Category Archives: racing

in praise of the yellow line

yellowlineoh yellow line, snaking, slick, constant companion on my left, marking an invisible wall, keeping me safe. solid or dashed, double or single, it matters not: you are there, the boundary between right and wrong, between foul and fair, between onrushing burger-munching latte-sippers encased in steel at 45 mph and comparatively benign carbon and flesh at 22.7 mph.

others flout your presence, scoff at your warning, scoot up on your left, ignore your silent reproach to gain a few postions in the pack, to cut a corner, even to launch an attack.

not i! i give you as wide berth as possible, avoiding the chasm on your left, the pit of despair, the meaningless risk. when i find myself too close, even touching your battlements, i lean right into the shoulder of my competitor rather than breach your invisible wall.

just this past sunday, yellow line, i felt the rubber of my tires hit your paint, felt the swell of the pack as it drifted left, nudging me further, seductively inviting me to slide into into the oncoming lane, move around this oh-so-sketchy guy in front of me and find a safer, more strategic spot in the pack. as i wavered under the pack’s spell, i heard a rumbling noise ahead, and snapped out of it just in time to heed your warning, lean right, and feel on my face the breeze of that hurtling f-250 trailing a pleasure craft.

thank you, yellow line — for the rest of the day i steered very clear of you, not because i don’t like you, but because i respect you. and when the crash came, as crashes do, a mile from the finish, it began on the left, near you. did you see what happened? i was far away, crunching gravel up the right side.

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talk me down, please

hmmmm …. i find myself a little tight in the chest with nerves, with little butterflies in my stomach and a weird sense of hypervigilance. i’m wondering if the ache in my right knee is something to worry about, or a figment of my imagination. i’m not getting a lot of work done, because i keep checking tomorrow’s weather … in louisville.

that’s right, folks — i’ve got the prerace jitters.

here’s the thing: i don’t even know if i’m going to go. it’ll be a gametime decision.

more than that, it’s not a race i care about, or one that i would plan on doing well in. in the alphabet soup of low-level amateur races, with A races being the ones you care about, B races being the ones you come into fit and ready to go, and C races being the ones you enter with limited expectations, hoping only to finish upright (an admirable goal in its own right, i know) — in that pantheon, this is a solid D.

i mean, i’m not at fighting weight, i’ve got a six-month-case of sleep deprivation (that oddly enough coincides with the age of my son), and although training has gone relatively well so far, i know i’ve got a long way to  go.

easy, right? just go, get the feel of the pack, don’t do anything stupid, and see where you are? what’s to be nervous about?

i tell myself all of that and more — and it does no good. i mean, it’s ten o’clock in the morning friday, and i’m mentally packing my raceday bag (don’t forget recovery powder — ooh, and it might rain, so get your poncho in there) and trying to remember any strange noises my bike was making on my last ride and when can i clean and oil the chain don’t forget that and do i need new bar tape don’t be silly and and and …

the good thing is, i know this feeling, and i know that it’s good to have it before any race. if i went into a race just “thinking of it like a fast group ride,” or “not really caring about it,” i’d be fooling myself. because no matter what it is for me, it’s someone’s A race (or even if it’s not, someone’s going to decide partway through the race that he’s making it an A race), and that means someone’s going to take chances, and not necessarily smart ones. and that’s what makes any race really unlike a fast group ride, and why it’s good to worry about preparation and have your spidey-senses tingling. plus, no matter how you cut it: this is why we do it, why we bundle up for sixty cold miles in february, or suffer through another interval workout on the trainer in the dark basement with only the ipod as company, or skip that dessert. we race. and racing season is about to begin, for me either tomorrow or in a couple weeks at hueston woods. we should get excited.

so on second thought, don’t talk me down: i’m right where i want to be.

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hot off the presses

the 2009 ohio spring race series flyer is here!

only 55 more days ’til hueston woods!

git on yer bikes ‘n’ ride!

ohiospringraceseries2009

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good question!

down in sunny texas, 10thousandfeet of mellow velo  is looking to get into racing and asking for advice on getting started (go on, go over there and give your two cents’). in response to an advice-bloated comment i made on the blog, she asks: “you said it took you a long time to decide to get into racing. what finally pushed you over? how hard was it at first and what do you think helped you (the most) to finally ‘get there?'”

umm … ooh … okay, here goes: first, it’s worth knowing that i race at a very very amateur level: my goal is to be a respectable masters’ racer. i started riding in earnest in northern california in my early twenties: all recreational and commuting, but pretty committed, to the point where i was averaging over two-hundred miles a week for a while, and my riding partners included an upwardly-mobile cat 3. i loved it, i loved being fit, i dropped 35 pounds that i had put on during a very sedentary (and play-filled) quartet of college years, and i began to contemplate getting into racing.

but contemplate was all i did at that time, for a couple of reasons: one, i was afraid to jump into a race and be that guy — you know, the one who took the wrong line and caused a pile-up, or who didn’t know enough to stay steady in a paceline, or who was simply overwhelmed at suddenly being surrounded by fast-moving bikes on all sides. two, i left northern california, moved to the midwest, and (most damning, at least to dreams of racing my bike) began graduate school.

correctly or not, i read the rigors and demands and stresses  (and seemingly-ubiquitous stress releases of pool, beer, and cigarettes) of graduate school as antithetical to the serious pursuit of training and racing. i rode only recreationally, but i did play some adult soccer during grad school and discovered (or rediscovered) that i really like to compete. really like it. not so much to beat others (although that’s pretty cool): i loved the rush of being in the moment of competition, of looking into the eye of an opponent and cackling with sheer joy at the prospect that i might beat you on the dribble, or not, or that you might ride me off your wheel, or not, but damnit, i was gonna try to hang on, and when we were done i’d shake your hand whether you won or i did. when i think of myself playing soccer as a thirty-something, i always have a smile on my face, even though i know that i would get a bit chippy at times. (the same is true when i think about being in a bike race, even though photographic evidence usually shows me with either grimly gritted teeth or a gaping anaerobic trap.)

soccer didn’t work out in the long run (i’m kinda protective of my knees), so after grad school i started riding centuries, bought myself a new bike, and eventually really really got the itch to see if i could ride fast and competitively. and as luck would have it, the thing i needed most — confidence riding my bike in a pack at high speeds — was available. in st. paul, mn, a local bike racing club (named, appropriately, the saint paul bicycle racing club, or spbrc) puts on an annual class called the beginning racing program (brp).

so i signed up, and with my signup i got a year’s membership in the club and a spiffy club jersey. more importantly, i got six weeks’ of practice in pacelines, cornering, sprinting, and even bumping shoulders and crossing wheels (these last two practiced on a grass field). we also got tips from experienced racers, lines on good group rides, and encouragement to race, which i soon did.

and loved it.

so, what, you’re looking for the lesson? okay, then — if you want to race, don’t wait fifteen years to start and always wish you knew how you might’ve done with a younger body; join a bike-racing club; use that club (either formally, as in a beginning racing program) or informally (by coercing clubmates into skills-training sessions) to fill in the gaps of confidence and skill you need to get into a mass-start race; set goals; and want to compete with a childlike joy.

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goldsprints indoor cycling series

this sounds like fun — for the spectators, at least. one-on-one indoor stationary bike races — in a bar, with beer, and a dj.

goldsprints-poster

jan 23, grammers, races at 9pm.

more info: http://www.myspace.com/cincinnatigoldsprints

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