Turtle Pond Circuit Race – an exercise in frustration

I tend not to bother with race reports, since I seldom see the pointy end of the race. My writeups tend to follow the pattern of “So there I was at the start, and I did everything right, except for the things I did wrong, and a little while later I finished 65th. I’m not sure who won. The end.” I’m not really interested in reading that, so how can I expect you to sit through it?
Today was a little different. My phone bongo’ed me awake at 5:15 to pick up a teammate and make the drive up to Loudon, NH for the Turtle Pond circuit race. Instead of wanting to pull the covers over my head, I bounced out of bed, hit the shower, chucked the bike in the rack and was ready to go a little early. That hasn’t happened to me much lately. I intended to arrive early enough to ride an 11-mile lap of the course, but we started off in the wrong direction during warmup and ended up only covering the first 5 miles or so before turning back. That turned out to be an OK decision, since the actual course differed from the map on the race flyer. Instead of taking a right turn onto the steep hill on Hot Hole Pond Road, we went straight and stayed on gently rolling Shaker Road. We didn’t find out about that until the racer’s brief at the start. The official mentioned something about opening day for fishing. If I had ridden the course as marked on the map, I just would’ve been confused in the race. She also mentioned a yard sale on the course, and the fact that they’d “try” to have the full width of School Street for the finish.
I lined up towards the back with my teammate Can and Internet friends Jerry and Geoff. Geoff proceeded to give me a hard time about my number placement, which I probably deserved. Jerry, Geoff and a couple other guys in the field are also on Twitter, and I think we had near perfect attendance among Cat 4 New England tweeps. I’m only aware of one absence.
We rolled out in neutral to the top of Oak Hill. I swear I nearly fell over a couple of times, we were moving so slowly. The pace didn’t pick up much after we crested the hill, though at some point we let a small break go. Somebody must have been controlling the pace at the front, but after two laps were were all back together. I was mostly mired in the middle of the pack, feeling good but not doing very well with finding a way to move up. We were on the brakes all the time – uphill, downhill, on the flat, I simply couldn’t understand why the pace was so choppy. But I couldn’t get to the front to try to change things, either. The roads were quite narrow with no shoulder, and we had the yellow line rule in effect all the way around. That isn’t to say it couldn’t be done, I just couldn’t figure out how to do it.
With 2 laps to go, Can made a hero move by going wide through the turn onto Oak Hill and hammering past most of the pack. He made it all the way to the front, and I watched him lead us down the back side of Oak Hill. But by the time we came back to Oak Hill for the last lap, he was cooked, and I saw him going backwards. I still felt good on the last lap and gave it all the gas I could on Oak Hill, and moved up a little. The pack finally strung out, but the pace slowed again on the back side and we regrouped. Add in a couple of super-slow-mo turns on Cemetery St and we were headed for a big bunch finish.
This being a Cat 4 race, we had crashes. One guy rode himself into the sand on Oak Hill on what I think was the third lap. Another two got tangled up in the corner onto Shaker Road, and I think another got into the sand on the last lap when turning onto School Street. The most memorable, though, were the two guys who were over the yellow line on School Street with less than a K to go, when a car came over the rise we were about to ascend. They bumped, tangled up and spread themselves over the road doing about 50 Km/h. So much for having the full width of the road. That sure distracted me as I tried to find a way around it. I found myself actually winding up my puny sprint for the finish. I’m not sure what my placing was, but I was in the main group. After I came through, I saw Mark Bernard sitting on the floor – at least he had the good sense to crash after he collected his 5th-place finish.
I left with a feeling of frustration. I had the best legs I think I’ve ever had for a road race, and I couldn’t find a way to really use them. But, I had a glorious day in the company of friends, got to connect with more bike dorks, and celebrate life by hurling myself through space. My compliments to the winners – I should have hung around to hear who you were. Maybe this race report wasn’t too far off the pattern after all…

Car-free days

Well, the Battenkill race report never saw the light of day. We had a good day, and two teammates in the van made the road trip much more tolerable, but my performance wasn’t exactly remarkable. The hamstring cramps that struck me at the 2nd feed zone, on the other hand, forced all kinds of remarks through my clenched teeth.
Today was just another day. Up early to suffer through a bunch of 30-second blocks, then breakfast and a brief pedal over to the train station. I mixed things up by – at long last! – taking the T north of the river to pick up my Spooky Supertouch cross frame at Ace Wheelworks. Thanks, Mickey! I slung it over my shoulder for the ride home. Yeah, I like bikes so much, sometimes I wear ’em for jewelry.
I don’t get to log too many car-free days. Maybe one or two a week, most of the time. Today, with the sun shining and the trees budding, I was happy to sneak one in. I’m hoping to get a few more this summer when the kids just have to go down the hill instead of up to Milton.
Hey – go ride your bike. You’ll like it.