Today's Bethel Cat 3/4 race, as told by the inimitable Swedish Chef:
I'm pretty tired after today's race, so I'll post a full report w/finishline video later :^)
Today's Bethel Cat 3/4 race, as told by the inimitable Swedish Chef:
I'm pretty tired after today's race, so I'll post a full report w/finishline video later :^)
As those of you who follow me on Twitter or Facebook already know, I crashed during a training ride Thursday evening and broke my shoulder blade. I was on my normal short training loop and taking a corner I've taken dozens of times before, fast but not crazy, and about 1/2 way through my wheels just came right out from under me. As near as I can tell, I hit a slick spot of oil. I hit the pavement pretty hard and slid across two lanes of traffic. Fortunately, I stopped sliding right before I got to the opposing lanes - and also fortunately, that traffic was stopped for the light.
I hit my shoulder very hard, ripping up my jersey - thankfully, it was my right shoulder, not the left where I broke my collarbone last year. I hit my right arm/elbow and slid on my right hip. I hit my head, but not too hard - helmet didn't crack. Lots of roadrash, but not as much as I expected considering how far I slid. Bike was ok after I knocked the front brake back over so I could free the front wheel. I rode the rest of the way home.
By the time I got home, my right arm was stiffening up quite a bit, so I started calling the guys that were on their way over to cancel our historical society meeting for that night. I figured I should have my shoulder checked out and would drive myself to the walk-in clinic. One of the guys was almost to the house anyway and offered a ride which I am VERY glad I took - by the time he arrived, there was no way I was going to be able to drive my truck (5pd shift).
Already-long-story-a-little-shorter, after spending most of the rest of the night in the clinic getting x-rayed and such, the doctor told me I'd broken my scapula. Got my jersey and undershirt cut off and my road rash cleaned and dressed. Despite the huge raspberry on my hip, the Pearl Izumi shorts hardly look like anything happened.
Bike is ok near as I can tell so far. Nothing really bad apparent on the ride home for sure. My nice red brake hoods are pretty scraped up, as is the left(?!) lever. But I think everything's fine. Can't believe I didn't lose anything - pump, seatbag, Garmin, CatEye all stayed attached to the bike. Glasses went flying, but I got those. New iPhone and other jersey-pocket-contents stayed put.
So, all in all, it could have been much, much worse. It's a pain, literally and figuratively. But it's probably the best time of the year - bike racing wise anyway - for it to happen.
And, obviously, I can type ok. :^)
Thank you again to all of you that have sent me well-wishes and phoned. The best consolation during all this is getting such great support and encouragement from friends. So thanks - you guys are the best.
Now, without further ado, and considering today is Halloween, herewith follows one of my favorite post. Sadly, I won't be riding past any cemeteries any time soon, but if you do be sure to let me know if you see anything, er, interesting . . .
If you want to see ghosts, ride your bike in Autumn along a lonely back road. I don't believe in ghosts - at least not the kind you usually think about. But I do believe in the ghosts of the past - the hauntings of a place by the memories of the people who were there. Who were they? Did they have dreams and plans like we do today?
My friend John and I rode past this cemetery a couple years ago. It's a fairly typical example for this part of the state, where old farmland has been reclaimed by the forest just like the farmers and their families were eventually claimed by time. It's a very quiet place out in the New England countryside, made all the more eerie by the sunless sky and cold breeze.
On a bike, you're not only closer to everything physically - you smell the fallen leaves and the wood fires burning and feel the cold wind on your skin - but you get closer mentally as well. Out in the country on a bike all you hear besides the hum of your tires on the pavement are the sounds of the wind going by, the squirrels gathering their food for the winter, and the rustling of the trees.
If during your ride you stop at a spot like this and imagine, even for a few minutes, how these people lived, who they loved, what their hopes were and whether they ever achieved them, you might see some ghosts. At the very least you'll appreciate more deeply what they went through and how privileged we are today.
And if you're especially quiet, you may even hear in the sound of the leaves floating by on the breeze a whisper of thanks from those people for not letting them be forgotten.
This week's Tuesday Night Races were notable for a few reasons. Mrs. Suitcase was able to drive up to watch for the first time this season - and I have to admit, her presence gave me that extra little push to show off a little. (C'mon - you know you still let your inner adolescent out occasionally too) Unfortunately, during some of my best efforts, she was talking to another notable. Mr. & Mrs. SDC came to the races too and we even got to race together a little bit (The Mr., not the Mrs.) Unlike the last time we got together at a race, we actually got to dinner as planned. Which leads me to another notable occurance.
That's the number of corners that I successfully negotiated in the "B" race. And by 1/2 way through the race, I began to enjoy cornering again, rather than fear it.
No, I didn't actually count them. But thanks to the handy dandy lap counter on my Garmin, it was just a matter of arithmetic.
It was so nice to feel good in a race again. I've mentioned how last week's Tuesday race and the Naugy crit last Sunday were both tough mentally. But this week, it all seems to be getting back to normal. Thankfully.
Of course, having good friends there - and the prospect of sharing a nice dinner no matter what the result - made it even better. SDC and I even got to race together for a bit, which brings me to the final notable of the night:
The "A" race
The Rentschler Field Training Series has an A race and a B race. The B race goes first and includes Cat 4s and 5s. Since there may be some new racers in the bunch, the first few laps are neutralized. The A race is for "everybody else" - Pro-1-2-3 as well as Cat4s. So, as a 4, you can race both races.
That's what I did - notably for the first time - this week.
With 2 laps to go in the B race, friend Esteban came alongside yelling "VAMOS!" and I grabbed his wheel. He clearly - and generously - intended to lead me out. It was all I could do to hold his wheel, but when he pulled off with one lap to go I gave it all I had. I blew by the remnants of the break that had been away and was just about out of gas at the last corner - when I heard the tell-tale sound of carbon wheels winding up. Two guys went past me with about 75 meters to go.
That's prologue for my performance in the A race, which started 2 cool-down laps after the B race finish.
UNlike the B race, the A race goes from the gun. After the first corner, my HR was already pegged, I was in the drops and trying not to lose the wheel in front of me (a common occurance that night). Turns out, the A racers are - shall we say - quite a bit faster than the Bs.
I was dropped after 3 laps.
Now THAT'S embarrassing when your wife is there. But fortunately, she's super supportive - and she was enjoying chatting with Mrs. SDC so hopefully didn't see the main damage.
Figuring I'd get my 8 bucks worth, I soldiered on, collecting other riders for the Autobus and trying not to get lapped, again.
It was actually more fun than I've had in a race for a while. When I finally was able to tag back onto a line, it was like motorpacing - I'd never been through those corners that fast! It's a whole different experience to rail a corner in a line rather than in a bunch.
SDC and I finally decided it'd be good to bail out and get the Missuses to dinner. Good thing, since I was doubting my ability to walk from the car to the restaurant.
I'm already looking forward to doing it again next week - but next time, if I try the As, I won't bury myself with the Bs first.
And I won't bother counting the corners. They're no longer such a big deal.
Being able to get back on the road recently and just ride for the sheer enjoyment of it got me to reminiscing about how I got into serious cycling/racing in the first place. . .
My wife (long before she was Mrs. Suitcase) and I were coming up on our 10th Anniversary and the subject of gifts came up. I already knew what I was going to get her as a symbol of my love and commitment, but "what can I get you?" she asked. Well, it just so happened that I`d been riding my mountain bike on railtrails a lot but - since seeing LeMond win the Tour while I was in High School - I had always wanted a REALLY LIGHT and REALLY FAST road bike. I`d even hoped back then to race a little, but never did. "Why not?" I thought - maybe a new bike would be a good gift!
So I had a LOT of fun doing all the research and shopping around, finally choosing a 2005 Cannondale R900 (CAAD8 frame, Campy Veloce gruppo, sexy Gipiemme low-spoke count wheels - sweet!). Boy what a difference from my old ride! Stiff, responsive and SOOOOO light.
That was early August 2005. By the end of the month - and knowing nothing about "training" - I decided to take advantage of a beautiful day and just take a nice long ride on my new bike. So I mapped out (what I thought was) a moderately long loop, packed up and mounted my handlebar bag(! including a book, flipflops, lunch, etc(??!)) and set off. About halfway through the route, I stopped at a bike shop and, after asking me where I was riding from, the owner said – “ah, you’re going for a century, eh?” A “CENTURY”?! I’d of course heard of these feats, but it frankly hadn’t even occurred to me. Until then. He suggested I check my odometer – “you’re sure to be close even if you just turned around now…” He was right. By the time I got back to my truck a few hours later, I had ridden just over 100 miles. The last 25 or so were brutal. I did it though – but decided to learn about “training.”
A few weeks later, I heard about a race in Jamestown, RI on Columbus Day. I’d also met a former racer at my church (amazing what talks of “centuries” will bring out of the woodwork!) and thought seriously about entering. But didn’t think I was *quite* ready for that yet. From my century experience, I knew I had pretty good stamina – but what about actual speed?
Fast forward to Winter 2006. I’d just turned 37 and had this great bike and figured I wasn’t getting any younger. I wanted to try racing a least ONCE in my life. So I bought or borrowed all the books I could find on racing and training and, with the help of my race friend (Mickey), Chris Carmichael and Troy Jacobsen (via video), started getting into some kind of shape. I entered my first race – the Hartford (CT) Criterium. A perfect venue, I thought. Not only around a nice park, but I could see the park itself from my office window. Talk about incentive – if I failed to race it, its mere presence would just taunt me. And I could at least try it out before work (and traffic). So I rode it once myself and once with Mick and figured I could at least *finish* if nothing else. I also heard about a training crit on Tuesdays which I thought I should try out just to remove a bit of the mystery from racing.
What a disaster – and what a blast!! The cornering was the toughest part. No, actually, the cornering ROCKED! Getting dropped after 5 laps – with about 20 left to go – was the toughest part. Of course, there was a stiff headwind. On *both* sides of the track (or so it seemed). But I kept slogging away – determined to finish even if it killed me. And was thankfully lapped with 3 laps to go. Being sheltered in the pack – even if they’re on a different lap – was sweet. But I had my work cut out for me. Need more speed. That was Tuesday May 23rd and my first race was the following Sunday.
Suffice it to say I was pretty nervous Sunday morning. As Mickey suggested, my goals were just to be safe and not crash (um, great advice still today...). Finishing would be a bonus – especially for a first race. After I got over the worse nerves at the starting line, fearing I’d warmed up TOO much (the race ended up running about 40 min late) and spent what little gas I may have had, I started off grabbing the first wheel I could. My strategy – if you could call it that – was to just grab the wheel of whoever was leading and hang on for as long as possible. I figured if I was toward the front I’d be less likely to be involved in a crash (fulfilling goals 1 & 2) and if I could just hang on to a wheel, I’d be more likely to finish (getting the “bonus”).
So that’s what I did – for 14 out of 15 laps. On the second to the last lap, there was a crash. Thankfully, it was behind me – but I’ll never forget the sound of it, all banging metal and cursing. Fortunately, nobody was hurt seriously, but it did shake all us Cat5s up a little. Then, literally going into the final corner of the last lap, as we were getting out of our saddles to sprint for the line, the guy next to me and I hit wheels. We both recovered (miraculously) and didn’t go down, but it was enough to break my concentration.
Despite that – MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! Not only did I not crash, and not only did I FINISH, but I was in the TOP THIRD for my first race! I’d actually been in the first 5 going into the final corner, but got beat at the line by 12 others. I discovered later that my front wheel was bent and my left brake lever was pushed over, so it’d been an even harder bump than I thought. But I couldn’t blame that for my showing – I was out of gas at the line anyway. But WOW – 13th out of 37 in my first race. VERY cool!
Haven't done quite as well there since - 37th last year, and DNF this year. But just thinking about how it all started makes me want to get out there again as soon as possible . . .
Not that I need any additional perspective on crashes lately. This is every road racer's worst nightmare. Full story is here. Near as I can gather, this was a typical amateur road race - much like the ones we all participate in.
Our thoughts and prayers go to the family of Alejandro Alvarez in their loss, as well as to the survivors whatever their injuries. It's a true miracle that there weren't more fatalities.
Whether you're racing or "just" riding, be careful out there.
(thanks to J.J.O. for alerting me to this story)
I came back from Louisville pumped for riding and racing, actually looking forward to making up the training days I'd lost. I figured I'd rest Monday, do the Sleeping Giant ride/race Tuesday, ride into work Wednesday, rest Thursday and then do an easy spin Friday in prep for the Memorial Day Weekend races in Stafford Springs and Hartford. A strange omen of how the weekend would end, I missed the Sleeping Giant Ride and got two flat tires in two other rides on consecutive days. Friday night's spin was the first time I'd ridden that week when I didn't get a flat.
But Saturday dawned beautifully - a great way to kick off the first "official" weekend of summer. My first and second races ever were Hartford and Stafford Springs, so it was neat to have a chance to race them back-to-back. Bike and gear packed, we headed for Stafford Springs Motor Speedway - a great track in northeastern Connecticut. It's just what you think it is - we race on the racetrack, with only a chicane after the start/finish to break up the loop.
It was great to see some friends, new and old, during the warmup - Esteban & Gil, and even Victor who I'd met at this same race 2 yrs ago. And as you can see, I even got to toe the line at the start. That's JoeP from our team behind me and to my right.
The best though was seeing friends Mickey and Dave again. They're both getting back into racing after a LONG hiatus and had raced that morning. I hadn't raced with them since Plainville so it was great to be on a track with them again. That's Mickey at the start of our race.
And Dave's third from the right, during the race.
The Cyclonaut's Stafford Springs Crit is one of the safer races around - no curbs, lots of places to bail out and mostly just beautiful paved oval. The race was as about as typical a crit as you could describe. It was here I got my first ever placing 2 yrs ago - coming in 3rd winning the pack sprint.
I had good luck here again Saturday - "luck" in the form of new-friend Guido who kindly offered to lead me out. It had been a fairly uneventful race, but I was still a bit tired not being at quite the form I'd hoped. And I heard later there was a crash in our race, but I didn't notice it from where I was. By the time we got to the bell lap and Guido yelled at me to take his wheel, I didn't know if I could hold it. He's a very strong rider - even after having raced another race earlier in the day - but I was able to keep up (barely). What was a little tougher - and a new experience for me - was actually holding the wheel. Seemed like everybody we passed wanted to be where I was and I actually had to lean back into some guys and hold my elbows out to hold my position.
We got to the front of the field and with about 100 meters left I tried to come around, but didn't have much snap left. I guess a few other guys had either been on my wheel - or had a little leadout train of their own - because at the line there were 5 of us pretty close together. Three guys hit the line ahead of me, but I got 4th - and, with 65 starters, some much-needed upgrade points. Thanks Guido!
Here's a video of the finish - courtesy Mrs. Suitcase:
After the race, I went home to recover and prepare for the Hartford Crit the next day. That is if you think "recovery" includes loading up two truckloads of stuff for the dump, chainsawing a juniper down, and chopping up the stump with an axe. Unfortunately, I don't have any
domestiques domestics to help with such things. Fortunately, Mrs. Suitcase stopped me shortly after I'd started with the ax reminding me that I needed to "save something for tomorrow."
Who was I to argue? :^)
The next day was even more beautiful than Saturday - and better still that the race wasn't until the afternoon. So we spent a leisurely morning around the house and moseyed on up to Hartford, really looking forward to the race being over so we could get to visiting and dinner with SDC and his lovely wife.
Here's me and SDC. I should have paid attention to the sign . . .
One of my favorite things about the races are the guys you meet. I finally got to meet Hobgoblin in person and it was nice to see ShawnW again, upgraded to Cat4 in this year's edition of Hartford. JoeK, ChrisB and Dillon from our team were there along with JoeP and me. Esteban had also made a weekend of it, racing with the 5s right before us.
My race was the last one of the day. Hartford is always a great race - very competitive and many racers target it. It's a short race, but its technical and often has some of the largest fields of the season. As I mentioned before here, it was also my first race ever and the track goes right past my office window. So it has some sentimental value too.
The race started fast - or so my body, tired from the previous day's events, thought - and then settled in. I actually felt better than I thought I would and, while I didn't have any expectation of winning the race or even getting on the podium, I thought I might have a chance to get some more upgrade points.
Things were a little sketchy, especially in the downhill second corner. Too much hitting of the brakes. Then I noticed even corner 1 was getting a little nutty - more brakes, even though it was uphill. But that's all not too uncommon in crit racing. Unfortunately, the Cat4 races here in 2006 and 2007 had the dubious distinction of having the only crashes of the entire day.
This year's edition continued the record. And worst of all, this time I was in it.
We went through the start/finish with 6 laps to go and I was feeling better than I thought I would at that point. When we got to the corner at the top of the hill (more of a "rise") I was in the middle of the pack, about 3-4 guys from the inside. I don't know if someone hit the curb, got nervous and overcorrected or what, but out of the corner of my eye, I saw guys moving left pretty hard (through a right turn). Then the guy to the right and in front of my went HARD left, taking out my front wheel. I had nowhere to go and no time to correct. I went down hard on my left shoulder. Then my head. Then my left hip. Then everything else.
About 5 of us went down. When I got up, I saw some guy tangled up in my bike about 7 meters down the road and I immediately felt a sharp pain in my shoulder. I cradled my left arm, thinking I might have dislocated it. I somehow carried my bike over to one of the barricades and we all got out of the way before the pack made it back through. We were all relatively ok - we could all get up. 3 of the guys limped off, but me and one other Cyclonauts guy got under a shade tree waiting to be checked out.
When the ambulance got there, the EMTs didn't think anything major was wrong - nothing seemed dislocated or broken, but thought it best to be checked out. So I got a ride in the ambulance to Hartford Hospital. Major thanks to all who hung out with me while I waited - especially to Mr. & Mrs. SDC who traded an early dinner for emergency-room conversation and a later dinner. It was priceless to have a fellow racer pack my bike and gear just so in our not-so-big trunk and keep us company at the hospital.
The hospital was a story in itself - and I won't bore you with all the gory details. But suffice it to say that we were all expecting I would get my road rash treated and be sent on my way. Despite the fact that the doctor on duty didn't see any outward evidence of any fracture or dislocation, he wanted me x-rayed to be certain. I figured at worse, I'd have a fairly painful GYGIG ride next week - but at least a good story to share.
When the xray came back, the doctor said - "Well you fooled me." I'd actually joined The Club that so many racers have joined before me.
I'd broken my collarbone.
What this is going to mean for my racing season - much less my ambition (as stated at the top of my blog) to advance from "wheelsucker to Cat3 racer" - remains to be seen. Obviously I'm MAJORLY bummed - I'd gotten a total of 7 upgrade points in my last two races - and need "only" 20 to upgrade.
But even worse is what this already means for my MAJOR fundraiser and one of the primary reasons I started this blog in the first place. As any long-time reader knows, I have a passion for raising awareness - as well as funds - for Crohns disease research and a cure. Having Crohns myself - and loving my bike - the Get Your Guts in Gear charity ride has become an annual highlight. And it takes place at the end of next week. Thanks to many of you, I've already raised much-needed funds and was looking forward to sharing my ride with you all again this year. But with the doctor's advice to not ride for 6 weeks (I'm getting a second opinion from an orthopedist this Thursday morning :^) I won't be able to ride.
I can't not participate though. So I hope I can be part of the crew that supports the riders. Not only will it give me a chance to still be part of a cause I feel strongly about, but it'll give me a chance to see the ride - and the riders - from the "other side of the table." Strangely, and thankfully, I'm already looking forward to next weekend at least as much as I was before this setback.
And if Mrs. Suitcase's review of my race schedule is correct, I'll only end up missing my two June races. So, as Le Tour starts in July, I may be back on the starting line myself...
As I've mentioned before, the 2006 version of this race was my first race ever, so it has a certain sentimental value. It also goes right by where I work - I can see the circuit around Bushnell Park from my office window.
Last year, my goals were modest and my expectations low. I'd just participated in my first training race the previous Tuesday. I got shelled off the back within the first 5 laps - then got lapped with 3 left to go and rejoined the pack (a welcome relief after being out in the wind by myself all that time).
But my real goal - given to me by my friend and unofficial coach Mickey (himself a former racer) - was just to stay upright and finish. In that order. After my training race, I didn't expect do much more than that, but hoped to stay in contact with the pack.
One thing about low expectations - they're easy to exceed. Not only did I stay upright and finish, but I was able to stay near the front of the pack. I suffered a lot to stay there - but knew that I'd be total toast if I let myself slip back. At the risk of being branded a wheelsucker, I grabbed onto every wheel I could in a desperate bid to stay sheltered.
(Like Waldo, look for me in the pics with the red SAECO team jersey. As always, you can click on the pic for a larger, detailed view.)
My "strategy" worked. Even though in the last corner another bike and mine bumped and almost locked together (a scary proposition for any racer, much less in a first race), and I lost some speed (and nerve), I still had some energy for a sprint. And came in 13th out of 37.
Remember that 37.
Fast forward a year. After doing much better than expected for my first year of racing, upgrading to Cat4, and even being ranked #1 Cat4 crit racer in the state for a time (according to the USCF), my expectations for myself were much higher. Probably unrealistically high.
But my enthusiasm was tempered by the fact that I'd injured my knee in my last training race last month, and this year the race takes place during my busiest time of year at work. The view out my office window isn't enough to make up for the small amount of sleep I've been getting lately.
Despite my best efforts to keep my expectations low, I still had the usual pre-race jitters. Actually, "jitters" doesn't do them justice. It's more like a pre-race psychosis - "I don't wanna do this - why am I doing this" etc. It just about sucks the fun out of the whole thing for me. The only thing that gets me through is knowing 1) that it's ALWAYS like this before all my races; and 2) just as sure, it's ALWAYS better once I get off the starting line and focused.
And of course, once I got to the venue I was glad I made it. It's always very cool to see the other racers - other men and women that know what it's like to train, to suffer and to sacrifice time for a little bit of glory - or just to prove to themselves that they can do something few others can - or would even try. It's great to be around such people.
As a little reprise of last year, friend Shawn was there for HIS first crit. He races for Van Dessel and had his new bike with him - as were his very supportive wife and kids. They were a pleasure to meet. That's him in the pic to the left - after he made the same mistake I did in my first training race, trying to go hard at the beginning and then getting popped off the back. His effort earned a mention at his team's website though!
And Aki was there too. I've mentioned him on this blog before. He's someone whose dedication to the sport of cycling is contagious and he's one of the promoters of the famed Bethel Spring Series of training crits. He also wrote one of the best intros to racing I've ever read. As if that wasn't enough, he's got a blog chock full of great stories, race reports, and even race video from his ever-present helmet cam(!).
Well, Aki had mentioned previously that he would be in the Cat3 race before mine so it was a good thing I didn't let my nerves get the best of me and actually showed up. (that's the finish of his race in the pic to the left) I finally got to meet him and his SO in person and was flattered when they decided to hang around and watch me race.
So after chatting with Aki and Ann, I finished warming up and got to the starting line. Teammate Dillon joined me and we decided it best to just sit in, stay upright and see where we were at the end. (that's him at the left - #870)
The race started out fast and after the first lap I discovered that I was closer to the back than the front. Not great, but ok - I figured I'd just move up when ready. Problem was, the couple of times I moved up, I decided it was too early - and didn't wanna be out front for long. And then, when I needed to get near the front, everybody else had the same idea and the whole pace of the pack was too high to gain much ground.
And I discovered that, since my crash, I'd become a bit more conservative in my racing - giving plenty of space, staying on the outside edges of the pack, not being agressive in corners. As a result, I used a lot more energy than I needed to. And continued to lag near the back.
But at least I was on the opposite side of the road when a big crash occurred during the final laps (that's me on the far side of the road - #800) There must've been less than 5 laps to go because I thought I'd just heard the announcement that there were no more free laps right before the crash happened. I just saw it out of the corner of my eye - looked pretty bad. Somebody said later that one of the bikes flipped. All I saw was a lot of guys went down. And, of course, I heard the all-too-familiar sound of yelling and metal crashing. Weird thing was, it happened right on the straightaway near the start-finish. And it was the ONLY crash that day up to that point. Lucky us. "Crash 4s", eh? Even the 5s - though sketchy - were safe.
Well, like often happens after a crash, we all reflexively thought "man, that sucks - glad it wasn't me" and raced harder (or am I the only one that thinks that?). But when we came around the final corner back into the straightaway, all sorts of folks were in the road waving their hands for us to slow - there was a "Man Down!" that we needed to avoid.
We were (supposed to be) "neutralized" at that point - nobody gaining or losing position - but a few guys either didn't know that's what that meant, or just couldn't keep their bike from "coasting" faster than the others. So, other than folks amiably chatting about the race and the crash, there was some yelling. When we came around the final corner the second time, they had the road blocked and an ambulance there too. So they went ahead and stopped us.
For about 10 minutes (or at least it seemed that long).
Fortunately, only one guy went to the hospital - from what I hear, a good Tuesday night rider that just got caught in among some sketchy riders - and he had a new tatoo - on the leg that got hurt. OUCH! And one of the other guys that was in the crash joined back up with us at the new start/finish line. BRAVO!
So we get our last marching orders - "5 to go or 3 to go?" we were asked. There was no real consensus, so the marshall decided to start us "neutralized through the first corner and then you're racing" for 3 laps.
I usually try to ramp up my speed during the course of a race and get into good position. That kind of strategy - I quickly discovered - ain't gonna work in what turns out to be a 3 lap pack sprint! Of course it didn't help that there was no such thing as being neutralized to the first corner %^O and it really didn't help that I started off in my usual, calm collected way (as if I had a whole race to get to the front).
So, suffice it to say, I was near the back pretty quickly. Again. And it REALLY didn't help my motivation when, in the second corner of that first lap (probably the toughest corner on the track - sharp, gets narrow, and has a curb on the far side) BLAM! a guy's rear tire blows out and he goes down, taking another couple guys with him.
At that point I figured, "uh, how about if I just treat the rest of this race (all 2 1/2 laps!) as training." Didn't keep me from trying to keep up with the pack and sprint at the end though. When the guy I was going around down the stretch decided - for no reason - to veer left into my line, I just sat up.
So I finished my first "real" (non-training) race of the season, a reprise of my first race ever, upright. Mission accomplished.
And I came in 37th, out of 56 finishers (71 started). Not exactly the result I'd hoped for, but at least I wasn't in the hospital.
It was VERY cool to be racing in a pack again after being on the DL for so long. And I think this result may even help the pre-race jitters - I can focus on the fun of racing rather than putting myself under undue - and unrealistic - pressure to win all the time. Though I DO need to post some good results to upgrade out of "Crash 4s."
Maybe racing Masters would be safer?
You can see a video of the finish - taken by Mrs. Suitcase - below . . .
Some of the photos on this post (the especially good ones) were purchased from mjstuart.com
Every Tuesday night - until it gets too dark to do it - you'll find a bunch of roadies hangin' around the lot at Sleeping Giant State Park (click here for a previous mention of The Giant). Unfortunately, I haven't (yet) taken a pic of this gathering - but just imagine if the Crips & Bloods rode bikes and got together once a week to bash each other's legs to jello and you get an idea of the scene. You can understand why even a small camera is too much weight to carry around on such a
There's no sponsor, no organization and no prizes. It's supposedly a spontaneous group ride - kind of like Critical Mass, but without the cops. It starts spontaneously (I still haven't figured out who decides when) and moves along nice and easy out along Rt. 10. Once we turn off 10 and onto the backroads though, it's as-fast-as-you-dare (considering oncoming traffic and intersections) all the way from Hamden, up to Southington through Cheshire and back. 20-30 miles of rolling terrain and potholes - at AVERAGE speeds of around 25 mph(!).
Apparently, it's a pretty popular route. I heard Lance Armstrong even showed up for a ride once, long ago - though I'd be interested in hearing any of the older guys confirm it. But I guess I wouldn't be surprised - I know for a fact that the current Masters World Mountain Bike silver medalist is a regular, and I've seen racers from Fiordifrutta on their new Cannondale System Sixes. The Anthem team is also well-represented.
So if you're all set with training crits and need some road race training, this might be the right ride for you. But be sure to bring flat fixin's - the road surface can be lousy and if you flat, you're on your own. And I wouldn't recommend your race wheels either.
Let me know if you've ever been there - or are interested in joining us!
(If you're looking for this week's edition of "Why Cycle Wednesday," stay tuned - I'll post it later tonight. I promise you won't want to miss it!)
ANOTHER week off from racing - ARGH!
For those of you in the back who just joined us, I crashed at the Plainville race a couple of weeks ago. You can read a report of it here. My knee was still pretty swollen almost a week later, so I took off the next race (4/14) to give it more time to heal. But cool thing - our team won! (race report here) Knee still wasn't feeling right riding on it that Sunday, so I went to the orthopaedist Monday.
The X-rays were inconclusive - the dr thought he saw a small fracture on the kneecap - so he sent me for an MRI Tuesday. I got the MRI results later in the week - no fracture (yay!) but "a severe bone bruise which will take a while to heal, but it will heal." So that was Very Good News. If it there'd been a fracture, I was looking at 4-6 weeks in a "knee immobilizer" - which didn't sound at all good (especially since my 210 mile charity ride is June 8-10!). I actually got a CD with all the MRI pics on it - and, a la Floyd Landis, I was going to post it for all you budding doctors out there (a blog first?), but it requires its own viewer. So you'll just have to imagine (yuck).
After my good news, I was itchin' to race last Saturday - especially since it was the LAST RACE of the Plainville Series and, despite missing the previous race, I was still tied for 5th place in the individual overall. Even more importantly, my team was only 5 points out of first place in the team overall (or so we were told - more on that in the report below) and only the top three scoring team members can earn points for the team. I was one of the top three and Joe K (one of the other top three) couldn't make it. That left it all up to strong man Chris B. My new coach, who knows that I can't race without sprinting and that's tough on knees, strongly recommended that I not race. It didn't seem smart to pay him all that money and not take his advice - and it is WAAAAAY too early in the season to be screwing up my knee - so I decided to sit out the last race.
But the team ended up not needing me after all - Joe K showed up and Chris B did a super solo attack. It was a very fast race and Joe pulled out a win for the team!! Since I wasn't there, I can't do it justice, so read a full report here. CONGRATULATIONS JOE and the rest of Team Epic Velo!
Aki also did a report on his blog about that day. While his post focuses on his race (the noon Cat 3/4 race), he does a fantastic job of describing some of the tactics and thinking during racing. Check it out here.
The series ended wonderfully for the team - and we learned a lot about racing, and a little more about each other too. It was a great start to what I hope will be a great season. For me personally, it was a mixed bag. I scored points in every race I was in, but I missed the last two (and the two best races for our team - Hmmmm..... I hope there's no connection there.) I ended up tied for 6th overall, which I guess isn't bad considering I didn't finish Race #4, and didn't race #5 & #6.
My next race now will be the Hartford Criterium May 27. This was my first race ever - less than a year ago - so I'm looking forward to a better result this time. Nothing but training until then - though I plan to ride the NYC 5 Boro Ride May 6.
I also plan to do the "Flattest Century in the East" - but that's not unil Sept. 9. If you have the flyer, check it out. See the pic of the guy filling his water bottle? Guess who that is! Team Epic Velo/Cheshire Cycle flag flies at last year's TFCE! Check out the Garmin data from last year's ride here (over 100 miles at 20 mph avg!).
As always, you can leave comments on this blog by clicking the "Comments" link at the bottom of the post - so let me know if you plan to attend either of these events!
I've updated the 2007 Totals as of Sunday 4/22/07 (left column). The YTD total now reflects ALL bike miles, including rollers, trainer & road miles. This week's miles are still lower since I took off Mon-Wed off for the knee. Also updated the fundraising thermometer for my GYGIG charity ride (see button at top of left column) - it's getting close!
So that's all the news that is the news for now. Stay tuned for this week's edition of "Why Cycle Wednesday" . . .