Sunday, March 29, 2009

Race Report: Charge Pond Training Series, B Race, 28. March 2009

Because I did not know what to expect, I was not feeling particularly Teutonic.

Normally, I show up to a race with some semblance of bloodlust (the knock-kneed nervousness is my cover-up, obviously). However, as I did not want to sacrifice the precision engineering of my new road rig to the unpredictable deities that govern the forces of physics in Cat 4/5 men's training races, I gave the chain and frame of (what is now) my commuter a quick once-over and wipe-down on Thursday, then turned the brunt of my attention to adjusting cleat position on the new bike and going out for Thai food with a former coworker who was in town for the evening. Friday evening I threw my prospective race duds in a bag, put on a movie, and called it a night.

Fast-forward to Saturday: the drive down was amusing. Some kids from MIT were caravaning down and we had a sort of peleton of cars going on Route 3. Considering the BMW drivers out for blood (wish I could have borrowed some of that mojo/entitlement) it was pretty impressive. Got to registration after driving over potholes in the park for seven minutes. Was told that bathrooms were back near where I'd come from, so I took a trip to the Gruenklo and hoped that the little leaves around me weren't poison ivy. Once that was finished, I pinned my number, did a quick bike prep, and rode out to warm up.

The course consisted of a 1.36 mile circuit of rolling hills, one sharp corner. My friend Geoff, whom I hadn't seen since 'cross season, was doing warmup laps as well, so we chatted a bit, then rolled over to the line.

The pack got off to a fast start, and I was in the back. They hit a high speed pretty fast, and I got spit off the back after one lap. Nancy got spit out after another lap or so, and later Kenton followed suit, so I intermittently worked with them and a couple other random people. I focused on two things: (1) thinking about what to do next despite feeling like I was about to puke and (2) to stave off the latter, resting intermittently in the paceline. It went okay despite sitting out a few laps: I think I averaged 21 including the stop-and-go and laps alone, and the race lasted about an hour. When the women's races start, my strength should be okay. We'll see in a couple weeks, I guess.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Embro Bingo.

So when Lodrina invited me to go to to the Embrocation party on Monday the 23rd, the conversation went a little like this:

Lodri: So yeah, they're having a 'zine release party at Middlesex... I'll probably be hiding in a corner playing hipster bingo.
Me: Wait... did you say 'ZINE release party? I'll attend and kick it '90s style in one of my riot grrl T-shirts.

It didn't quite work out that way. I headed to the party still wearing my work clothes, Lodri and I procured cocktails (their Mark & Stormy = DELICIOUS), and we actually proceeded to mingle. It was a great time: lots of people I hadn't talked to in a while (it's March), people I'd seen at bike races but never met, and so on. Forty minutes had flown by before I turned to Lo and said, "hey, did you remember to bring the game piece(s)?"

"NO!" she exclaimed. "My printer was out of ink... gah."

As they say, necessity is the mother of invention. I found a pen in my purse, we grabbed some napkins in the bar, and soon enough, we had invented our own game pieces.

fixed-gear bingo, take 1 fixed-gear bingo, take 2

Behold, y'all: the digital renditions of fixed-gear bingo. Stay tuned for official, non-scribbled versions of this prototype. In the meantime, all rights reserved.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

da hillz r alive.

Aside from being buzzed about the new road rig, all week long I've felt like part of me was being beaten with sticks. Tuesday it was my psyche, then Wednesday it was my nose and throat, and by Thursday I was so achy that my legs felt like they'd just done a 'cross race. Friday I woke up still hurting and went to bed congested (after giving my liver a small sucker punch via margarita at a friend's birthday 'do). However, I think the Patron actually worked miracles, because Saturday I felt better in the nose--that is to say, well enough to take the new bike out for an hour. That was fun, but the fit is not quite spot-on yet, particularly insofar as the cleat positioning is concerned. Given my history with patello-femoral syndrome I still need to tweak that more, and that will be my evening project for this week. And finally, given the disgusting cold I had, I decided to not do Wells, and just make it a training weekend.

Before anyone starts offering me any cheese to go with my whine... I had a great ride today! Today I went out on (what is now) my commuter/beater road bike for the Sunday ride with Kathy and Sallie. We did Kathy's route to Sudbury, and Cathy also joined us, which was awesome. Cathy's a Cat 2 but had raced yesterday, so she (supposedly) was tired. Worked well for us, though, as she was still willing to take turns pulling. Cathy does it all--road, XC, and CX--so she races and rides with a great mix of tactics and instinct. Today I learned a lot about picking lines on a bad road simply from following her wheel. It was also a blast chasing her up hills. On the first one, I felt like my lungs were--you guessed it--being beaten with sticks... but after that, I started having a lot of fun. Cannot WAIT to climb on the new bike!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

my shop-order bride has arrived!!

I picked up the new bike after work.

It had stopped raining hours ago, so we drove home together through a beautiful sunset.

Then I carried her over the threshold into her new home.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

um, so, like... how does this work, again?

The lingering scent of capsicum and menthol on the spring breeze, shot through with a small wave of Lycra-filtered sulfur as someone wearing expensive Italian cleats farts audibly... oh right, I must be at a bike race.

Sunday marked the beginning of the 29th Wells Avenue Training Series in Newton. For some "C" Race riders--including the unfortunate gentleman whose misadventure I shall detail later--it was the first bike race ever, or at least close to it (this became glaringly obvious when people in the parking lot were saying things like "there's no 'we' in racing"). So I had a bad feeling from the get-go.

We rolled off the line and things went okay at first, though there was that awkwardness of a bunch of beginners braking in a corner and then surging afterward. (Cornering is something I need to work on too--I am MUCH better at it on a 'cross bike, for some reason--definitely one of my goals for this road season.) I looked down at one point and we were at a pretty normal 21mph... looked down a few laps later, coming out of a corner, and we'd hit 27. Mind you, this was with all of the requisite drifting characteristic of a "C" race. The soundtrack could've gone a lot this:

So yeah... a crowd of forty hurtling along awkwardly at 22-26 mph and consisting of the following: several unmarked jerseys, one guy who doesn't understand racing as a team and is out for blood, the Drifters, the Coasters... and about two sets of wheels I knew I could trust (Lauren and Mike from Back Bay). I was a little apprehensive. Then, coming out of the last turn of lap 5 or so, there was an awful noise. Next thing I knew, Lauren and I were rolling past a guy on the ground who had blood all over his face. Miraculously, no one else went down.

Avoiding the crash split me off from the pack, so I took a couple slow laps while waiting to be caught again. One of the other stragglers crashed in front of me, hitting a car that was pulling up to the crash site and sending red plastic flying everywhere (not sure if it was a taillight or, God forbid, a reflector). I still have a weak stomach for crashes after last road season, but I think that racing cyclocross in the meantime improved my hazard reaction time and my instincts: my avoidance of the second C crash was almost automatic.

The pack caught me, and we went neutral for many laps--longest C race ever!!--while they loaded the guy in the ambulance. Finally, we were non-neutral, but I was not contending, much less in the mood for contending, and I and fell off again. Lauren gave me an amazing pull, and I tried to return the favor, but my legs were beat.

I was a little disappointed in that, but strength-wise, it was still a better start for me than last season. Comfort-wise, I'm still a bit shaky. 'Cross was the best thing I could possibly have done after my road crash last summer--it made me stronger physically, but more importantly, it helped me to trust and enjoy racing a bike again. There was something about chicanery, barriers, and rock piles that made me feel invincible: now, I need to figure out how to transfer that confidence back onto the road.

Oh well. Somewhat noteworthy: this was my 35th bike race (or 20th road event, if we're counting that way--either way, it's high time for a race report blog). I'm going to start doing the B race after my new road bike arrives, and hopefully on a weekend when some of my training buddies are racing too. But in the meantime, C is for catastrophe, and that's good enough for me.