey how have your races been' kind of chatter. We give each other space in a race if we're near each other, and I'd let him in front of me if he was caught in the wind in a non crucial lap.

Simply put, we respect each other.

What was hilarious today, was that another racer (with whom I'm on similar terms, lets call him blue kit) came up to me today and said, "so I'm going to crush you today right." Wait, what?
I replied, "I'm here to make friends, not enemies." We had a good little laugh, and it was funny because red kit joined in. Harsh, dudes...

I'm pretty tempted to put in some red vs blue right now, but I'll let you do the honors and just link a youtube search. Enjoy. It's incredible.


As for the race:

We lined up, as everything was getting under way, I let out a huge burp. Alright, maybe two burps. This was followed by a wonderful quote from Shrek. "Better out than in I always say."

Broke the ice a little bit and everyone laughed. I should burp more often.

And so the race began.

I did zone out for a second and almost kept going straight at a turn. That would have been terrible, but it didn't happen.

I didn't feel right at all. I wasn't having any issues making attempts, but I just didn't feel 'right'.

I started in the back again, and tailgunned for a little bit. I really need to stop doing that. For some reason, the old noggin' wasn't working and it took me a few laps to figure out the course. That's a little ridiculous...

Turns out that the sprint would have suited me. Corners 3 and 4 come pretty quickly and you have to hold position coming into and out of both of them to have any shot at anything. I like long sprints, so jumping right after the last corner was my plan.

I moved up slowly through the ranks.

I ended up gaining position coming through the start/finish lap, but ended up expending too much energy in the wind since I was on the outside every time. Shoulda been on the inside as I was a few times.

With 2 to go, I was at the front. Big mistake. I tried to get into some shelter and managed to get on a teammates wheel. Good.


My teammate adjusted position to avoid a pothole, which is fine since he had the room. As a result, however, he moved right in front of the guy next to me. I lost my wheel.

I drifted back to try and hide for a little bit.

In the last lap, I desperately tried to move up yet again. As did the rest of the field.

Perhaps too desperately.

I jumped on someone's wheel and followed them onto the outside. All of a sudden, I found the field shifting and adjusting. The inside was pushing out. I had to brake. Hard.

I managed to complete the turn inches away from the curb. Phew!

I looked up the road and I was about a third of the way back. I see red kit go hard on the outside again and I get on his wheel. He weaves a little bit to get where he wants to go. We have a stretch of road and two corners left to go before the finish.

I look around me. I'm still a third of the way back. If I push now, I'll be able to get into the top ten, but go backwards when the sprint starts. I.e., I'll probably be a hazard to those around me.

I sit up. I finish 2nd last in 44th.

I've had a good few weekends. Now it's some time to build up some strength again and dive back in when the time is right. Not for a little bit though, I'm exhausted...

After the race, I watched the other races while marshalling. We (CVC) put on the race, so I did my part to help out. It was a good day!

It got even better after I got home since my housemates decided to take a trip to Millers Pond to go for a late night swim. What a way to end a weekend.

An Aside

A few people asked what I had written on my legs today.

I had two quoted, one on each leg, for motivation.

One, on left leg, from Kurt Vonnegut's 'Slaughterhouse Five':

"Here we are, trapped in the amber of the moment. There is no why."

Two, from Svein Tuft (

"We will never be here again."

I looked down at them a few times when I was pushing hard.

I'll post later this week about what those quotes mean to me as they're the only 2 sets of words that I know will be permanent for me.

For today, I should add the other favorite quote from Vonnegut:
"So it goes..."

Aside 2

Supposedly, people actually read this thing. I don't quite believe this. You know that you can periodically comment to let me know you actually exist right?

So comment!
Maybe??? (Pretty please??)

Saturday, June 27, 2009


Thompson Motor Speedway Crit today.

Cat 4. Finishd 6th.


Cambridge Team (black/white kit) did a great job blocking. They'd send a guy up the road and then go to the front and block at the same time. That's reasonable.

What I was frustrated by was not the blocking, which is totally legit, but the disruption of chase groups.

See, when a chase forms and you have a rider off the front, then it's logical that you join the chase and do 0 work. That way, if the chase catches the break, then you have 2 in a break. Wonderful.

What I think is ridiculous is getting in a chase group and rotating through and then setting a false tempo at the front thereby blocking in a chase group... There's a difference between not pulling and actively disrupting a chase. I think the latter, while a good tactic, is pretty unsportsmanlike. There's a difference between not working, and physically hindering the efforts of others.

Then a guy from a team I won't name, was cooked with 1.75 laps to go. So after drifting back from the front, he tried to nudge his way into the strung out 'field' instead of just going to the back or filling a gap. He almost caused a crash. He also knocked me out of my protected slot and forced me to go around him and lose my wheel since he was physically in the way.

I proceeded to have to burn a match in the wind unshielded. After that I picked the wheel of someone who was cooked for the sprint, and ended up sprinting on the windy side for 6th. 5th guy beat me by half a wheel. Ugh.

All said and done, it was a good race. I took a more active role in the race and did my part to chase down breaks and attack.

Hopefully I'll be recovered some for the crit tomorrow. I'm hoping to do well or help someone on the team do well if I'm tired.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Another Race weekend.

Since the weather just turned to mush an hour ago, I'm going to muse for a bit. It literally went from 80 degrees to 65 degrees and pouring rain, lightning, crazy wind, in about 20 minutes. New england summers, I don't get you... Thunderstorm galore!

So I muse:

I think this is my last race weekend for atleast one week. I.e. I'm not racing next weekend.

That's good and bad. Good because I'll have some time to hang out with the family. I'm headed down for a reunion in Virginia Beach. Bad because the start of july marks the end of dual crit weekends in the area. I.e. less opportunities to get points for the upgrade.

I've been seeing good form over the last couple of weeks, and taking a week mostly 'off' the bike will ensure that it's gone. That means it'll be much much harder to do well in races for atleast a 2 weeks period since I'll need to do some sort of build again. Besides, a lot of things turn to road races at that point of time. The last road race I did was last march...

That being said, I'm looking forward to the hilly road races. The ones where I'll get my behind kicked and I'll be trying my best to be there at certain crucial moments where a teammate might need something. I doubt I'm going to be a player in any of those races...

So, Thompson CT crit tomorrow and CVC's very own Keith Berger crit on sunday. Looks like I have two races where I can make something happen.

Carpe diem!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I am Jack's complete lack of strength

I'm weak. I'm coming to terms with that.

The 'B' training crit last night was really difficult for me. I almost got dropped and as I was closing a gap right at the back I got yelled at by an 'A' teammate helping with the race and then he shoved me forward and told me to get on that wheel.

I worked harder all race than I can remember and that seems to be the case for most of my races including the whaling city crit. This was a little different though, since I was just under my threshold for about 30 minutes straight. While that doesn't seem like a terribly long interval, it was during a crit so there were intermediate sprints and such thrown in. It hurt.

Right before one of the primes, I found myself on the wheel of teammate Dave C who looked back, saw my nod, and went. I got my first bonafide leadout, and it rocked rocked rocked.

I launched at like 28 mph into a headwind and got up to around 34.5mph into the headwind for the sprint. That was the last sprint I had left in me for the night.

I sat up after the first corner post prime. And the pack soon caught up.

I was a little beat up after the prime and breathing heavily through my mouth while making all sorts of wheezing-ish noises. I managed to recover enough to ride well again in 2 laps, and the 5 to go cards were put up soon after.

Since CVC had a LOT of people in the field, we had talked about doing a leadout at the finish, but an early attack by another rider strung out the field and the quicker pace had gassed a lot of people. I was one of those people, but I want to see how hard I can push myself when I'm in pain and so I came out of the last corner and started pushing harder.

There were a bunch of gaps opening up as riders were trying to get to the front. I took advantage of this by hopping from wheel to wheel, shielded from the wind coming on the outside, and then jumped when I saw no more wheels on the left but a few guys on the outside. Teammate Kim provided the launching pad, and I went as hard as I could go. It was a pretty pitiful attempt in all honesty, but it was still good for 2nd. I guess I can still muster up some gas when fried. That's good to know.

Biggest learning experience of the day:
Gaps that were once there might be gone by the time you find yourself filling them in.

Out of the 2nd corner towards the middle of the race, I was on the outside and I was coming around a few people on an open lane. I didn't realize it, but the inside was kinda squeezing out a little bit and I ended up bumping into a teammate who wasn't happy with it at all (duh?). Rightly so...

So note to self and others, watch for the outside or inside squeeze right before/during/after cornering. You don't want to be caught making a mistake when something like that happens.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Mystic Velo Weekend: More misadventures. Aka, the long bike ride home...

"What the hell are you doing?", I yelled at the over eager mystic velo rider as he took the non existant inside line once again. He pushed me into the other riders lap after lap after forcing his way where he didn't belong. I started shutting the door on him soon after. There's no reason to be that freaking aggressive at a crit, especially if it's your own race...

I was in Charlestown, RI, racing the Mystic Velo Criterium in ninigret state park. The course layout was simple enough, and the lack of curbs made the race much safer. I had driven down early to warm up after a rest week that had left me feeling sluggish. As I rode around the course, I took note of the wind. At the start/finish line, the wind was coming from the right, so the inside was the most shielded after the last corner. After the second corner, the outside was better for hiding. I should have told my teammate Chris Adams this before his race, but I caught him just as his race was about to start, so I just wished him good luck instead.

My race wasn't terribly eventful, which is a good thing. As we were lining up my friend and new teammate Paul comes up to me and says, "Me and the guys are going to go attack in the first few laps and lap the field. You're welcome to join if you want."
"No thanks," I tell him, "but you're welcome to lead me out when you get caught."

I feel sluggish during the race and realize that I'm at the back of the field every now and again. I can move up fine, but I have a hard time maintaining position. I just don't see the need to be that aggressive till the last five laps or so. I don't get it sometimes, but maybe I should try practicing holding my position.

As promised, Paul and his friends go on a break. I try waking up my legs and move up to go join them. As I bridge, the field starts chasing and we're caught soon enough. I'm the link between the field and the break and I feel like giving the guys in the break a shot at making it. I start to slow down with the field on my wheel. I let the gap open up, blocking for everyone, and then pull off to make someone else chase if they feel like it. The break didn't get organized, and were reeled back. 12 to go. Atleast my legs are functioning again.

"When do you want me to find you?," Paul asks me a few laps later.
"I'll start moving up with around 5 to go. No, make that 3 to go," I respond as I hide in the pack.
"Alright, he says."
10 to go.

I stay on his wheel, trying to hold on. His lines are good, but he's positioned on the wrong side of the field. I gain position, but lose the effeciency of the draft by moving up the windy stretches. "Too early to burn this many matches," I think to myself as I move back into the pack.

With 3 to go, I find myself pushed onto the grass. "Yahoo, grass surfing!" I yell as the guys beside me crack up. I find Paul again and stick to his wheel.
"Why does that dude in front of me keep looking back?," another rider asks me. I fight the urge to say "I dunno, maybe he thinks you're cute," and shrug instead. I was on Paul's wheel, and 'that dude' was going to lead me out. With 2 to go, I was in the front half of the field. With 1 to go, I was in the top 10. "The sprint is mine," I thought coming in. I was tired, but none of that matters on the last lap. I got separated from Paul. He went the windward side again. I needed to save that match.

Then it happens. The inevitable inside squeeze. I'm pushed onto the grass on the 2nd last corner of the race. "Dammit," I shout out loud, as I lose all the position I'd fought to gain. The field is strung out, and I manage to hop back onto the course. I know it takes us about 25 seconds to get to the finish after the last corner at 25 miles an hour, from my counting a few laps prior. That doesn't matter now though. I've lost too much ground.

Then again, I'm on the shielded side coming out of the last corner. 25 seconds is too long for me to sprint, but it's my only shot. I go, standing up on the pedals with all my might. My legs start to give up, and I sit back down, shift to a harder gear, and stand up again. I guess I crossed a few guys coming out of that turn because I finished 5th again. Not bad, I'll take it.

After the race, I join Paul and his friends to cheer on the juniors. We arrange a granola bar prime and run around screaming after them to go faster. We were trying to get a collegiate atmosphere going, and I think they liked it. At one point, I took off my jersey and chased one of the Mullaly girls with it flapping in the wind behind me. I was annoyed that a guy was trying to shake her from his draft. They weren't even in the same race, and he was being stupid.

Paul's friends had to take off, so we (me, paul, and his girlfriend) decided to go grab lunch together. As I pull out of the state park and join the highway, my car gives up. Again.

With Paul's help we call a tow truck and wait. I treat Paul and his girlfriend to lunch for being awesome and for Paul's attempted leadout. We hang out and talk/eat for a bit, and they leave as the tow truck shows up.

The drive to the repair shop is hilarious. The driver tells dirty jokes and says that "kids today have too much sex. Where were all these girls when I was younger?" I nod while trying not to burst out laughing as he launches into a stream of consciousness-esque tyrade. He totally went there. Hilarious.

The repair shop lets me know that the repair's going to cost atleast 800 bucks. Later they tell me it's going to be a cool thousand. Broken distributor. That's what I get for writing about economics in my last entry... Time to start looking for another car...

Paul had offered me a ride home. "Can I bring my bike?," I ask. "We'll make it fit," he says. I don't like the sound of that. It's 3:00 pm. I tell him I'll call him back after talking to the shop.

"Can you fix the car today?," I ask the shop, "I need to be home by 8." Turns out that they don't have the part.

I consider the options. Drive home with Paul with the possibility of leaving my bike in my car. Or...

I run to nearest burger king. I buy 2 burgers off the dollar menu and the biggest cup of coke. I run back to my car, change into my CVC kit and fill up my bottles. I have one bottle of water, one of energy drink, and two of coke. I leave my pants and jacket in the back seat, and pack my messenger bag with the essentials: drinks, burgers, wallet, gps, and arm/leg warmers.

I call Paul. "Dude, I'm going to ride home. How should I go about it?"
"Well," he says, "Take route 1 south all the way and then take 154 home."
Sounds easy enough.

I head back riding at tempo. I need to be careful not to bonk on the journey home, as I've already raced pretty hard. I expect the trip to be about 60 miles.

I admire the glimpses of scenery as I ride home on Rt. 1 S. I stop to ask people for directions every now and then, and stop for a burger around 2 hours into the ride. There are a few bridges on the ride, and Paul had warned me about them. Route 1 merges with I 95 before the bridge. I can't find the way to the sidewalk he'd mentionned so I keep riding.

Too late. I find myself on the shoulder of the 4 lane highway. Up ahead is an exit where 3 lanes of cars are entering from.

I am all that Jack fears.

I get lucky, there's no traffic so I scamper across the road and rejoin the shoulder. This happens again at the next bridge.

After I'm calmed down enough, I knock on the window of a car as I'm stopped at a red light.
"How do I get to middletown?," I ask.
"Oh, you don't want to keep going this way. Take this right and head back on 154 and look out for signs."
I thank them and turn right.

In my trance like state, I blindly follow signs for middletown. I find myself where I really should not be: on route 9. A major highway.

I stop on the shoulder to reevaluate where I am and eat my last burger. As I'm finishing up, I see sirens.
A cop pulls up to me and asks me what the heck I'm doing on the highway.
"I'm sorry sir, I've been trying to find my way home from Charlestown, RI, and someone told me to head up this way when I asked for directions."
"You're not supposed to be here," he counters.
"Trust me sir, I don't want to be. I'm not from around here. Can you please tell me where I should go?" I ask.
"Give me your license," he demands.
I hand it over. He puts my ID into the system.
"Do you ride on the highway in Pennsylvania too?," he asks.
"I've never had my car break down so far away from home before sir," I respond.
He hands back the license.
"You're going to go back down this way and take this exit off. Go left, and keep going till you hit 154. Take that home."
"Thank you sir."

I turn around and head back. On the shoulder going the wrong way, I hit a sewer drain. It's one of those ones perfectly wide enough for your tires. My tires go through it and hit hard metal. PSSSSHHHTTTTT is the sound my tubes make as I get a pinch flat. Luckily it's only on the rear. My one tube came in handy.

I repair the tube, and head back on 154.
The rest of the ride is quite uneventful. No highways, no nothing. Just a scenic stressless route on the way home. I have to call a friend on the way back. I won't make it back in time to go out for a movie with her tonight.

The rain had been coming in off and on all day, but it picks up as I head close to home. I'm soaked, but I make it home at 8:15 just before it gets dark.

I make the requisite mom call to let my parents know I'm alive, and head in for a shower beer in hand. Beer shower, as my housemates call it. I freaking deserve it.

Total for the day:
20 miles racing. 5th.
70 miles riding home. Tired and hungry.
About 3400 KCal burned. I eat to my hearts content and then eat some more.

This summer seems to be filled with all sorts of unexpected adventures. I've been enjoying myself, but I think it's time to start looking for another car...

Friday, June 19, 2009

Life and Cycling

This is going to be a non-typical post as I move towards writing a little bit more about life in order to keep some friends and family in the loop. Here goes!


I have to start off by saying that I'm really going to miss some of my coworkers/bosses. I'm spending this summer working (breaking even) at the community health center in middletown. It's a no frills health center with a motto that strikes a chord with me, "health care is a right, not a privilege." Sounds simple enough, doesn't it?

My task is basically to fill in the cracks that require filling. I do mostly data entry, taking information gathered from multiple studies and inputting them into a database. The studies that we've been working with are to gauge fitness and implement obesity prevention initiatives in elementary schoolers. I basically input all the data. Some of the entry work is pretty hilarious, as students are asked to state whether plants or animals are better food. I'm sure you can imagine the heart wrenching responses.

Some of the funniest/cutest ones I've seen so far are:

-I guessed.
-Animals are god's children too. We can't eat god's children!
-Because if we eat plants we don't kill animals.

You get the picture.

Back to my coworkers. One of my friends yesterday needed my ID badge to get back into the building after his lunch break. I was making fun of him, as his ID card doesn't work, and I was trying to convince him to make me a PBJ in exchange for all the times I'd lent him my card. In jest of course.

My boss, Marie, overheard me saying this to him. About 10 minutes after he left, I had a delicious PBJ sandwich presented to me. Thanks Marie!

My coworkers have also been presenting me with buy one get one free subway sandwich cards. I think they all know how much I ride and need to eat. It's pretty amusing.

As I had said, I'm going to miss them. They were all here working under a grant, and will be leaving with the completion of that grant. I think most of them are shuffling around in the organization, so I'm hoping to stay in touch with them all soon.


As a cyclist, I eat a ton. Groceries are starting to get a lot more expensive than I thought they would. I was shocked to see that my bargain hunting skills changed the price of my weekly booty from $98 to $76. Unfortunately, I'm probably going to have to go back and buy more lunch meat soon or I won't have my daily lunch sandwich...

I splurged a little the other day when I bought 3 packs of chicken breast. They were all on sale (half price!) because it was close to their sell by date, so of course I had to buy 3. Usually, I just end up buying ground chicken or beef since it's really easy to cook a ton of that with vegetables and eat that with pasta and pasta sauce.

Back to the chicken breast. One was made into chicken biryani with a friend, I made orange chicken with the second, and I cooked (attempted to) a sort of indian chicken curry with the third. Well, the chicken curry wasn't much of a curry and I had to let the sauce evaporate off because it wasn't thick enough. Luckily, it still tasted pretty good. I've been lucky that way, and haven't had terribly bad cooking experiments. That's a good thing considering that I've never really used a recipe book for cooking, even though I bookmark recipes all the time. I really should call my dad and ask him how he makes the curry. I feel that the ladies would be far more impressed with my cooking prowess if I could cook indian food. That being said, I miss eating homemade indian food. A lot of it such as Daal (lentils) are also quite easy to make in bulk and store either in the fridge or frozen. Add rice, and you're good to go.

As I tend to eat a ton, and days with 3-4 hr rides don't lend themselves well to cooking, I end up cooking in bulk often. I'll cook up enough veggies/meat for 3 or so days of food and cook pasta as needed. I started doing this during the school year because it was cheaper to cook, and I enjoy eating food that I prepare instead of random stuff at the cafeteria.

I've also taken a big brown box and started storing my food in there. This way, I'll have my own stash of food that my housemates will hopefully stay away from, and if I have my own food, I'm less likely to devour all their food when I come back starving after a 4 hour ride. I think the latter is more worrying. I do sometimes splurge and buy enough bread for the house, and bought a ton of pasta recently. I'm probably going to have to have one of my housemates buy me a big bottle of cheap red or white wine. I'm running out of cooking wine, and I have a feeling that the cooking wine is going to be much more expensive than a bottle of cheap wine, not to mention more versatile...


More on the break-even summer.

I wanted this summer to be my stint as a bike racer, but there's one big difference: I have a job lined up at school in the fall so I can afford to break even.

Let's think about this for a second...

I'm 20, and I'm at the stage of my life where I'm content being broke. I quite like it. Currently, working about 35ish hours a week, I make about 270 bucks a week at my job after taxes. I've had better jobs at home, but I wanted to stay in Middletown with friends and race in the area I know best. Let's go with 1000 a month, okay?

I pay 350 bucks a month for rent.
I'm down to 650 bucks.
I budget about 100 bucks a week for food expenses. Down to 250 bucks.

And the rest is pretty much going to racing fees, travel, and misc expenses. So it's pretty much the break even summer. Even then I've gotten lucky and managed to break even on two weekends of racing. That was pretty nice!!!

A few weeks ago, my car broke down and I had to pay 550 bucks to get it repaired. Now, I'd be in the red. Luckily, I had my last paycheck from a job at school come in and it footed the bill since it was a once a month check. If that hadn't come in, I would have had to dip into the emergency fund. I don't want to go below a set 'basal' amount in my bank account this entire summer just so I can get a hold of everything. I feel that a lot of my generation and the one before me has a knack for living out of their means, and I'd like to see how well I'd manage with just the bare minimum. I'm pretty sure getting around 1000 a month is pretty close to that.

I still have a huge advantage though.I can still get health insurance off my parents for the summer. I don't even want to think about how many more hours I'd have to put in if I wanted to be able to afford that as well.

After graduation next year, it's a whole different ball game. I've been thinking about grad school for a while, but I don't want to go straight after college. I figure I'm going to be content being broke for a bit, so I might as well have some adventures during that time. I think I want to stick around in the Middletown area and train and race for a year or two. That is unless I can land a job in Austin or SoCal. That would be divine!

Just thinking about this has given me so much respect for the athletes that are trying to 'make it' in this sport. I enjoy this and I'm trying to have some fun with it for a few years before heading back into the 'real world' but this is their real world.

Respect. Respect. Respect.

I wish them success.

Cycling: Rest Week.

I've been on a rest week this week, which I was really looking forward to. I took a short recovery ride on monday, took off tuesday, and did some light tempo and lactate threshold work on weds and thurs. Today's another recovery day.

I was thinking that I'd really enjoy this time of less riding, but I really don't like it. After 4 weeks of harder riding, my body started getting used to having a tougher workload and liked the increased volume. I've been feeling really sluggish this entire week, and was sore for the first time after a workout on thursday morning. I've also been sleeping a lot more lately and waking up feeling tired. I don't know how I feel about rest weeks. I think I'm going to start taking some more time off the bike and/or do other things in addition to riding on rest weeks. I'd love to go hiking with my friends or go out and play frisbee or tennis and I haven't done that at all this summer. I'm only 20, I might as well take advantage of my body's ability to recover.

I'm not sure how the next two weeks are going to go. I'm racing 2-3 times next weekend, and the weekend after that is going to be a pseudo rest week since I'll be in Virginia beach almost all week at a family gathering. There are a few good group rides in the area, so I think I'm going to head out to a group ride everyday and hopefully be able to latch on for some tougher ones. Hopefully there will be a race or two that I can go to either during the week (thursday nighter?) or on saturday. We'll see. I can't do fitchburg, which is a huge bummer since it's an awesome stage race and I feel like I'm finally seeing some good form. I guess my body loves the volume. I'll have plenty of time to race and train till mid august when I start up training at school. I'm hoping I can still keep up the training and racing schedule going till the season ends in the fall. Hopefully I can help a few guys on the team get some points as well.

As for this weekend, I'm racing in Charlestown, RI this weekend. Doing the Mystic Velo crit in ninigret. It might be rainy, so I'm going to watch the weather before heading down. There are also two good races in NYC this weekend, but I'm not heading to those since a 4 hr round trip is really unnecessary. I'm also missing the Housatonic Hills Road race this weekend, which is a huge bummer because I'd love to do a hilly road race. I'm a little leery about fast descents. My confidence in my descending ability isn't back yet, and I'd rather take things one at a time. It's supposed to rain on sunday as well, and doing my first road race in over a year in the pouring rain on a hilly course doesn't sound like a good time.

Oh well.

Off to RI tomorrow!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Whaling City Cyclone Crit Report

Alarm goes off. The incessant noise of my cell phone's shrill tone, screaming at me to get out of bed. It's 5:15 AM. Not college time.

I look out of the window. Damn. Rain. Terrible weather for a technical criterium. The whaling city cyclone they call it.

For some reason, I head downstairs, get ready and grab some breakfast, then head back upstairs to lazy up in front of the computer. I end up eating breakfast and deciding to go back to sleep again. Everything seems to be off: the weather, my sluggishness, but the legs are there. I reset my alarm to wake me up at 6. I figure I should head out at 6:15.

I'm up again, and I can't find the address. After 20 minutes of trying, I give up. It's 6:45. It'll be 7 before I hit the road.

I eat a poptart or two on my way to New London, CT in the pouring rain. This is going to be terrible, I think. I hate racing crits in the rain...

I call my mom at 7:40 to get the address as I near New London. She answers and checks on the computer, dazed at my wake up call. She understands though, she was watching me at nutmeg yesterday. I get the address, and she goes back to sleep. Thanks mom.

I reach the course and pull in at 7:50. My start time is at for the 4/5 race. It's still pouring...

"This isn't going to happen," I think to myself as I park and get out. I decide to forfeit the 4/5 race. I listen to my parents sometimes, and this was one of those times. My mom had heard the rain when I was stopped asking her for an address and she told me not to race if it was pouring. I willingly oblige. I hate crits in the rain. Did I mention that already?

I go and hang out at the start finish line for a bit, chatting with the neutral support crew. I pick up my number. 619. Awesome. I'm going to pin this on upside down just because I can. I love when things like this happen: palindrome numbers, 13's, 7's, numbers that are the same upside down. They excite me for some strange reason.

I find some reason to like my number before every race. Whether I add up the digits and like the total or one of the above reasons, I like my numbers. It's my number. Besides, thinking about my number helps to ease my pre-race jitters.

The 4/5 race finishes in the pouring rain. I watch the finish from the neutral support area, glad to not be part of the suffering. "I'll make my race in the 4's count," I think to myself. Out of the blue, the sun starts to emerge. Less 2 hours later, it's dry and sunny. I have 30 minutes to my race. I head down to warm up.

I set up my trainer, putting on my wind booties for good measure, they call them 'aero'. I say, why not? I chat with a few racers, telling one dismayed new guy to keep at it because you get better as you suffer more. There's gotta be a special place in hell for bike racers. We encourage each other to suffer more, suffer longer, suffer harder, and that can't be kosher. That's bike racing. I suppose the devil wouldn't want us, we like to suffer too much. I think about the weirdest things when I warm up. Before I realize, it's time to line up.

I haven't seen the course yet as the organizers are starting the next race the second the previous one finishes. I don't appreciate that...

I help a racer pin on his number because it somehow ripped. The second I finish, the whistle blows. Great timing...

I'm at the back right from the start, hanging on for dear life. I realize that my rear brake quick release is still open from when I swapped to my race wheels from my trainer wheel. I quickly close it down some so I have full use of both brakes.

An early break is making my life miserable. I struggle to hold on for over 10 minutes, enjoying my stay in the pain cave. I'm well above threshold, breathing hard, and contemplating giving up. "But I drove over an hour to get here, and if I give up in front of Kim, I'll never hear the end of it," I think to myself as my vision starts getting blurry. I contemplate throwing the 'rock on' sign or aiming my hand like a pistol at my head, as I cross the start finish line dangling off the back time and time again. I would have loved to, but I don't have the energy.

My vision starts to narrow, and the corners seem to start making sense. I can pedal through the entire course without slowing much. I cut the inside through a few corners, slowly starting to move up. I push hard and fill up the gaps that start to open up as racers get tired. I yell at a few guys, and do the work myself. I'm not giving up now, there's no going back. They'd brought back the break, I was safe.

The course is incredible. The start/finish line is atop a little hill with a 90 degree left turn, followed by a 90 degree right turn, and another 90 degree left turn in rapid succession. The last turn leads to a short roundabout with another 90 degree right turn. Then a short straightaway, a 90 degree left, short straight, and a 90 degree left. It's up the little hill to the start/finish, repeat ad nauseum.
I can pedal through everything, and dive into the inside before the roundabout and pedal through the entire thing. I gain 3-5 spots here every lap.

I find myself next to a rider from threshold who yelled at me on saturday. He later apologized, so I ride next to him and say hello. I go backwards again as the pace picks up to chase down another break. This time, I have real shelter.

We have about 10 laps to go. I should start moving up since the laps are short. Time is of the essence. 2 riders from a team right in front of me gesture to each other. One tells the other to get on his wheel so he can tow him up. Don't mind if I do. I latch on and get a tow to the front row seats. I'm now in the top 15 of about 30 guys. Good position for the next few laps.

With 5 to go, I start moving up. The rider from threshold is in the top 10 and is looking strong. I get behind him with 3 to go and fight for his wheel. "This is my wheel, there are many others like it, but this one is mine," I think to myself as I start sticking my elbows out, dissuading other racers from trying to push me out of a gap.

The pace picks up again. A rider from central wheel thins out the herd, and everything is single file. He wants to give his sprinter a better shot at the win. It's harder to get boxed in when things are strung out. I feel no pain, no exhaustion. Things are perfect. Two to go.

The rider's pull is good, and the field is stretched out. Threshold rider moves up, and I follow. We do a lap at breakneck speed, and I stick to him like glue. I know I can outsprint him, so I take his wheel into the last corner. He's been going on the inside so I sweep wide and stand up. My gearing is good.

I tuck down, rip at my bars, and push down with everything I'm worth. I see a few others start going backwards, and I keep pushing. I see the line in front of me and I throw my bike. Good for 5th. Not where I want to be, but I'll take it since I was off the back for a good bit of the race. Turns out, it was my best sprint in a race as far as power goes. It was right up there with my bests in training. Awesome.

I was still gaining on everyone at the line. I need to jump harder, strong, better, faster. And keep up the pressure till I finish the line. Then again, don't we all? Woulda, coulda, shoulda.

Time for a rest week. I can't wait. I took off tuesday after doing a recovery spin down on monday. I'm not quite ready to dive into training again, but I hate finishing poorly more than I dislike training. Heh.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

My Nutmeg CT State Games Misadventures

Short and sweet.

4/5 race:
Dropped yet another bottle, this time it was on the side of the road. No harm, but definitely a foul.
Didn't get a draft leading up to the sprint, and I took off in the gear I was spinning @ 120 rpm seated. Stood up and spun out. Sat back down. Crap.

Might as well throw the bike.

4th of a little over 20 riders.

I think that's worth 1 point.

Turns out, I was spinning at 144 rpm before I stood up without shifting. Good god...
I have STI shifters, I should probably use them a little more often...

Saw my best 1 minute ever during the race. I was good for 552W for a minute. Heh.

4's race:
Felt like crap but legs started coming around with 3 to go.
Found myself behind a teammate on the last lap in the section with a headwind.

Found myself near the front when I was supposed to be the one doing the leadout, so I took off. Learned from my earlier mistake and shifted this time.

Gap to the left, get in there.
Gap to the right, get in.
"What the hell are you doing?"
Guy behind me to the right seems to have wanted to go there again. Tough.
Stand up, feel resistance, sprint.

Go. Go. Go.

Throw bike.

4th. 2 points atleast.

Now here's the part about why I'm an idiot.

I live in CT. Work in CT. If I could vote, I'd vote in CT.

For some reason, I forgot to swap my address over to my college address. Thus, I wasn't in contention for the state jersey anyway. Dammit.

I would have had 2nd in the 4/5 race, and 3rd in the 4's for the state rankings.

Oh well.
Live and learn.

Almost halfway to the 3's.

Oh, almost forgot. Almost missed my start to the 4/5 race. And I was the last person to line up for the 4's. I literally unclipped and put my foot down as the pack started to roll away. Whoops...

Monday, June 8, 2009

Connecticut Coast Criterium

Placed 2nd. My first podium in the 4's. I shoulda started doing the 4 only races earlier!


Started the race with legs a little hesitant, so I attacked a bit and worked to bridge and bring back a few breaks in the first half of the race. When the pistons were firing, I backed off and just sat in a bit.

Biggest rookie mistake of the day was dropping a bottle...
I was drinking with my left hand with the right hand on the tops, someone slowed and I tried to brake with my left hand with a bottle and it didn't work, so I tried putting the bottle in my mouth and braking. I dropped the bottle, got yelled at, but managed to stop before hitting someone. That's not happening again.

The first bit of the race is a blur. I didn't go for any primes since I wanted to win.

With 5 to go, I start moving up again and making sure I'm at the front. I always go up the outside on this course but today I decide that I want to move up the inside at the sprint.

Last lap, I move up the inside. A guy from kissena is in front of me. I figure he might be a trackie and have a bit of a jump, so I stick on his wheel. He stands and starts going backwards. Oh well, there goes my chance of placing.

Wait! He found a gap on his right. It's now or never because the opening on the right is tiny. It's a long way to the finish, but I jump with sprinters 10-15 meters ahead of me.

I. Want. To. Win.

I push and push till the hill becomes a little steeper. In a last ditch effort, I stand and push harder. I'm closing in on the last guy ahead of me. Just a little more.

Damn, there goes the line...

I was closing on the guy who won and I woulda had him in a couple more seconds. Coulda, shoulda, woulda.

I'm ecstatic that I managed to see the opportunity the second it presented itself.

My final move was 33 seconds at 680 watts with a max of 1002 when I stood up to sprint. Given that I had absolutely no leadout for the sprint, I'm pleased.

Won 80 bucks. And I used my race winnings to do the 3/4 race.

Also, 20 min NP was 299W. Wowza...

You can see me on the left most line. I'm the 2nd guy back. That's where the sprint started for the guys at the front. I started sprinting about 2-3 seconds after that and still managed to close that gap for 2nd. Not a bad day at all!

I'm not sure if the pictures were out of order, but I think this is my sprint. I just went and kept going!
Actually, just realized it's not the sprint. I still have my bottle attached
I think I was chasing down a break here. It's early in the race since I have most of the water in my bottle.

3/4 Race:

Nothing to report really. Felt good during the entire race and wanted to have another go to try and get a top 10. Told my teammate I was behind him with 3 to go. He started chasing after a break, and caught it. But he burnt his last match in the process.

Coming up in the final lap, he isn't really advancing fast enough but for some reason I stick on his wheel and don't jump or grab another wheel. I came around him up the hill but it was way too late. He still pulled me to the front of the race so he did his job. I just failed at mine.

Position, position, position. Needs work. That's what the weekly training crits are for. I'm going to try winning them every week from now on.