Sunday, May 31, 2009

Hellyer Track Racing: Get Ready for Summer (May 31, 2009)

What an awesome day and what a blast racing on the track was today. I don't have anything to show for it since I managed to make a few tactical blunders but I'm very happy with my first day on the track and -more importantly- had a great time racing and hanging out with folks and making new friends. So let the boring gory detail begin!

First Race: Kieren Race one. In a nutshell, you ride behind a motorcycle getting paced for a number of races, the motor pulls off and you go like mad for about 500 meters. The ticket is to be second or third wheel so the poor sap on the front acts like the motorcycle after the motorcycle is gone. In my heat I ended up being that poor sap and when the motor pulled off I just turned it up to eleven and owned the pole lane. One fast youngster smoked me with 200 meters to go and then a little pocket rocket girl easily went around me for the finish (she won the women's cat 4 race at the Wente Criterium).

Kieren Heat Two (repeat heat?): So if you aren't first or second you get a chance to earn your way back into the final heat by getting second or first in this one. Think best of the rest. I was last wheel of seven and started moving up when the motor pulled off. At 200 meters I was on the stayer's line and just jumped as hard as I could. My jump is not really all that strong but I was able to wind it up enough to come around everyone in turns three and four and win the heat and get into the final.

Kieren Final: I'd already tasted my eggs and begal breakfast once today and this was the second time. I could only manage fifth place (of six). But that was okay. I was just happy to get three heats worth of racing under my belt.

Scratch Race: This is just a basic race of fifteen laps and the first guy across the finish wins. No tricks, no counting points in your head, just race and try to sprint at the end. I mainly just surfed around in the pack trying to get comfortable with a pack at race speed. Mostly I found myself at the back -my predestined place in any pack race for some reason. Hesitated when I saw what I should do, started my sprint too late and not sure where I finished. Maybe sixth?

Miss and Out: Simple rules. Last guy across the line on a lap is out. First lap I took the very high outside and just accelerated to the mid pack level. Easy! Second lap, same thing. Third lap, did it again. Hey this is easy, lemme try to do it going low. D'OH! Shouldn't have broken a good recipe for success. I (predictably) got boxed in and that was that.

Snowball: The first person across the line on each lap gets points. The points increase as the race goes along. I sat in for four laps then decided to try and get some points. I sprinted but failed to catch the person on the line. But I did notice that I had closed a three bike length gap up to the sprint so I just dove down the track in turn one and put the pedal to the metal. I came around and scored points on the next lap solo off the front. I looked back and had about a quarter track gap so I kept rolling. I think I managed to score four laps (or was it five?) before getting caught and I was toast. I went as fast as I could for a few laps but then I went up the track and took a couple easy laps. Then I heard someone say, "keep going or you'll lose your points". BIG OOPS. I didn't know it worked like that! So I lost my points a lap and a half later when I got lapped. Crap! That cost me a top five in the omnium for sure. Oh well. This is all about learning right now and I'm a veritable sponge.

FOLLOWUP::: So I ended up tied for 7th (of 10) with my only point coming from the fifth in the Kieren. I thought I had points in the scratch but it was REALLY close at the line so that's okay. I'd rather come away from the day with a bucket of learnin' than points (not really but I'll say that to feel good...). Off to the track again tonight!!!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

As it says on my top tube, No Brakes!

I'm almost done with the beginner sessions to start racing on the track. There I am all tiny taking my lap at the front bundled up at the beginning of the warmup laps yesterday morning before the marine layer burned off and things warmed up.

The track is alot of fun and fear. So far I've felt very relaxed and am very much looking forward to being done with the beginner sessions and on to the racing. Don't get me wrong. I'm learning as much as possible in the beginners but I think it's like college where all that learnin' is just a foundation for the real knowledge that comes from the proverbial rubber hitting the road - or cement, as the case would be at Hellyer.

Yesterday was the first day on my own bike instead of a rental. Last week I spent a wonderful two and a half hours at Shaw's learning from the Oracle, Terry Shaw and being entertained by Jerry Shaw and his endless ablity to crack wise. I came out with a Bianchi Pista that I could have bought for much less online but the extra money was WELL worth it to have Terry fit me up and give me the confidence that I am setup much better than if I had winged it myself.

Oh yeah, photo stolen with no permission from Steve Woo's flickr page. He has a great blog, as well.

Monday, May 4, 2009

May 4, Sonora Road Race squish squish squish

Well I'm just chalking up all kinds of "inaugural" races here lately. This race seems to have been put together in fairly quick order but was very well done. If only the weather had cooperated. The course was HILLY. Let me say that again. It was a course full of hills. Everytime I went up a hill, I went down a hill then went up another hill. It was like 55 miles of unrelenting hill intervals. In the rain. Yay.

There was no masters cat 5 so I raced with the children again (and for the 108th time wondered why did I cat down all the way to a 5 again???). We had four laps to do. Sadly, only 17 of us toed the line. This was a well run race on good roads and probably the hardest course I've ever done in California. When I say the course was just one hill after another, I'm not kidding. Most of the climbs were the stay-in-the-big-ring-grunt-it-out variety. But there were also a couple of slightly longer hills where the small ring was called into action. Not a sprinter's course, not a climbers course, more of a short stocky strong guy kind of a course.

Anyhoo. We rode out into the rain, all 17 of us. After two climbs I did a quick head count and we were down to 12 guys already. A couple of more climbs and I was really starting to worry about my survivability. Between the humid rainy air and my lack of power, I was going asthmatic and seriously draggin on the hills and not necessarily recovering well on the descents. A couple of hills later, I did another head count and we were down to nine of us. Then it was my turn to get dropped. Luckily, getting dropped made me just angry enough to catch back on. We hit the longest descent of the course (hit 45 mph there in the rain!) with a bridge and a 90 degree right hander at the bottom. MAJOR brake fade had me panicking but friction and heat yielded sticktion and gription so I managed to bind things up enough to corner safely - unlike the first guy through the turn who ended up on his lid all tied up in a knot with his bike. After that guy crashed and even more hills came, the pace seemed to relent and I stopped worrying about surviving. Oops. At the end of the first lap, we hit the finishing stairstep climb and the pace went back up again. Poop, out the back I went.

As I watched the "pack" disappear I did an inventory that I've unfortunately had to do in probably hundreds of races (okay, dozens, I haven't spent THAT much time shat out the back in my racing life)...
-will continuing kill me? - no
-is someone who can affect my paygrade telling me to quit? - no
-is my bike unreparable? - no
-am I a little girl? - no

Damn, gotta keep going. So I continued on into the rain going up and down hills at something less than the pace of the first lap but not exactly touring either. Halfway through the second lap, another cat 5 caught me and passed me. For the next FIFTEEN MILES, we did a silly rubberband maneuver. He would slow on the climbs, I would catch up then he would sprint over the top of the hills. I'd then hold the gap on the descent and he would hit the bottom of the next climb fast, slow way down, I'd start to catch up and we'd do it all over again. Everytime I'd catch up to him I'd try to reason with him that we should maybe help each other out. He'd suck my wheel until the next hill summit and then launch himself and build up that infernal 20 second gap again. Cat 5's. What are you going to do?

Finally on the fourth lap I caught up to him and for about 15 minutes, just glued myself to his wheel. Then I gave him a taste of what it feels like to drag someone up a hill and then have them launch away from you (rather than gently coming and taking their pull). That did it. He must have blown up like a can of coke left in your car on an August afternoon. The only problem was that three hours of going up and down hills had finally began to take its toll on me, too. I started to get quad cramps. I sat on the nose of the saddle for awhile and stretched on the downhills and that seemed to help me recover. When I finally reached the finish climb, I was so happy I could have wet myself. Only I didn't need to wet myself since I was already carrying an extra five pounds of water in my chamois.

So that was one hard-ass course. To make matters worse, I rode past the finish line and down another hill and had to do an extra six miles of hills since I lost track of how to get back to the staging area in Jamestown (ouch!). I drove home sitting funny and worrying that I threw my back out but, happily, my back feels great today and my legs aren't too trashed either. Bonus. I can recover. I certainly can't complain about my endurance right now. I just need to get some speed and power going.

Oh. And my balls started hurting about 30 miles in. Damn you vasectomy scar tissue!

Results haven't appeared on the net, yet so nothing to report. I think I was maybe 7th or 8th or 9th?

Saturday, May 2, 2009

April 22, Tour De Ames "Kermesse"

For Earth Day they had a bike race and fun ride at work. Up until the morning of the "race" I was torn on whether or not to go. Getting taken out by a person pretending to race in something may not turn out to be an actual race would be a serious bummer. But at the last moment, I decided, "What the heck, it's free and when will I get another chance to bomb around Moffett Field ignoring all the stop signs?"

I showed up and found a ton of people there already. Some looked serious and some, well, they were set for having fun - good for them. The format was that the "racers" could go first and after the first five mile lap, the fun riders could begin. The race was only two five-mile laps (ten miles?! that's a warmup not a race!). Anyhoo, Pete Worden the Ames center director sent us off with a starting pistol (In years of doing hundreds of races I think that was the first time!) and away we went. It took a few minutes to sort out the slow pokes but there was -luckily- a guy with full on tri-geek setup hammering away at the front losing anyone who wasn't fast enough. After one lap, there were maybe twelve to fifteen folks left, still lined up behind tri-guy. There was only one double chicane corner that demanded any kind of bike handling skills so I attacked before that and went through on my own. I looked back and had a pretty big gap but didn't feel like I could solo away with the 15 mile per hour winds on that day so I sat up.

Going into the finish, two guys attacked and I waited for all the other wheel suckers to sprint. But they all just stayed behind the tri-dude. Eventually I got anxious and just went with a full 400 meters to go. I quickly caught one of the guys off the front and dug deep for my sprint but couldn't catch the other guy. So I took second.

Prize: braggin rites and no one cares!
Lesson Learned: Go for it! He who hesitates, loses. I'd probably rather have some guys come around me at the finish than just barely miss out on the win.
Other Lesson Learned: Don't judge the field by appearance. Despite expensive bikes and a few pretty fit looking guys, I could have easily won that race if I'd been a little more confident and a little less fearful of the appearances of guys who really had nothing when the hammer time came.