Ok, really? I haven't posted since July 11th? That's just crazy, especially at the height of the summer racing season. Especially for a blog that's supposed to be about racing. Well, at least mostly.
Fact is, while I've been doing the weekly races at the Rent', I haven't been doing much other racing. The Attleboro crit was cancelled, much to my disappointment. After doing it again last year (having missed it for the previous 4 years), I vowed to make it a regular part of my season. Not this year I guess. I also missed another staple of my summer racing season - the Naugatuck crit - since I was on vacation with the Missus (a good excuse, I'd say). I skipped the Lime Rock crit (July 29) and there was no Rent' on the 31st. My main August race - the Fall River crit - was also cancelled. Major bummer since I've always done well there (including two podiums/podia?).
Other than race cancellations, there's been a lot of non-race life going on the past couple of months as well. Mrs. SOC's dad went into the hospital for a stem cell transplant in early July. He's had non-Hodgkins lymphoma for many years, but it evolved into full blown Hodgkins earlier this year. The transplant was successful and his hospital stay about as good as one could expect, but he had some complications in early August that put him back in the hospital for another bunch of days. Thankfully, his prognosis is good and he's doing much better now.
Also in mid-July, we made a trip up to Vermont to say goodbye to a dear older friend who passed away the previous month, and in early August we got some bad news about another friend who has cancer and spent some time with her. Too much sickness out there. It really makes you appreciate what you have. But it also creates a strange mixture of emotions: on the one hand, you want to affirm your life in every way possible, but at the same time it's hard to get excited and motivated about doing very much.
So it's been an unusual mid-summer for us in SOC land to say the least. But with the racing season winding down (at least for me; I don't race 'cross), it's a good time to bring you up to speed. Or at least for me to record some of the fun things we've done since I last posted. So, in chronological order...
Rent' Race - July 17
Another HOT race, in both temperatures and speed. I went with some early moves, but nothing stuck and it ended up proving my undoing. A combination of hot temperatures, local leg-breakers, and my uncharacteristic experimentation conspired against me. I did my best to hang on, but in a disappointing repeat of the previous week, I eventually pulled the plug and allowed myself to get lapped. The heart rate graph tells the tale:
Cape Cod Vacation - July 21-24
I didn't ride again until we got to Cape Cod later that week. We stayed at the same B&B we did for last year's anniversary and even got the same room with a view. Usually, you can't keep me off my bike when I'm on the Cape - the roads and scenery are just too awesome. It's been a while since we'd been there during the height of the summer season, but for some reason the traffic this time around seemed especially crazy. Between that and wanting to spend maximum time with the Missus (and not wanting to wake up extra early), I only rode one time the whole time we were there (Saturday through Tuesday). But I made my one ride count, inadvertently reclaiming a Strava KOM I'd also inadvertently first won back in February(!).
Well, that and the fact that Rt. 28 is crazy busy with traffic and there's little to no shoulder.
As cool as the KOM was, I didn't know about it at the time. So the highlight of the ride was watching the Missus at her yoga class on the beach at Chatham.
New London Crit - July 28
CLR Racing deserves huge props for reversing the trend of cancellations and bringing the Whaling City Cyclone back to New London for 2012. It's a great event and I wasn't going to miss it for anything - especially since it'd be on the same fun, technical track around the infamous Kelo property. I hadn't raced here since 2009. I chickened out of the 2010 edition after seeing the forecast - and it didn't end up raining. It was cancelled last year, so this year - despite another forecast of rain, we packed up the car and went anyway.
We arrived in time to see our friends Heavy D and Dave Bailey get 2nd place in their races and with threatening skies, SDC and I lined up. It was a fast race, despite the ups and downs and lefts and rights. The worst of it was that there was really no place to recover or to even grab a drink.
Despite the undulations and corners, it was a fast race - almost 26 mph average - but it was also a race of attrition. Riders were getting shelled and more than once I looked back, thinking I was still in the front half of the race, to see nobody behind me. I'd started near the back and it took me about 1/3 of the race to even get near the front. And once I did, I saw a split go and was determined to get in it.
I eventually made it, but I'd burned a lot of matches to get there. Unfortunately, the rest of the pack eventually made it too and the move was all for naught.
Again, the HR shows right where it happened:
Bill Yabroudy counterattacked and was away by himself for a lot of laps as the race wound down. Once another couple of guys joined him, I figured that was it. But even that move got caught with just a couple of laps left. Unfortunately, I couldn't make it up to the front in time to contest the sprint for the top spots, but once I got going nobody passed me. I was content with an official 12th place after such a tough race - but further consolation came from Strava, which "crowned" me as the KOM on the "Ft. Trumbull loop."
The rain started just as we finished packing up the car, and we had a nice lunch w/Mr. & Mrs. SDC across the Thames in Groton, watching the storm come in and the Long Island ferry go out.
Rent' Race - August 7
The Rent' was canceled on July 31 so I didn't race again for another week and a half. And after my lackluster July here, I was determined to at least not get lapped - again. But this season it's been hard to just "sit in," no matter how much you plan to. The races have been far too animated, with attacks flying, splits forming, and breaks going. You never know which one is going to be THE one that sticks. And even if you're not interested in being in the winning break, you have to cover moves to be sure you're not on the wrong side of a split - and then unceremoniously dropped.
So, despite my "plan" to "avoid attacking, covering attacks, and just sit in, not get lapped and finish" I found myself struggling to stay in the race. It was like a "devil take the hindmost" race where the last riders are pulled until there's only one left. You didn't want to be at the back. Ergo, you needed to be near the front. So much for my "plan."
When I saw a group of something like 6 guys split off the front - and assuming that the rest of the field would eventually either get lapped or dropped - I dug deep and bridged across. But once I'd made it, I knew I didn't belong there. They were motoring and pretty soon we had a 1/2 lap on the field. I say "they" were motoring because I swear it felt like each time I took a turn at the front, the pace went down. Then I started leaving gaps. My pride didn't let me let somebody else close the gaps I made, so I closed them myself - eventually. But the resulting elasticity was starting to grate on my break companions and finally one of them suggested I "go to the back and recover."
Well, I went to the back - and straight off. There was no way I was getting back in that break.
"No matter" - I thought - "I'm still ahead of the field." So I soft pedaled to recover and let the field catch me, confident that I was ahead of the game.
And I was, at that point at least. A lot of strong guys had missed the break and there was no rest or recovery back in the pack. To the field's credit, they were disciplined enough to keep at it and when the break ahead started playing games, the gap started closing. When strongman Tim launched an attack to chase, I and another couple guys went with him, but I couldn't contribute much and felt that same imposter complex I did earlier in the race. But nobody had to suggest this time that I make myself scarce. My legs made that decision for me - and for the second time, I dropped back to (what was left of) the pack.
But at least I wasn't dropped and I wasn't lapped. And - in the biggest surprise of all - I actually ended up winning the field sprint. Of course there were only, like, 8 of us left in the field at that point.
Fastest race thus far - 26mph average. And mission accomplished.
A Rail Trail Interlude - Kingston, August 8
With everything going on in "real life" (as opposed to bike racing), and welcoming a more-leisurely day on the bike, I thought the following day a perfect time to take the Missus out for a mid-week vacation day. So we packed up the bikes and headed for the William O'Neill rail trail.
We started the day with a nice brunch at one of our favorite restaurants in Mystic and arrived in Kingston in plenty of time to get a ride in. The trail goes along the old route of the Narragansett Pier Railroad from Kingston to Narragansett and, with no real hills to speak of and great scenery, it's the perfect route for a relaxing ride.
But the big payoff is at the end/turning point of the trail when you come out onto Narragansett Bay, with its cool breezes and crashing waves. And at under 10 mph average, you have plenty of time to enjoy it all.
Rent' Race - August 14
FINALLY! A field sprint! But I'm getting ahead of myself.
The temperature's getting noticeably cooler and the sun's getting to the horizon more quickly. A lot of guys are either winding up their season, or taking a short breather before starting cyclocross season. And, unfortunately, in at least one case the hiatus is unplanned and unwelcome. Local legbreaker broke his pelvis on a training ride the previous Sunday, taking a lot of steam out of the race (get well soon Ben!). There was still a lot of horsepower lining up last Tuesday, but some of the usual suspects that so often form the breaks weren't there.
And the race reflected their absence: no break stuck, and the average speed was the highest of the whole series so far - 26.9 mph(!) How does that happen? Easy - there's little elasticity, little easing up, and full gas the whole race.
Fortunately, it also is the type of race that tends to suit me. I don't have to cover as many attacks since the high speed discourages attacks. With few attacks, there's little chance for a break to form. With no break, everyone's motivated thinking they have a chance, so any breaks are smothered before they have a chance to really get going.
So the race was mostly just going fast, trying to stay as sheltered as possible, and keeping out of trouble - especially in the corners. Ironically, despite (or because of?) a warning before the race to keep speed up in the corners and not sit up, that's exactly what happened in corner two toward the end of the race. We came into the corner fast, but inexplicably, everyone seemed to slow up. That causes a chain reaction and by the time the last 1/2 of the field gets to that point, it's all hands on brakes. I locked up my rear wheel and fishtailed a bit as the guy in front/to the side of me went into my front wheel, but we all stayed upright, fortunately.
This time, the speed graph tells the story - see where I about came to a stop:
I knew Kevin's wheel would be the one to get on, but unfortunately as he came by, I didn't have the snap I'd hoped. I was right up there though and finally sprinted for real for one of the few times this season, coming in 6th.
This past Sunday marked the beginning of my last week of racing for 2012 - at least until the Jamestown Road Race Columbus Day. But I always treat that as a pure fun, almost promenade, race. Masters Championships at Ninigret, a Rent' race tonight, then the new Kermis this coming Friday and that's it for the crits for me this year.
Stay tuned for reports from all three races in my next post....