CRCA A race, March 27, 2010
As a father and husband living in the New Jersey suburbs, my opportunities for illicit thrills have diminished greatly. I wasn't ever really a thrill seeker to begin with (I've never had an interest on narcotics and my single days mostly consisted of weeping lonely tears into my pillow), but in the past, I at least had the opportunity stay out all night or take a trip to Lawrence, Kansas or Cedar Falls, Iowa on a whim—yes, I did live an edgy existence. But these days, even opportunities to behave poorly have disappeared. I am father, I need to behave until my children have at least graduated from college—only then can I give in to my urges to wear lavender jumpsuits for days on end whilst offering tips on governance to whichever poor administration finds itself in office during my declining years.
My only remaining near-illicit thrill is bike racing. And there are some similarities between racing and other less healthy nocturnal stimulations: both activities will find you awake in a bathroom at 4:30 in the morning, both involves crowds of people in tight clothing panting and bobbing in the dark, and both can require helmets—of the beer and non-beer varieties. But bike racing remains a mostly healthy endeavor, and in order to participate in races, I must achieve a certain amount of fitness. I plan on racing the Tour of the Battenkill in a few weeks, and I thought it would be wise to get some racing in my legs before that happened. Therefore, this weekend I planned on doing something I never do—race twice. I have a self-imposed sanction on doing more than one race per weekend, as I feel that two days in a row of early bedtimes and the subsequent days of exhausted zombie-like waking hours take too much time away from my familial duties. But Battenkill is fast approaching, and I need to get miles in.
To aid me in my quest for mile, I enlisted the help of the generous Mr Brian G. I would drive in with Brian to Saturday's race, he would then drive home immediately after the race to get home in time to coach some sort of sport, abandoning me in the naked city, where I would either ride back home to Jersey or be forced to live in the streets in an absurd costume of pastel colors matched with a crotch-hugging silhouette.
Our race was scheduled for 6 laps of Central Park, after last weekend's temperate temperatures, Mother Nature had decided to play a game of climatic three card monte and sent the thermometer dropping to a backside clinching 28 degrees at start time. I was wearing my pre-race scarf at the sign-in, but decided to quickly upgrade its status from "pre-race" to "throughout-race". I wrapped it around my neck and tucked it into my jersey, cutting a dashing but mostly non-hypothermic figure.
We pushed off and for the first lap I tried hard to not shiver myself off my bike. Somewhere in the course of my quivering, teammate Pavel, Greg Olsen from Adler and another fellow from Blue Ribbon managed to slip away from the field. This simplified the race tactics for our team, we just needed to sit near the front, jump on any attacks, and smother them like a vindictive middle aged heir placing a pillow over his wealthy mother's face. And smother we did. I imagine I will be showing up in Doug O'Neil's nightmares as he looks over his shoulder, as that was the position I took whenever he made a move during the race. Sorry, Doug, but Pavel up the road in a small group was a great position for our team.
On or about lap two, my performance scarf (parf?) started to feel a bit too warm for my liking, so I decided to take it off. I was able to unwrap it just fine but was having difficulty getting in into my jersey pocket—I suppose my "behind the back" skills aren't quite up to my normal racing standards. I drifted to the back (as to not get my scarf tangled in anyone wheels and take then down, lest I be accused of ruining anyone's chances at mightiness in the 35+ race at Somerville later in the season) and hoped that teammate Justin could shove my scarf into a pocket or jersey, but that attempt met with dismal results. I spotted Colin Prensky by the side of the road, shrieked at him, and sent my scarf flying towards him, in the hope he could eventually return it. I did notice that he was wearing it a lap later—because let's face it, scarves are impossible to resist.
Pavel managed to stay off the front of the race for about 13/16ths of the race, but was caught at the top of Harlem Hill on the last lap of the race. We needed to adjust our plan and find someone on the team who wanted to sprint. James volunteered, and we shifted to plan B. The race flung itself towards the finish, and as we crested Cat's Paw Hill in a cluster, I was sitting near the top five, but James and I had become separated. It was too late to try and get together, so I saw Pavel ahead of me, proving once again that he is perhaps made of some super-secret metal alloy. I screeched at him to jump, and he did, managing to still place after staying away for the majority of the race.
Schmalz race report
Not a bad day in all, I got my extra miles in and was able to spend some quality time with my scarf. Let's go with a 5.
Side notes to the day
During the race my right shifter was malfunctioning the paddle that shifted the rear derailleur onto higher gears was getting stuck in its "open" position, requiring me to brush it back into its position with the back of my hand, as if I were brushing aside a cluster of gnats. I spent most of the race using this modified friction shifting system. I was tempted to just stop shifting altogether, but convinced myself that I did own a total of 20 gears and should get my money's worth.
I did manage to get myself home and get in my extra Battenkill preparatory miles, but in an ironic twist, I came down with a sore throat later in the day, denying me my double race weekend. Beware the consequences of abandoning of the scarf, my friends.
Today's head song was "Death or Glory" by the Clash, on honor of Pavel's move off the front.
Spring Series Cat 123 race, March 20, 2010
After spending a restful weekend retreat in Poughkeepsie enjoying the works of Eric Carle presented in puppet form (I asserted that the hungry caterpillar character's insatiable hunger was a quasi-socialist representation of modern consumer gluttony, my four year daughter countered by saying the caterpillar ate so much because he "Liked food a lot."—we eventually agreed to disagree.); I was well rested for my morning jaunt through Central Park with scores of my Lycra attired contemporaries. We were scheduled for a scant four circumnavigations of Olmstead's Manhattan Marvel, so the action promised to be hectic, brief and likely to culminate in a furious field sprint. As we lined up for our race in the blissful fifty degree warmth (it's March, I don't ask for much), promoter Anthony Van Dunk offered us a bonus fifth lap in exchange for a promise from us that we would race really, really fast. We all pledged to not be slow, and pushed off to the sound of scraping cleats and tweeting birds.
There was a big turnout for today's race, and large crowded races present special challenges for a person like myself. Firstly, they can be devilishly hard to get away from (which I need to do to have any personal success), and since we were zipping along to make good on our start line boast, the likelihood of a field sprint was lurking like a Tara Reid dance single—both inevitable and nausea inducing. That, of course, does not mean you do not try. And try I did. On lap two, I jumped to an early move of around 4 or 5 fellows and as they were slowing, I jumped again; freeing myself of any companions. This is not necessarily the outcome I was looking for. In a 123 category race, I need confederates in order to make a move stick; and as I dangled off the front like a rainbow-colored dog track rabbit; I found no one was coming forth to join me. I'm sure this had to do with the fact that few of my fellow racers have seen me in our new team kit and therefore didn't recognize me; or they did recognize me and understood that—if left out front on my own—I would soon drop back to the pack like a sixty pound box of sledge hammers.
After sledging my way back to the friendly confines of the large pack, I required some time to convince myself that my internal organs hadn't, in fact, started boiling. As I was setting my duodenum to simmer, I heard the unmistakeable scraping sound that signals the start of a crash, only it wasn't the siren's call of the pavement that I heard—it was Gavin Robertson's brake pads. I'm not sure where he acquired his sandpaper brake pads, but they were very effective in frightening tiny bits of poo out of me whenever he braked in my proximity. This was especially unnerving when we had to shove ourselves down from two lanes of traffic to one at the newest park obstacle—the bad bit of road near the 72nd street entrance on the East Side. This is the third week of the racing season, and it seems that this stumbling block isn't going anywhere soon, so I think that we should name it. And since it serves to constrict the flow of traffic passing through it, I think we should call the it (in an alliterative twist) the 72nd Street Sphincter—say it out loud, it just jumps off the tongue.
And so we rolled along, shoving our pack through the 72nd Street Sphincter while personally I piled up panicked pieces of my own droppings due to Gavin's brake pad's plaintive wailings. We made the time cut to have ourselves a five lap race, and we set about launching ourselves towards the finish. There was a lot of us still together at the end of the race, and riding in the middle of the pack was an experience akin to racing bicycles in a crowded elevator. As the finish approached, my only chance would be a desperate move off the front—hopefully with like-minded fellows. I found a path of egress on the West Side, I pushed the "door open" button and threw myself into the open wind. Unfortunately, my teammate Marcus had the same idea as I, just earlier, and as I was waiting for my floor to arrive, he had already taken off. I had no idea he was off the front, and while I stopped pedaling as soon as I realized he was away—the extra burst of speed I added to the race couldn't have helped. I decided to fall back, in order to avoid having Marcus see my foolish face at the front and also to sidestep he inexorable disaster that would occur when the speeding pack hit the 72nd Street Sphincter just before the finish. Gladly, this didn't turn out to be the case, and everyone made it through the Sphincter and was able to contest a clean sprint, which was won by Gavin Robertson and his howling wheel of victory.
Schmalz Race Report
As I've said before, dirty shorts but a clean finish, let's call it a five.
Today's head song was the Hotrats' cover of David Bowie's "Queen Bitch"
CRCA A race, March 6, 2010
Today was opening day of the 2010 racing season in New York. I had been preparing diligently all week by spending all day in bed (in a non-sexy way, the way I spend 99% of my time in bed, the other percentages are split between gassiness and spasm) on Tuesday sweating and shivering. My (non-interesting) glands were in revolt during the week, swelling in many non-sexy ways. I treated my symptoms in my usual manner—with vodka tonics (tonic means medicine, no?) and cough drops. My goals for today's race were minimal—I hoped to wear a scarf before the race (mission accomplished), and dared to dream that I would complete the entire race.
I followed my usual warm up routine of tunelessly bellowing along with Liz Phair as I drove over the GWB on my way to Central Park. I beat the crowd to the registration pile up and then set about locating my teammates, as we had a record turnout for this race, and I wanted to make sure I hadn't been replaced—as I am very vain—and can't imagine an A race occuring without me. Today's race held extra importance as our sponsors were in attendance, and I was hoping to perform in a non-revolting manner.
We were scheduled for 6 laps, but with our late start, the pace needed to finish before the Park Department's golden time of 8 am would require maintaining an average speed of—by my calculations—96 miles an hour; so I hedged my mental bets and planned on a more manageable 5 laps of fury. And so we set off, scheduled for 6 laps, but really hoping for 5.
At Harlem Hill, Dan Zmolik of AXA Equitable (my second favorite Czech racer in the city—more on that later. Foreshadowing!) made an early race move, the kind that usually just serves to mix things up—but he was soon joined by Ken Harris of Adler. Dan's softening move soon became a harder mixture of pain and perhaps regret, as he and Ken committed themselves to taking a shot off the front. My teammate Christoffel tried to bridge up to the move, and dangled for what was probably an insufferable duration between the pack and the break. He came back to the pack and our mission became clear—we had to chase.
I like to say that when you're chasing, it means that you've done something wrong, and by strict interpretation, we had done something wrong, as we had no one in the break; but it is March, and it's very hard to predict a Ken Harris attack. Oh, who am I kidding? Ken attacking is as inevitable as a future Miley Cyrus rehab stint, we just weren't ready to start racing that hard just yet. But obviously, Ken and Dan were, so we chased—it is racing after all.
We did our turns at the front for the next four and a half laps. I did my pulls when I could, and after I finished tugging I dropped back through the pack like whale dung. There was a big pack racing and I was able to float (unlike whale dung, which hovers) back to the front and offer more help when I could. At first we considered getting the break close enough to allow one of our guys to jump across, but none of us was feeling that perky, so eventually we settled on chasing the break.
On the last lap we decided that Pavel would be our sprinter, and we set about closing the gap to the break for good. I did my pulls near the end, culminating in one last run through the horse droppings, I then found a place in the pack to survive through the closed section of road. Pavel was sitting in the top five when I last saw him.
After I rolled to the line, I found out that we did indeed catch the break, and that Pavel had won the race, beating a good line up of sprinters in the process. His win was extra sweet because our sponsors were there (they were the ones who knew that Pavel won, Pavel was convinced he was third, as he didn't see the break get caught—and it really did take us awhile to convince him that he had won). It was satisfying that we were able to pull together as a team to bring the break back, and Pavel was able to finish the race off—which also helped to cement his place as my favorite Czech racer in the city—sorry Dan.
Schmalz Race Report
As always, a win for a teammate is a win for me; and it doesn't get much better than today, so I'll call that a 1. Hopefully the rest of the season isn't all down hill.
Side note from the day
Pavel also went on to win his collegiate race later in the day, because, you know, why not?
Today's head song was "Burning Too" by Fugazi. "Do it, now! Do it now!"