Jonny Bold: "At What Cost?"

Much of this hit home for me as I struggle to recover from injury: a top Masters competitor takes a hard look at his motivations for racing and training after suffering an injury during a cyclocross race, worth the time it takes to read.


Hello Trainer, My Old Friend

Tossed out this tweet earlier today:

It didn't take long for @bthreeton tweet back with:

Because my fitness sofly creeping
Left my legs while I was sleeping
And the saddle sores that were planted on my taint
Still remain
Within a sweat-ty chamois.

But my old buddy Gerald Berliner went to town:

Hello trainer, my old friend,
I've come to ride on you again
Because a rain cloud softly creeping in,
Left its drops while I was riding,
And the mud that was splattered in my face
Still remains
Within the sound of cadence.

In restless dreams I rode alone
Paris-Roubaix streets of cobblestone,
'Neath the halo of a street lamp,
I turned my bike to the cold and damp
When my thighs were stabbed by the crash of my neon light
That split my tights
And touched the sound of cadence.

And on the naked ride I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more.
People riding without sqeaking,
People drafting without looking,
People falling off and no one even cared
Coz no one dared
Disturb the sound of cadence.

"Fools" said I, You do not know...
Doping like a cancer grows.
See my blood test so that I may fool you,
While I take my Epo so I can beat you.
But my words like silent freewheels fell,
And echoed
In the wells of cadence.

And the people bowed and prayed
To the aero carbon god they made.
And the sign flashed out its warning,
In the peloton that it was forming.
And the sign said that the bikes of the prophets were stolen from the local malls
And tenement halls.
And vanished in the sounds of cadence.

Got a cycling related song parody? You know what to do: hit the comments.


Old Man Bones

Keeping the Rickety Equipment Running After a Late Start

Racing bikes is hard.

Of course, it should be or it would not be a satisfying challenge. On top of the race itself, you've got pre-dawn workouts, dealing with the whole weight-loss/nutrition calculus, juggling race/workout/family/work schedules, bike maintenance... the list goes on and on.

But for me, the most difficult issue to deal with is the fact that I started racing last year at age 49. You see, my mind plays this trick on me when I saddle up: it lets me think I'm 40 or even on good days, 30 years old. Love that feeling!

The thing is, after a little time, my body always has it's say and finds some way of reminding me that I've been around for half a century. Usually, it manifests itself in comparatively benign ways such as finding myself dropped by my younger, stronger brethren or a little creakiness in the morning. After some rest, my mind and body reset and I can once again regain that fountain of youth feeling the next time I get on my bike.

I never use my age as an excuse for poor performance: I always feel like whatever shortcomings I have are ones that can be overcome with training or experience. I'll admit, I do tease a bit when I manage to beat a "youngster" up a climb or on a town-line sprint.

Injuries I've sustained up to this point have been the kind any cyclist could face, regardless of age: road rash, bruises, a separated shoulder, run-of-the-mill soreness.

This time, I think it might be different.

Last week, after finishing atQuadCross, I had a little back pain - no more than I have after other major exertions under race conditions such as I did at Battenkill. I did have that one small spill in the race, did I hurt myself worse than I thought?

I stayed off the bike Monday and Tuesday but had a location shoot Tuesday that required a lot of hauling of heavy gear and being on my feet all day - not very helpful for healing.

As the week progressed and particularly after this past Wednesday's Minuteman Road Club CX Training Race, the pain became more focused near my right hip and, at times, I could feel pain down the right side of my leg and along my calf. Walking normally became difficult.

I started to worry whether I would be racing on the weekend at Green Mountain.

I awoke Friday morning with the plan to do an hour spin on the trainer to make sure everything was working but could barely achieve 75 rpm for a couple of minutes - it hurt THAT BAD.

Pinched nerve? Inflamed hip labrum? Beats me.

I knew right then I was out for racing today. Very frustrating: mentally, I have been so eager to race that all the difficulties that surround training have been inconsequential and easy to overcome but being hurt like this is a major setback.

Seeing the doc on Tuesday to hopefully get a definitive answer as to what is going on. I don't want him to tell me to slow down.

I can't.

I won't.


Quad Cross Photos by 20# Skull

Fellow MRC cyclist/photog Todd Prekaski, aka 20# Skull, got this shot of me contemplating a remount right after the start. Every one of those guys, and more, eventually passed me:

"Must... hold them off... a little longer!"
More photos from QuadCross are here in 20# Skull's Facebook gallery.

Here's my photos.

Race Report: QuadCross 2011 - Maynard Rod & Gun Club

Yesterday morning could not have been more perfect for bike racing: sunny, temp in the high 50's, rain-soaked ground dried to merely slightly damp and only 1.4 miles to drive to the race.

This field would soon be wall-to-wall cars, bikes and cyclists.

Yes, I drove: wanted to have my full armory of tools/parts/comfort items available just in case.

At registration, my waiver sheet had no number stapled to it so as the guy handing my case started to look for advice about what to do, I jokingly asked for a low number. He returned and with a shrug, tore off the number attached to the sheet below mine. I assumed he knew what he was doing.

I got #109, a front row start! Sure beats row 4 where I would have been based on the race predictor (25th).

I ambled back to my car to prep the bike and myself and as I did, I could hear the distant sound of the paint ball battlefield way on the other side of the gun club property: shouting and constant "automatic gunfire". I suppose it was no worse than racing bikes on the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

After Ted Packard of QuadCycles led us in a moment of silence to recognize the anniversary, we were lined up, and ready to go.

Got a good start and held my position all the way up to the fire road and that's where the attrition began. Lucky for me the field was already strung out pretty far so it took the whole 6 laps for me to drift back to finish at 26th. Always looking for silver lining, I found it when I checked last year's QuadCross results: I came in 41st then.

Turns out they swapped my number for the guy who's sheet was below mine - results showed me as 11th and him as 26th. There was no denying the fact that many more than one person passed me during the race.

Not wanting to screw the other guy out of a good start position down the line, I told everyone I could (officials, scorer, QuadCross folks) about the problem. As of today, no resolution. I've done enough squawking about it, its up to the other guy to follow up now if it's an issue to him.

Before "the line" was established.

  • Terrific course laid out very well to use the best features the land had to offer. I liked in particular the tight turns and off-camber sections right after the Newbury Comics double-barriers
  • Good bike handling skills due to much MTB action this summer and the Meyerson clinic
  • At two separate times, two different guys dumped in front of me in the twisty section after the double barriers. I was very nimble in dodging them. BTW, that was the best laid out part of the course
  • Ran a Michelin Mud2 up front pumped to the low 30's and a Jet (chevron) 40psi (due to roots/rocks) in the back for the first time. Worked great.
  • The smiles I got as I cheered/photographed the Pro and single speed race. Pretty much lost my voice though.
  • Met at least 3 online-only acquaintances in person for the first time. NECX is such a friendly community!
Best of all, my wife came out to see me race for the FIRST time, it was great hearing her voice cheering "Go Rusto!" - thanks to everyone else who urged me along as well!

  • Fitness: I need to get more training in at the level of intensity of a race.
  • Should be registering for Cat 4 45+ masters races when available from now on, damn kids are killing me!
  • At the top of the last 180 after the barriers (by the corner of the clubhouse), I needed to do a tiny dab, could not get out of my pedal and flopped over like a fish.
  • Whacked my rear wheel on the small barrier below the run-up hard enough to knock it out of line. Had to reposition it at the top, losing a couple places in the process.
  • Sore lower back this morning
I hustled home after my race because I thought I was on duty with my daughter but it turned out a playdate was arranged in my absence. After dropping her off, I returned and took a bunch of photos of the Cat 3 Masters, Pro and SS races...
Gotta love smiling through the pain.

Right after the start of the Pro race, I walked up to the pit area to start going "upstream" on the course for a different vantage point for photos when a huge pickup truck loaded with paintballers in the back comes DRIVING UP THE RACE COURSE from the woods.

A moment of panic and some yelling ensues but then me and another guy pull up some stakes to let the truck through because, you know, THE PROS ARE COMING ANY MOMENT NOW!

Just as we get the stakes and tape back in place ANOTHER CAR COMES! Crap, there's no arguing with the people inside, we have to clear the course before the cyclists come by. And they do come barreling by, just a minute later.

I made my way down to where the two vehicles got onto the course, helped repair the tape and stayed there, turning back three more vehicles until the end of the Pro race when finally some "official" officials came and relieved me.

Why IS there a trash can here?
The Zanconado Single Speed field was populated with a significant number of racers who were in their second race of the day, I don't know how they do it - one race totally wiped me out.

Jeremy Katz of QuadCycles rails a turn in the SS race.
The smaller field allowed me time to actually get into the woods along the race course without having to bushwack or dodge racers coming my way. But the easy access came too late: I got poison ivy on arms from the earlier trek. By the end of the day, I got some great shots of the SS action and was able to to witness MRC teammate, Doug Kennedy, take 3rd.

Doug Kennedy on his way to 3rd in the Single Speed race.
I'm grateful for all the hard work put in by QuadCycles, Newbury Comics and others to make this a terrific day of racing. Fingers are crossed that they can use this location for years to come!


Blunt Park - August 21, 2011

Flying in the face of the "don't race cross in August crowd", I headed to Springfield today to do the Cat 4's at Blunt Park.

 @bicykel: Gross, don't get any diapers stuck in your wheel during the race.

Despite a very late night out, I got there nice and early (and dodged the godawful mess from some major festival or other they had there last night) to get some pre-ride laps in. I should actually count them as "training laps" considering I only put in 2.5 hours on the bike last week. Even so, I now wonder if 4 laps, even at an easy pace, was too many.

Got a nice front row position at the start and the marshall did the usual countdown announcements of "10 minutes to go", "5 minutes to go" then finally when he said "about a minute to go" - he IMMEDIATELY followed that with "GO" and totally caught me snoozing.

Despite that flub, I made it through the acorn covered hole-shot in about 10th place or so. The course was in good shape as far as I could tell: a couple of rooty spots, a couple of deep potholes on the single track, but overall I thought it was a good course though with not very much up and down.

The first half of each lap featured a number of logs across the course. After the first lap, I followed the example of those in front of me and merely rode over them instead of dismounting/remounting (thankful for all that MTB action this summer!). The last log was just a bit higher than the rest and situated right after a turn in the midst of a lot of loose pine needles, so that one I did carry the bike over.

Special pat on my own back for noticing during the pre-ride that the ground immediately after was very bumpy and would have made a quick remount dicey, so I went an extra bike length before getting back on: very helpful.

Next was one of the long straights followed by a buncha turns, short straight, more turns then the barriers, there were FOUR, which were set at exactly the right distance apart for me to take TWO steps in between. This meant I pretty much felt like, and probably looked like, I was galloping through them.

The barriers were followed by the "climby" portion of the course which was really not very, but there were turns, loose dirt and roots that made you pay attention then finally back onto the start/finish straight.

The race itself pretty much settled out to me and about 4-5 others dicing back and forth for the duration. This group shrank to 3 and re-combined to 5 again later in the race. I passed a coupla guys and 2-3 passed me. I remember Dylan McKeon, a young (18?), tall Cyclonauts guy who was able to get ahead of me on the straights but every time the turns came along, he'd falter, slow or, once, fall and I'd go by him. I really felt like I was handling the bike very well today.

At some point, I realized that I forgot to turn on my 'puter and gave myself a little kick for squandering a good data collection opportunity. Once you get the stats bug, it hurts to have holes in your data. I started it up and figured I could get a decent estimate of mileage, laptime and distance later.

Another guy who was ahead of me for at least 2-3 laps went down pretty hard on a 180 right hander that had some exposed roots on the inside line - he must have slid his front wheel on them and boom, down he went. I dodged him and got a good 10 yards ahead of him and yet another guy passed him too. It took him a full lap but, kudos to him, he battled back and got ahead of our whole group.

Last lap, I had 3 of our group ahead plus one additional guy who was further ahead earlier but fading. I waited until the last series of turns to pour it on, thinking I could get ahead of at least a couple of them but it was too late: I should have made that move at least a 1/2 lap before the end. Lesson learned.

Finished 12th, 4 places ahead of the race predictor, happy with the result.

I was pleasantly surprised to see and hear both Doug and Coley cheering me on at separate sections of the course, looking forward to reading their reports.


Norwell Circuit Race - Cat 5 - July 31, 2011

Woah, two months since my last post. Hehe, oops! Synopsis: been riding A LOT, training has been much more structured than ever, mixed in some really fun MTB rides including a 3 hour "epic (pics to follow in another post), got majorly shelled by the CRW Thursday fast group and started doing some CX training. Phew. On to yesterday's race...


For some reason, I listened to my wife who thought leaving at 11 for a 1:45 race was crazy. I regretted waiting until nearly noon to leave when I found myself sitting at a dead stop in Rte 3 South traffic at 12:45 with 8 miles to go. Arrived at Norwell Town Hall at 1:00 got my numbers and geared up. Was on my bike at about 25 past and rode up and down Bowker Street a few times as it has a hill similar to the one the leads to the start/finish on the course.

Made my way back to Town Hall and found shelter from the 90º+ heat in the shade of a tree with some other Cat 5's waiting to race. I was looking around for the guys the road-results race predictor might be in the top 5 but didn't I.D. any of them. Soon enough we were staging up and rolling along behind the pace car.

As we poked along down Forest Street, I re-ran my game plan in my head. This plan mostly consisted of avoiding the mistakes I made last year: being on the front too much, being out in the wind too much, burning all my matches before the finish... And of course, there I was, out in front. Again.

Ready to roll.


8 TO GO: As soon as we made the first turn onto Circuit Street and headed up the hill, one guy immediately stomped on it and when the two of us got to the top, he asked, "Wanna go?"

"I got yer wheel," I replied, figuring if he was the real deal and too much for me, I could fade back easily enough an recover for the next 7 laps. But just as I was going for his wheel another guy got on it first so there were 3 of us on a break on the first lap. But it didn't last. Just as guy #1 called out to us to keep our pulls very short, the pack gathered us back up again. I'd say we were out there maybe 1/3 of a lap.

7 TO GO: My plan on the start/finish hill was to stay light in the pedals, keep my cadence on the high side as I climbed to the top to save energy for the end. Others who could at first seemed stronger passed me but I was passing them over the top as they were gassed and soft pedaling. I made my way towards the front again on the descending portions of the back "straight" on Circuit.

6 & 5 TO GO: only thing to report here is one guy who kept calling out, "Coming up the middle!" and "Hey, hold your line" all the while scaring the crap out of me because he wiggled around so much. It's one thing to have the occasional bump with another rider in the pack but this guy seemed to use the guys around him as a physical navigation aid. And why ALWAYS come up the middle?

Meanwhile, I was maintaining a position on the inside that seemed to work well compared to when I am on the outside: on the outside, it is so much easier to get squeezed further out and be in the wind and lose position. If this happens on the inside, you can grab a new wheel as everyone squeezes inside to carve the turn. Risky as you can get run right off the road, but it was working for me. Except for that telephone pole planted on the right edge of the pavement where the road narrows to one lane - there's a slight dogleg right there and every time I went by, I said a little prayer that nobody would bump me over into it.

The 5 TO GO lap was our fastest at over 24 mph, but it didn't seem so fast to me. I seem to remember the whole race was faster last year. There was another abortive break of 4 that petered out on the slight incline on Forest.

4 & 3 TO GO: At the top of the start/finish going into 4 TO GO, there was a good separation between the first 10 or so and the rest, I was at the back of that group and swung to the outside as this big dude came by. I need the rest I would find in his draft. He was a bit wobbly but good shelter for the next half a lap compared to the skinny guy I was just behind. I stayed in the top 10, looking for stable wheels to follow and stayed alert if they started to fade and new blood came to the front.

The two mini-packs melded back together soon after that.

2 TO GO: The start/finish climb was definitely harder this time but it seemed to be for everyone around me too, a lot of huffing and puffing. I was able to hold position at about 10th wheel. As we rounded onto Forest for this second-to-last time, the pace slowed WAY down, a harbinger of things to come... And we were beginning to lap some stragglers too.

BELL LAP: The pack EXPLODED up the start/finish hill this time, leaving me behind as I was climbing the same pace I had on the earlier laps. Over the top, the main field must have had 30-40 yards on me. CRAP! I hoped if I didn't panic, I could reel them back in on the backside of the course where it is mostly downhill.

Just when I needed him, the same big guy from mid-race comes around me and had enough energy in him to give me (with a the help of a few burnt matches) a decent slingshot. Soon I was on the back of the pack and weaving my way to the front again.

This last time down Forest is where I squandered a number of places: I was probably about 15-17th wheel and still picking my way through a bunch of guys who had hit their limit. I should have been on the outside (no yellow line rule on this part of the course) and really drilling it. Once I could see the turn to the start/finish up ahead, people were already on it and going up. Damn.

I made the turn in the drops, got out of the saddle and gave it everything I had as I went up just right of the middle of the road. I could see the leaders up ahead and felt like I could at least reel in a few of those trailing behind. I passed three who were fading fast then noticed somebody all the way on the left who was powered up and just ahead of me. This was my little "race within the race", right there in the last 30 yards.

We both hit the line, throwing our bikes forward - he might have nipped me but I definitely let out the better "Howard Dean scream" as we crossed.

I finished in 12th 13th place, one spot higher than the Road-Results predictor had me. 10 places higher than I finished in this race last year.


Lake Desolation

Such a misnomer. I wonder if it was named "Lake Desolation" to keep the curious away. Didn't stop me. I left Saratoga Springs this morning after delaying my ride a half hour to allow a thunder storm to pass by and made my way along rolling countryside until I got to the bottom of the climb in Middle Grove.

On the way up, along with the clicking sound I've been chasing for weeks in my drive train, I started hearing an ominous "thunk" as I climbed. Hrm, I wonder how tight that front skewer is. Dismount, tighten skewer, sound gone. Phew.

27 minutes later I arrived at Lake Desolation. I was 4.5 miles further and 993 feet higher in elevation than when I started.

Initially, it looked pretty desolate:

But pedaling a bit further, I discovered the lake was actually quite nice:

Well that was so good, I figured I'd try it again. I turned around and headed down, looking forward to the possibility of a 50+mph descent, but the sudden fingernail-on-blackboard screeching sound coming from the rear end of my bike had me braking to a stop to see if I had something stuck between my chainstays and the rear tire.

Nothing. So, I continued down but the sound reappeared when I got up to 45 mph again. Stop. Think.

Could my REAR skewer be too tight? It certainly was: I could barely get it open. My flat-induced frustration must have given me some Hulk-strength yesterday as I remounted the wheel. Loosen skewer, and continue - no more screech.

Passed a couple of cyclists making their way up and thought: there's something to chase for the second climb. At the post office, I turned around and went hunting for them. More familiar with the turns and rises along the way, it certainly felt like I was going faster, but about 1/3 of the way from the top, one of the two was already on his way back down.

At the summit the second time, there was no sign of the other rider, who evidently continued on (there's a nice loop that goes this way). So I turned around and started to think about coffee.

On the way down this time, I did manage to break the 50mph barrier (according to Strava) and got back to Saratoga Springs in time to enjoy another tasty latté at Uncommon Grounds followed up by some delicious pie served by my hosts:


A little touch of Battenkill

Well, sort of.

Rode out to Cambridge from Saratoga Springs this morning. But first, I flatted 3/4 of mile from the start. I pressed on even though I now had no spare tube and one Co2 cartridge left.

Route was a nice change from what I am used to: instead of short, steep climbs every mile or so, I had two very long, steady ones and a few shorter but shallower ones. Saw quite a menagerie of road kill, including a very freshly killed doe (I cropped out the icky part):

Route had me do about 2 miles of Battenkill-style hardpack but rest of it was very well paved rural highway and secondary roads. Legs felt great the whole time but my back, just as it did during the Battenkill race last month, started hurting at about 45 miles and kept it up all the way to the end.

Afterwards, I rewarded myself with the following at Uncommon Grounds on Broadway:


TIP: Little Things Mean A Lot

Noob bike racers (like me) have SO much to learn. If they're lucky, they'll be friendly with one or more racing veterans who'll take pity on them and teach them not only what it takes to be fast and safe on the racecourse but also take the time to clue them into the little things that, taken together, can make a huge difference.

Sure, these are things you could Google or read about in Friel or simply ask about, but who has the presence of mind on race day to think of them?

Sometimes they keep you from looking just like the doofus you might imagine you are.

So, I take this opportunity to give thanks to anyone who has ever taken me aside and said, "Uh, um, not like that, like THIS." Just some of the help I've received in the past year:
  • What gear I should be in at the start of a crit.
  • How to warmup before a race.
  • How to carry my cross bike on long portages.
  • How to manage watts on long climbs.
  • The list goes on and on...
Last year, as I was prepping for my second road race, a teammate came up to me and told me I did not have enough pins holding my number to my jersey.

I was ready to snap back with, "What? Four isn't enough?" when I remembered the annoying flapping sound of my number oscillating in the wind during the PREVIOUS race.

Thanks, dude.


Spotted: 1979 Columbia Trans Am

I was trawling through a folder where I put images I intend to blog about when I rediscovered this series I took last December of a 1979 Columbia Trans Am that was locked to a railing somewhere along Newbury Street in Boston.

What initially caught my eye was the shopping bag seat cover and "Deluxe decorated chainwheel cover":

Casting my eyes forward, I beheld the awesome fork rake...

... and funky handlebars but then I noticed the truly unique feature of this bike...

... Shimano Positron shifting! According to the late, great Sheldon Brown, Positron was Shimano's first attempt at indexed shifting. Back then, they thought that expert cyclists already knew how to shift and so they targeted Positron shifting at entry level riders.

The plan backfired for two reasons: 1) since it was aimed at inexpensive bikes, the system had to be so cheaply made that it was not very reliable 2) this also meant that indexed shifting got tainted with the "beginner" label, slowing adoption of better made systems by experienced cyclists.

The bike looked completely stock as far as I can tell, who knows if those are the original tires. Here's a page from the 1982 Shimano catalog (click here to browse the whole thing):

(click to see 1982 Shimano Catalog at Sheldon Brown's website)
Dig the features listed in this print ad for the bike (from Mr. Columbia):

(click to see the Columbia timeline at Mr. Columbia's website)


17th Annual Sterling Classic Road Race - May 7, 2011

The Sterling Classic has been hosted by my club, The Minuteman Road Club for 17 years and this year marked the second time I competed in the Cat 5 35+ field. Since Battenkill, I made a few trips out to the race course to remind my legs what they would be getting into going up the start/finish along Meeetinghouse Hill Road.

I also engaged in various religious, non-religious and black arts rituals in an effort to prevent a repeat of last year's horrendous weather. As in the case with Battenkill, the week leading up to Saturday had me so busy with work and personal commitments that my "taper" was dangerously close to a "full stop", training-wise. I found myself still packing up the car and cooler well past 11 pm Friday night.

Head hits pillow, eyes close, alarm goes off.  :: sigh ::

The forecast was looking very good with temps to be in the 50's and 60's with a fairly low chance of rain.

Coffee and oatmeal made and eaten, I headed out to Sterling. After a drive around the course, I head to the staging area at the school, check in with Ian R who gave the volunteers their last minute instructions. I'd be marshaling later after my race.

Pin on my number, set up the bike and start warming up along the roads near the school. Easy pedaling with a few jumps here and there to wake up the type II muscles... knowing that they would get a much more intense stirring when the race began.

Silly bike: even though I gave it a very complete tune up a few days earlier, my drive train was making an annoying clicking sound that I could not pin down. I decided that it would either be lost in the noise of the pack or could work to my advantage, letting others think I was more of a noob/fred/doofus than I really am.

Before I knew it, 8:35 rolled around and it was time for my field to assemble. Jorge H, our former club president call myself and fellow club members John R and Doran A to the front of the field and took our picture.

Yeah, we're all smiles NOW.
The pace car rolled and we started heading into town.

The driver of the pace car kept us honest by going less than 20 mph and I maintained my position at the front all the way in. My race-induced tunnel vision was fully engaged as I was completely unaware of anyone to either side of me. Looking down at my computer showed my HR already starting to climb, surely due to some anxiety about what was soon to happen.

My plan: stay with the main group and not do any ill-advised breaks for the lead like I did last year. If I found myself near the front at the end, unleash myself upon Meetinghouse Hill like no tomorrow and deal with the consequences later.

On the way up to the start, I made one more incantation to "race my race" and not freak out at the beginning if anyone took off on the hill. Up we went, the dozen or so people along the way cheered and I remained in front as the race began.

No wincing, cramping or heavy breathing. Yet.

I let a few people slip by me on MHH and as expected, regained position as we continued under the 190 overpass. Nothing much to report on lap one except that at one point on Route 12, an unattached rider got a few yards ahead of the rest of us and wove his bike back and forth across the road.

Taunting? Showing off? Just feeling good? Beats me. My thought was either he was a ringer or a douche, maybe both.

For the rest of the first lap, I was variously pulling or in the top 10 wheels. Coming back around to MHH, again I lost a few places on the way up but gained them back on the next climb and after. I felt calm and reasonably strong.

When we turned from Rowley to Heywood on lap 2, I did a little seated acceleration just to keep the others on their toes, the pace was THAT leisurely at that point. The course takes a little descent right after the turn so I didn't sacrifice any matches. I got pretty far ahead and somebody who caught my wheel asked if I was serious. I barely had time to shake my head "no" when the pack swallowed us back up on the next incline.

When we got onto the newly paved North Row Road, I was maybe 3 rows back when I heard the dreaded crunch and "UGH!" and "Watch out!" that's concurrent with somebody going down. Hyper alert for the possibility of the tangle being in my path, I saw John R going by to the left of the yellow line, on his ass with his bike laid out before him. And then I heard another crunch as somehow, somebody else was across the yellow line and hit his bike.

At that instant, said to myself, "Now, it's up to YOU!" and felt as if John crashing out of the race passed on some additional "mana" and responsibility to me. I became more resolute in concentrating on my game plan.

This time, along Rte. 12, a different unattached rider had the lead position with me as second wheel. After a minute pulling or so, he began drifting to one side then then other, looking for me (or someone else) to take over. I let him know the futility in this and advised him to instead, hold a straight line and just slow down until somebody got sick of going so slow.

That somebody was me.

But I didn't pick up the pace that much and as we passed Dunkin Donuts and began the gradual climb back into town, others grew impatient with MY pace and I let them by. Somewhere along this section, I realized that John R had miraculously rejoined the race. Woot!

Once again, I drifted back through the pack up MHH but this time,  just as I was regaining contact with the group as we turned onto Heywood, two guys were 30-40 yards up the road with no one seeming to care.

Following the example set by my Cat 4 team mates in races earlier this season, I saw a chance to help John. As I passed him, I said something like, "latch on" or "let's go get 'em" and I turned on the gas. Later, somebody else confessed that he grabbed my wheel before John did but I assumed John (and a bunch of others) followed suit. I hammered hard for a good long minute until we swallowed up the break.

Could they have sustained the break? A more prudent mind would likely have said "no" but as I found out watching the 4's later on, you ignore a break at your peril: a solo break early in their race maintained a 1 minute lead for many laps all the way to victory. And you never know if you got a ringer in your field when you are racing the 5's.

Soon after that, John had a near miss at a SECOND crash on North Row. Meanwhile, even though I fired off a bunch of bullets catching the break, the peloton graciously resumed it's pokey pace, allowing me to recover once again.

We hit Rte. 12 at a reasonably fast clip, me taking a fairly wide line just in case a squirrely noob-bot lost his nerve on the turn. The pace continued to slowly increase and when we got to the DD's this time, the race was finally ON. Of course, this was the moment my quads decided to hint that they'd had enough, but I was able to continue to feather on the power without upsetting them into total crampage.

Unfortunately, others in the field were feeling a bit better than I was and soon enough, dribs and drabs of them began passing me as we rounded the turn past the fire station at the bottom of MHH. I had to stop this erosion of my postion in the race, but I knew if I got out of the saddle on the hill, I'd be a knotted mess of cramped muscle on the ground.

Meanwhile, John was ahead, in a pitched battle up the hill to the finish and was beat there by Mr. Swervy Pants from early in the race, who later confessed that he was a former Cat 2 racer returning to the sport after many years. That's two 2nd place finishes for John in a row, the last one being at Blue Hills.

For my part, I progressively shifted to easier and easier gears while ramping up my cadence. This seemed to the way to go as I reeled in three of the guys that had just passed me and, breathing as hard as I ever have in my life, wheeled across in 16th.

It's a wonder I didn't grind my teeth down to little stumps.

Turns out, I matched the climb time I recorded on the way up the first time, when my legs were "fresh". Go figure.

Afterwards, I got some constructive criticism from John R regarding the amount of time I spent on the front. I don't know, I wasn't working that hard when I was up there and yes, even if I wasn't working very hard, everyone else behind me had it easier. Could less time up front have left me with more joules for the finish?

Interesting footnote - while rooting around on Colin Reuter's road-results.com, I stumbled upon this happenstance: I finished one place ahead of the SAME GUY I beat by one place in this race last year:

(click for easier viewing)

This year, the ride back to the staging area at the school was much more pleasurable and after a quick change and repacking my bike in the car, I was headed back up to Meetinghouse Hill Road. Of course I brought my camera along and got photos of the mens 4's before I went on duty as marshal above the start/finish and later, the mens 3's, and both the pro 1/2 men's and pro 1/2/3 women's races (many more photos here):


Battenkill Picture-palooza

Well, maybe not THAT many photos. I was certainly kind of busy ruining myself that day. But Kevin Jones got a couple of great shots of me (many more shots by Kevin here in his SmugMug gallery):

Slogging my way up Meetinghouse Road. Somehow after the cramping episode, I was able to get out of the saddle long enough for Kevin to grab a couple of frames.
The whole story is written there in my face.
Air in, fire out.
After my race, I grabbed my G10 and got some shots in the tent-area near the podium:

Todd Prekaski (always thinking NECX) and Gary Sclar, amazingly able to smile again the moment he got off his bike.

Carl Shimer displaying a nice encrustation of salt.
Todd Prekaski on his 5th? 6th? cider donut.
Here's our friend, Tom Keane (right) on the podium after getting 3rd in his Cat 5 45+ field. Joining him are team mate Dana Brown (2nd place, on the left) and winner Rejean Rochette (center). At least the guy on the far right isn't scratching his nuts.
In other news, I took the MTB out two days later for a "recovery ride" and managed to fall off it about half dozen times. The last time I went down, I broke the saddle. Of course, this happened when I was about as far from home as I could possibly be.

The nose of the saddle had some plastic bit that held the rails to the seat top, when it broke, the front lifted off and would slide completely off the back of the rails, leaving my tender bits in mortal danger. I did not relish the prospect of having to ride home like this:

So, I start pawing about my jersey pockets looking for some way to secure the saddle for the ride home. This is what I came up with:

Where the rubber meets the load. It actually wasn't all that uncomfortable.

Earned my Boy Scout knot merit badge with this one.

MacGyver himself would be proud but would have given me points off for leaving my Swiss Army knife home. I replaced the broken saddle with a vintage 3ttt unit off my ancient Bianchi Nuovo Racing road bike.

The rest of the week found me settling back into a regular training routine capped off this morning by a nice 3.5 hour ride that included a visit to the Ride Studio Cafe for a choicified latté.

I felt so good about it that when I got home, I treated myself to the summer haircut:

Coefficient of drag reduced by .02