Archive for June, 2012

Here’s what a winning from a solo break looks like:

Here’s the agony of defeat (2nd in the field sprint and 2nd in my age group):

(Photos copyright Senor Games Photos, http://sgphotos.smugmug.com)

Day 1
I got to the race venue (about 6 miles from my house) at 7:30a which was before the race organizers arrived. I had plenty of time to set up for the day and warm up for what I learned was a 9:06a start time for the 5 Km Time Trial (TT). It was actually a 5.6 Km TT (on purpose this year) to make things easier for the competitors and organizers — 2 full laps instead of 1.X laps with the finish in a different spot than the start. After the organizers arrived and the registration line thinned out, I got my race number and timing chip. Had a good warm up and got to the line ready to race.

5-4-3-2-1 and I took off and tried to settle into something faster than 25 MPH. About 1/3 of the way around the course I realized I’d forgotten to start my computer. Finished the first lap feeling OK but the wheels quickly fell off the cart and I was struggling on the 2nd lap. Since I had not started my computer appropriately, I didn’t really know my time but I thought it was really bad. It turns out I was only 12 seconds slower than the winner of the 55-59 age group and 4 seconds out of second. I was happy with my mediocre (instead of terrible) time. Interestingly, the 55-59 men had the top 3 times of the day. I still can’t figure out the right mental approach to a 5 Km TT (more on that later).

After the TT I had plenty of time to rest and get ready for the 40 Km “road” race which started around 1:30p (after the women raced). I should mention that the course was the world-famous El Dorado Park circuit that I’ve ridden on countless Tuesday evenings since 1979. It’s basically flat with no technical turns but with a lot of tree root heaves in the asphalt. The men had three age groups starting and racing together, but scored separately (50-54, 55-59, and 60-64). All of the women had raced together and were scored separately.

My teammate, Greg Page (50-54), and “best” racing buddy, Craig Jones (55-59), decided that we would test the field; alternately attacking and counter-attacking to see who responded. We were working our plan and Craig was off the front while my Greg and I were “resting” at the back. The pack was lapping a slower racer when he swerved in towards the center of the pack and caused a crash right in front of Greg and me. Three or four guys were on the ground and I had enough time to think I was going to join them. I had locked up my rear tire and was sliding sideways when I had enough muscle memory to release the brakes and swerve around the fallen riders. Greg said he zigged and zagged through a rapidly closing path. We chased back up to the pack (which fortunately wasn’t that hard) and then pack caught Craig right after that. About half a lap later, Greg  jumped and no one chased. Craig and I sat back, but not too far back this time, and watched Greg ride away from the pack as it strolled around the next three laps at barely 20 MPH.

Just as the pack got the 4 to go lap card, some guys at the front were having a contest to see who could slow down more to avoid being at the front of the pack when they almost crashed. I (regretfully) used an expletive while asking about their bike handling skills and then attacked out of frustration and for survival. Craig and two other 55-59 guys caught me and we started working together to leave the rest of the field behind. Craig said he’d lead me out for the final sprint as we started jockeying for position during the last half lap. One of the other guys gets on my buddy’s wheel and I’m 3rd in line. We hit the last slightly uphill drag with a quartering headwind and my buddy is hammering on the left side of the road so the guy on his wheel can’t get a good draft. He actually gets a small gap but I keep delaying my jump because I don’t want to drag the 2nd place guy around my friend when I jump into the windy side. I wait for him to jump but he doesn’t. Finally I jump with about 50 meters to go and get around him with surprising ease but I don’t have enough time to get around my buddy — no problem though. My teammate is first overall and first 50-54, my buddy is second overall (first 55-59), and I’m 3rd overall (second 55-59).

I ended the day with a bronze and a silver and I qualified for all the races in Cleveland.

The organizers held a dinner for the racers at a local Mexican restaurant after the first day and during dinner I decided to go all out in the 10 Km (actually 11.2 Km) TT and then play the 20 Km road race by ear. My teammate is only doing the TT the next day because of work and in the end my buddy had to take his wife to the doctor because she fractured a bone in her foot (long story) so I knew I’d be “isolated” in the road race.

Day 2

Surprise, surprise! I got to the venue a little late and who do I see but Kurt Bickell, “big time” bike racer and generally cool guy. I started getting ready and warmed up with Greg and Kurt grabbed a seat and gabbed it up with us while we were getting ready (since Kurt has a late start due to his late entry). I always enjoy talking with him. Completed a reasonable warm up, dressed, and got ready for the TT. I took off on lap 1 (of 4), got up to speed, and immediately had to avoid some parked maintenance trucks that were on the course. After squeezing between the trucks a 50-54 guy caught and passed me. I’m kind of startled by that but the worst thing is that now I had to take a less than ideal line on the course to keep me from drafting him. He is not really faster than me and I passed him back partway through the lap and a bit later he passed me again. I got to play this game with him for the duration of his race. I’m not sure if he’s annoyed, but I am. Also I’m annoyed because I’m behind on my split times. I totally lost concentration on the last lap even though I’m alone. I finished about 25 seconds slower than planned and I ended up second about 25 seconds slower than the winner (who also won the 5 Km TT). Ugh, another silver. BTW, my first 5 Km split was faster than my 5 Km time the day before. I don’t know why that happens to me, but I have other TT experiences like that. My second 5 Km split was slower.

Kurt started last and just blistered the course! He is 2 minutes and change(!!!) faster than I. It was a learning experience just watching him go by on each lap. I ended up with the 6th fastest time of the day. Oh well.

So now the guys who finished 3rd and 4th in the 55-59 40 Km road race are teammates and I know that they are going to try to work me over in today’s race. Kurt hinted that I should watch him though I already figured that out. Everyone else has figured that out too. It’s like a school of piranha going after a small piece of steak as everyone wanted to be on his wheel. Against my better judgement, I tried a couple of small jumps (I am pretty tired at this point). I can’t remember which lap it was but Kurt put in a big attack and I jumped on the wheel of one of the other 55-59 guys. He chased for maybe 100 meters and then sat up and I sat up too. Bye, bye Kurt as none of the other 50-54 guys tried to chase.

It turned into the same pattern as the 40 Km road race. If one of us (now just me and the two guys who are teammates) didn’t ride tempo on the front the pace slowed incredibly. Just after we got 3 laps to go, one of the 60-64 guys went slowly off the front. He got 100 meters pretty quickly since we were riding so slowly. I decided that I could catch him and I hoped that I could drop him a bit later with the added hope that the pack would stop chasing after they caught him. I caught him pretty quickly. We were working together with the pack chasing. Unfortunately, I really was tired. The pack caught both of us with 2 laps to go.

I decided to sit in and wait for the sprint. I got a little nervous when one of the other active 55-59 guys attacked but he gave it up pretty quickly. I was in the back half of the pack as we were heading towards the last turn. All of a sudden I spotted the teammates surging on the outside coming up from behind me. By the time I could safely move another guy got third wheel. I got on his wheel and we passed everyone just before the last turn. This time the leadout was on the right and I was getting a great draft. Unfortunately I waited too long to jump. The guy in third went and all I could do was stay near him. I didn’t have enough to get past him and thus my agony of defeat photo above. After we crossed the line I asked him what is his age group and he said, “55-59.” Double-damn!!! Another silver. Of course a day earlier our chase group had dropped him.

I guess the smart thing to do would have been to just sit in and watch and wait for the sprint. Unfortunately I hate racing that way.

All in all a fun two days of racing and socializing with a bunch of older cyclists. Still planning on Cleveland in 2013.

I really like Hugh MacLeod’s little cartoons. Every day he sends a cartoon to subscribers for free. Every day he makes me think. Today he made me think a lot:

Hugh notes:

Like Jack Welch, the former CEO of G.E. famously quipped, there is no work/life balance, there is only work/life choices.

I somewhat agree and somewhat disagree. Balance comes from doing what you love. If you hate what you do then you try to balance it with something that you love that isn’t your work and, therefore, the idea of balancing work life against personal life. If you make your work your passion then balance comes much more naturally.

I like my work a lot. My passions are evolving.