Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Wente Criterium, 35+/4: April 25, 2010

Between work dominating my training time the previous week then working for the Wente Road Race on Saturday and then the Criterium on Sunday I really had ZERO expectations to survive even a single lap.

But I had a good warmup on the trainer (thanks Jim and Zaf!) and took the line with a large group. Not sure what the numbers were but it was 50+ (turns out it was 75, no wonder it was so crowded) I think. Then we were off. Lap one seemed easy. Move up move up move up move up. By that gigantic wide open last turn that leads to the "finish straight" I was at the front. I'm not sure what was going on but the front two guys (teammates - not mine) were really dragging anchor going into the turn. Without trying to be crazy or accelerate, I carried my momentum underneath and into the gutter. I gave a "Comin' up inside. Gutter!" and the two guys started both screaming at me.

Done many crit races guys?

If you are at the front of a large field in a criterium and it's a wide open turn you ARE going to get swarmed like mad if you're going to slow down that much. And if YOU overreact and go wide and get yourself yelled at? Yeah, that's your fault too. With the adrenaline of that idiocy I went off the front briefly but it was very short lived (flier 1!).

Back in the pack I got tired of the hargy bargy in the middle and ended up tailgunning for about ten more minutes before getting bored and going off the front for half a lap through the back sections (flier 2!). But that one didn't work either and the pack was just happy to roll along without any of the teams sending anyone off the front. I'm going to call out Taleo here. You guys have, like, TEN GUYS in the pack and you don't send anyone off the front???

After that I resumed tailgunning. I was really happy to find good legs and it was really easy just sitting in like that.

But it was boring and there was NO way I was going to get involved in that field sprint. So I decided I was just going to do one more full on attack across the start/finish area and try to get my named screamed out by Michael Hernandez on the PA. Flier #3 came after the "last turn". I scooted over to the extreme left side of the road and just accelerated away. Unfortunately, everyone saw the move yet no one was willing to join. WTF!!!! Why the heck won't people go off the front? So between being on the extreme opposite side of the road and wanting to get a good gap, I came up to the start finish off the front and heard, "muffle muffle, ATTACK OFF THE FRONT, muffle, muffle, IS IT?, muffle ROY JOHNSON, muffle muffle" So I don't know what was said but, mission accomplished, my name broadcast. I know that's stupid but it was worth it. The gap held for another 3/4 of a lap and it was fun hearing a few "Go Roy!"'s shouted out while I felt my heart pounding to the absolute max and knew I wasn't going to last long. "She ain't revved til the rods are thrown" When the pack finally came I didn't even try to jump back on. My day was done.

So yes, a good result would have absolutely rocked but I'm no field sprinter and nothing was going off the front at all so it was what it was and I'm happy with going out in a big ball of flames rather than rolling in with the pack. In hindsight, however, I should have burned that last match with two laps to go instead of four. That would have made it more realistic and less suicidal.

So that was the race... Funny thing is that it was only a small part of a very busy week and weekend. But there it is. I just like to brag about the action hero parts of my life, I guess. Trust me, there are some major things I screwed up last week (like being so flippin' busy I forgot my Mom's birthday...) so I'm no action hero.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Also Ran... Hellyer Get Ready For Summer April 17, 2010

Coming off the last two Tuesday nights I had some hope for a good race day but Saturday morning found me with some tired legs and a fuzzy brain. Getting ready to go I was standing in my "garage" gathering and looking for crap when I looked up to see my jeep rolling backwards toward me. I just sort of stood there with no idea how to escape as it filled the doorway and sort of slow motion crashed into my bench and the side of the door. Damage: one tail light (that was already pretty much toasted from wheeling anyway) , a tire mark on the garage door trim and my brain. Not an auspicious beginning coupled with trying to get a moody 6-year old out the door for his TaeKwanDo green-belt testing.

Four races on tap: Kieren, Scratch, Miss-n-out and Points.

Kieren: After a brief warmup, I was happy to feel the legs come around. I took the start too casual and after a lap finally retreated to the absolute last wheel. But I was hopeful since I was behind two potentially fast riders. They both pulled up track before the moto took off and I went with them. As the moto pulled off there was a little bit of a hesitation as I was accelerating and I ended up with my front wheel just slightly behind and down track and got stuck behind slowing riders since I couldn't cross over. By the time I got through that the train had left the station and I briefly had a hope of surging up to nip fourth but that was a fantasy. Dammit! I felt like I had the legs to have maybe sprinted for third or fourth but just didn't play it right and had a little bad luck. Next time: -more aggressive for better wheel -if following riders, get my front wheel uptrack so I don't get boxed in.

Scratch: So having screwed up the Kieren, alot of sitting around and stewing followed. By the time we took the rail for the scratch, I had pretty much deflated my own sails and was kind of unenthusiastic about any chances of being anything but pack fodder for the day (BAD BAD BAD mental game, little Roy. Bad.). Anyway. It looked like MetroMint had the numbers so I went with their first move. We did get a slight gap but it was brought back after a lap or so. After that it was just follow follow follow. I was on a good wheel with three to go but I lost it. Then I moved up for the final but moving up took too much gas and got swarmed and came in with the pack. Blah.

Warming down I heard, "Hi DAD!" and looked up to see Jasper and Kris had shown up (fresh from picking up a new rooster!). Of course about 5 minutes later there was only the second crash I've ever seen at the track and it was a bad one as the C race Miss-n-out had a nasty one that left two people laying on the track for long time and another sitting and very dazed. "Really Kris, that NEVER happens!" In my inexperienced opinion, the accident might have been caused by too large of a C field for that particular race. A very long (and unfortunate-since it was a wait for ambulances) delay followed while the injured were attended to. Jasper and I took a number of laps on the warmup loop and hanged out until Kris and Jasper had to get going (rooster sitting in the back of the car and all that) so they didn't even get to see a race...

Miss-n-Out: With the crash and all the sit-around time, I took the rail with even less enthusiasm than before. I think I lasted about ten laps and it was all playing the devil from the back so I was kind of pooped and basically just let go instead of trying to do yet another sprint up at the rail.

Points: Fast race and it was shortened to only 20 laps with four sprints. No way I was going to get anything in those conditions with the level of competition in the field. The 5-to-go sprint looked doable but I got boxed in and couldn't burn that match. Finished comfortably in the pack. The final was a little nerve wracking since I got pushed up track as a guy came out of the sprinters lane for no apparent reason between turn four and the finish line. If I'd been a few inches further up I would have stuck an elbow in his hip. Just cuz you're not in the front sprint doesn't mean the rules don't apply to you too. This is why I so often don't bother sprinting for tenth. It always seems to be the most dangerous place. Up at the front is safe. The back of the pack is safe. But right in the middle where there is no hope of a good place yet it's fast while riders are falling back and alot of people just stop trying and shut down short of the line while others are (in a fantasy land) trying to sprint up into the places that are already won makes a nasty combination.

I'm not sure how I managed to write so much about such an uninspiring day but there ya are. This week is the beginning of Wednesday night racing but work is the theme of the week so no track this week. Wente is next weekend and then it's back to concentrating on climbing and miles getting ready for Mt. Hamilton road race at the end of May. That said, I hit the climbs really hard yesterday for the first time in quite a few weeks and the concentration on flat speed and track time hasn't seemed to killed my climbing like it did last year. So I'll probably come out for the first couple of weeks of May.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tuesday Night Hellyer, April 13, 2010

<--Picture from last week from unknown source via teammate Ted via Hellyer twitter via...?

Fun racing tonight made funner (more fun?) by the presence of Michael Hernandez on the microphone. It was definitely faster this week than last week! Beyond the fun and thrills it was one heck of a good workout. Average heart rate for the 25 lap scratch race was 181bpm w/ a max of 196. The numbers for the 60 lap points race were similar but extracted over more than twice that same time! Max HR was 199 which must have come during the only sprint I was able to go for. I did my usual turn 4 attack and held off all but one rider (a damn junior!!!) to take my only points for the night.

Finished the night by jumping onto the back of the "C" race for another 30+ laps.

I was feeling a little discouraged after the scratch race tonight. I knew what to do but I couldn't make me do it. As a result I was pack fodder at best and only got my nose in the wind once with 6 laps to go. That was my plan but I simply wasn't able to fight up in the front for position to set up for the final. With 30+ riders on the track and several very talented Cat 4's and several more Cat 3's, it's a tough battle. I guess I shouldn't get discouraged, I just need to get faster!

The points race was more encouraging. Again, there just wasn't any hope of trying to accumulate any points with a pack that huge. I didn't go for a sprint until well past the halfway point when we'd dropped maybe a third of the pack already. Unfortunately, my all-or-nothing "sprint" caused me to go off the back. I was stupid here too since a counter attack came after the sprint and somehow I got stuck out in front for an extra lap (DUH!). I punished myself by staying on the black line and trying to not get lapped. This worked for ten laps but that was it. When I got back on, the pack was much dwindled. So maybe I should have been even more patient and struck much later in the race when there were fewer wheels to get around. I dunno. But in all the races last year, I only scored points once. So far this year I've scored in races two weeks running. Of course that only barely raises me above an "also ran" but I'll take it. It's progress and not too bad for an old man (note: I believe getting lapped should have erased my points but I don't know if that's accurate since the A race certainly had VERY lapped riders still contesting the sprints and being announced as being in the running...).

Oof I'm tired. But it's always nice to get the thoughts down while they're fresh. Besides it's a nice wind down and now I feel like I can go to sleep quickly without sitting there spinning spinning spinning in my brain.

Afterthought: Viendo ese foto yo parezco un fokin sapo en la bicicleta. Pues talvez soy todavia el sapo verde (with a red neck) que quiere ser coqui...

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Hellyer Tuesday Night Race: April 6, 2010

Hawt dayum I loves me some after work track racin'. Tonight I was up on the rail waiting to start a race and two old guys in the stands reminded me exactly of the two old dudes up in the balcony on the Muppet Show.

Old Dude 1: Livermore?
Old Dude 2: Isn't that some town back East?
Old Dudes together: Har Har Har Har.

Well at least they didn't mistake me for a Peninsula Velo-ite like 90% of people seem to do with our kit.

Three races tonight! First was a scratch race, second was an inverse win-n-out, and third was a points race. I showed up nice and early and got a really good warmup in. People kept coming in and coming in and coming in! I've never seen near that many people at the track before. It was pretty cool, yet, I felt bad for Larry and the Ref for having to wrangle the mob.

Scratch race: 42(!) people went to the rail for the start and Larry immediately divided the field (phew!) into an A and a B simply by order on the rail. I was a late liner upper so I was in the B. Not much to say about the race. I was purposefully undergeared and didn't have alot to contribute to chase down a breakaway that stayed away for the whole race. No one wanted to work hard in the wind, it seemed. I think I was 8th or so in the sprint, out of points so it don't matter.

Inverse win-n-out: VERY strange format. Race and ride for 12 laps. The winner on the 13th lap comes in 5th. The next lap winner is 4th, and so on and the winner of the final lap is the first place. Strange, no? I had regeared for this race and was ready to compete now. The talk in the pits was that it would be good to have a five or six person break and let them duke it out for the places. So I stayed up at the front for the beginning but nothin' was going and I was burning my matches. I drifted back and recovered in the pack. I moved back up to the front and before we headed into the first bell lap, I attacked from the top of the track and held it around for a 1.25 lap effort that netted me fifth place. W00 h00. I was pretty sure I wasn't going to do higher so it was a good strategy to go all or nothing for fifth.

Points race: 25 laps, points every five laps. I got one point on the first lap. Then two guys went off the front and we were sprinting for the two remaining places on the next three sprints (I got nothin') and then things really splintered and I didn't have the gas to make the front group of four so what was left of the pack just chased until the end. Still, one point is better than par for me.

I'm pretty happy with the first day of the year on the track (well, for mass starts anyway). I was chatting with a fellow after the race and I commented that I thought maybe the B fields were actually slower this year. He said, "No, you're just faster." I'd like to think that's true. Tonight was certainly a good indicator that maybe I can be competitive this year rather than just pack fodder. But then again it always just comes down to who shows up, good old luck and a dash of confidence.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Lucky Penny! Copperopolis Road Race, April 3, 2010

Well even a blind chicken pecks a kernel of corn now and then.

Copperopolis has a reputation for a mean climb and nasty nasty rough roads. I found that both are maybe over-rated. I think most people who claim this course to be the roughest in NorCal maybe have never done that one infernal section of the Madera Road Race or have never done the Leesville Gap Road Race. The one difference is that Copperopolis only has about one half mile section that is smooth. Other than that, it's rough rough all day long but never reaches the roughest. So if you're measuring unrelentless road roughage, it wins but I still will argue that it comes in third behind Madera and Leesville in sheer ass kickery.

The course: After the start, there is a ten-ish minute ride to the bottom of the climb. I didn't find the climb to be quite so bad as I expected. After the climb there are miles of flat to rolling terrain over bad roads (note I said bad not, oh-my-gawd-how-did-I-not-get-a-flat-or-break-my-frame?!?!?). The other distinguishing feature is a very fast downhill with not a few nasty turns. This is made rather nerve wracking by what is probably the worst and most broken pavement on the course. Yes, this is a scary descent, sportsfans. Keep your eyeballs open, your hands loose and tighten up yer bootlaces cuz it gets a little scary. Then there's a short flat section and the uphill finish which is a big ring grunt of a hill (and that's one lap).

I was in the 35+ cat 4 race "B" field. I guess to make safe and small fields, there were was an A field and a B field with both having only 50 riders. But the race turned out to not fill up so let me stress that THERE WERE ONLY TEN GUYS toeing the line. I'm really not sure why the heck they didn't just combine the A and B fields... Just as we were sent out, one of the packs of backmarkers from the Pro/1/2 race caught us. The pace went up and I immediately completely lost track of who was whom in my race. By the time we hit the feedzone near the bottom of the climb I was convinced that two guys had sneaked off the front already. We hit the climb and I tried to stay third or fourth wheel of our mini-pack. Some guys faded, others came up and so it went until two guys sort of started to get a gap on me on one of the steeper sections (where I purposefully held back a little thinking it was a somewhat longer climb). The two started to get a bigger gap and I began to get annoyed that anyone behind me was just sitting on my wheel and not coming up to help out. I looked back to bitch about this situation only to find that the nearest wheel behind me was a good 100 meters back! Holy crap, I can climb and drop people??!?! When did that happen?

So I dug in and caught the two ahead of me over the top of the climb. Our trio didn't get a very good rhythm going until I convinced them we'd be much better off taking short pulls and rotating more cleanly. This worked well for about 20 minutes until we started catching little grouplettes of the other races and we'd get disorganized or they would suddenly decide the quick exchanges weren't as good as sitting on my wheel over the rollers. (Really, who sits on ME on any climb???) About this time I started to feel the first twinges of cramps in my calves. I had already drained my first bottle and was contemplating getting busy on my second bottle when we hit the nasty downhill. About a minute into it, I felt the familiar heavy impact of my water bottle launching itself out of the cage, against my calf and then skid onto the road behind me. Shit! There goes my drinky. How far to the feedzone?

A quick word about my partners to this point. I'll call the first guy Snake since he was about as sneaky as a snake. He was obviously the better climber of the three of us and also not very good at concealing his ability to go fast, yet suddenly suck lots of wheel and sandbag then suddenly push the pace again pretty easily. I'll call the other guy Big Guy. I can honestly say I've never seen a 210 pounder (not fat, just BIG) with thighs that big climb that well. Think Eric Heiden or Marty Nothstein big. Magnus Backstedt big. The kind of guy where you get down in your drops, look forward and your looking at the dude's seat post binder-blot straight ahead at your eye level. I mean, he was freaking Paul Bunyan on a bike (note: due to my tendency for hyperbole and the oxygen debt I was in at the time, Big Guy may have merely been large.).

We were passed again by the Pro/1/2 packlette on the descent and Snake tried to pull a fast one by mixing in. I wasn't about to let him get away with that and, in fact this blatant maneuver kind of pissed me off so when we got to the bottom, I just sat on his wheel and made no pretense to take a pull. I kept looking back for Big Guy but he had done a disappearing act. He was so far gone I figured he must have flatted on the downhill (or crashed but you don't think of that possibility in race mode).

I continued to sit on Snake, resolved to just stay there since I was cramping up, he was obviously stronger than me and... well, why take a pull in those conditions? I was happy to get to the feedzone and snatched the first water held out mercifully hovering out over the road by the hand of a Velo Promo angel. Immediately after the feedzone and just before the climb, Big Guy showed up out of nowhere breathless and sweaty. Apparently we'd dropped him on the descent and he time trialled back up to us. "Great!" I thought, "I have to survive another lap with cramps, a progressively worsening stomach, and two guys who can obviously take my lunch money." I started doing the complex math to keep my mind off the climb.

Ummm.... 2 guys off the front = third place + these two guys who are going to kick my ass = umm, carry the four, ummm, no don't carry a four. Ummm. Fifth place? Yeah. About fifth place would get me a Velo Promo T-Shirt. Chapeu!

I sucked a monumental amount of wheel for the next however long it was. I do remember pulling through a rotation and then turning to my buddies and saying, "Hey, I'm not dicking around here. I'm toast" (note: Nothing throws off your opponents like brutal honesty) Before the descent, Big Guy made a couple of mini-attacks that weren't very smart. He waited until he was taking a pull and sort of attacked from the front which was painfully obvious to read. That said, those attacks hurt pretty bad. By the time we were in the little climbs before the descent I was beginning to feel like I was going to throw up.

This is when Snake made his move. Big Guy was behind me and Snake just hit the last little roller hard enough to gap me. We hit the descent and I looked back to Big Guy and said, "I think you just screwed up picking MY wheel!" If someone said that to me I'd just shrug and pull a dumb face (or perhaps suggest a dimly lit place to relocate his tire pump). Instead, he looked ahead down the hill like a rabbit staring at a bumper coming at him on the highway. So I put him out of my mind and bombed the descent like a cramped-up and cross-eyed, half-puking madman.

At the bottom of the hill (glad to still be in one piece and hoping my wife continues to NOT read this blog...) I turned to Satchel Paige and Chris Carmichael to get me to the finish. Satchel famously told us all to not look back and I read Chris Carmichael where he said, "You can do anything for a minute." It was more like five minutes but I used the same philosophy. To my shock I could see through my foggy crisscrossed eyes that I was actually pulling back a small amount of time on Snake. But then the 200m sign appeared. I had a brief moment of panic that Big Guy was about to shit on my parade with ten feet to go and it was all over. (note: remind me to write another long-winded post sometime about "That time those two fuckers caught me with about 50 feet to go and I lost the race.")

As my body suddenly felt weightless and my brain flirted with passing out (I'm actually not kidding here, for a change) I once again turned to complex math. Hmmm, fourth place? Maybe? About 50 feet past the finish line I turned around and there was Big Guy. Whoa, that was close. I turned back to shake his hand and offer up the "Hey man, good race." But instead I just kind of half held up my limp arm and mumbled, "Huh meh. Goo ray. S?" In a somewhat more lucid state than I, he explained that he was not exactly a good descender (No shit, sherlock. There is no way in hell he should have lost to me otherwise.). Unfortunately, he was about as confused as I was regarding who was ahead or behind us when up rolled Snake happy, smiling and fresh enough that I would have pimp slapped him if I had the energy to do anything but sit on my top tube cradling my head on my handlebars while staring at the ground wondering if I really was going to toss my cookies (well actually I would have been tossing my pre-race clif shot to be more accurate).

So Snake, all happy and jubilent and effervescent and shit tells us great race. I mumble, "Were there two guys ahead of us?"

"No man, it was just us, one-two-three." Hmm. So (insert more complex math here) that makes me second? Well, dress me in a skirt and call me Nancy! That's a fresh ten dollar bill and a Velo Promo T-shirt (not the one shown on the right but I wish it was)!

I finally made my way back to Carl's van and slowly made my way back from "dizzy and half blind" to merely "dizzy and wobbly." I put normal clothes back on, locked the van and left my bike sitting out for anyone to walk away with. Back at registration I was happy to see Carl standing around since I had left his keys in my pocket and was worried about leaving him standing in the parking lot staring at his van, my bike and wondering, "where the hell....?"

I collected by booty and by the time I got back to the van, Carl had started up his mini-weber and hosted a fun little post-race tailgater (which is a tradition that I think would be most excellent to uphold).

OK. So now I'm not really processing this as any kind of great success... Maybe it's just my sadly consistent ability to deny myself any kind of reward but really there were only ten guys in the race! On the one hand, second is second. And also on that hand, I earned that place with a package of fitness, acumen, bike handling, and good old fashioned mental toughness (and of that I am proud). And also, on that hand, any time I finish in the top fifth of a field, it's a damn good day. But on the other hand, THERE WERE ONLY TEN GUYS IN THE RACE!!! So I'm not saying all of that to incite an "attaboy" from anyone who actually manages to make it through this damn long blather but rather to explain that I may not be all that excited about it.

(But thanks in advance for the "attaboy")

Ride safe! And thanks Carl for the ride and the post-race eats and for not making fun of my ass wobbling and stumbling around after the race!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Eyes Like Glue

Ever hear a song for the first time and have it hit you like a.. two ton... heavy thing? (bonus if you get that reference...)

I'm on year seven or eight with being rather infatuated with this band and am very pleased that the new Drive By Truckers album is really good. Best since The Dirty South I think.

This song just absolutely positively nails it for me. Not "I like this song" but "Holy crap how did Cooley crawl into my brain and pull that out?!?!!?" where you listen to it five times in a row and still get emocionado.

Eyes Like Glue

I see you watching me
Your eyes are just like glue
Stuck like glue to every foolish thing I say and do
But there's a safer distance still not out of touch
If Daddy's quiet it probably means he's thinking way too much

Someday you'll be a man
You'll have a big old brain
You wont need it but you'll try to use it just the same
But it's like any house lonely people roam around
Wasted empty space a maze with only one way out

Nobody ever told me half the things I'm telling you
Even if they had I'd have had the same look that you do
Sometimes you think it and you want to hear it said out loud
If no one else does then its up to you to shout it out

You'll want to do it all
And you'll believe you can
But when the best that you can do becomes all you can stand
You'll know you're just a man when you feel all the weight press down
Next time you're watching me remember that's all I am now

Lyrics: Mike Cooley / Music: Cooley, Hood, Morgan, Neff, Tucker and Gonzalez
© Razor and Tie Music (BMI)

Mike Cooley - Lead Vocals and Acoustic Guitar / Patterson Hood - Second Acoustic Guitar / Jay Gonzalez - Wurlitzer / John Neff - Pedal Steel