Friday, July 4, 2008

Twin Sizzler, Twin Trends

The two trends of my season -- inexplicable gains in form (from wretched to mediocre) and inexplicable crappy luck -- collided today at the wonderful Twin Sizzler race in Medina.
The long story short: I hung with the Cat 2s and 3s in the elite masters field (35+), ran down some early breaks, made the selection when we hit the hills and was in pretty good shape 16 miles into a 26-mile race. Then I hit some glass and flatted out.
That's the gist.
If you hate reading other people's long, self-indulgent race reports as much as I do, go ahead and boot up your Grand Theft Auto II.


The July 4 Twin Sizzler is a much-derided race among racers, because the road conditions are Fallujah-esque and the intersections poorly marshaled. There's no prize money or upgrade points.
Worst of all, perhaps, to my many overly serious, self-important peers, the Twin Sizzler is non-sanctioned, and its age-group-based citizen races draw a million non-racers for their first race ever or their only race of the year. God forbid anyone who holds a license and has matching top and bottom be confused for one of them. ("Oh, dear, Thurston -- Who admitted those ghastly people wearing sneakers and toe clips?")
Its 8:15 a.m. start is quite early start for me, a non-morning-person who lives almost an hour from Medina. Then my day started off with the kind of exasperation that's familiar to just about everyone who races:
1) Couldn't get to sleep last night, thanks in large part to the party girls next door, who thought it was really fun to sing along with Whitney Houston's "The Greatest Love of All" at the top of their lungs well past midnight. When the alarm went off at 6 a.m., I'd been asleep for maybe 4-1/2 hours.
2) Finally get in the car at 6:40 and discover the tank is empty -- like, real empty. Emptier than it ever gets in the Honda, because the Fuel light actually went on. That car's gotta be on vapors for the fuel light to come on.
I get to what I thought was a 24-hour gas station at the corner, desperately needing both gas and coffee, and discover that it is, at most, a 23-hour and 58-minute gas station, because it was closed up tight. Maybe, just maybe, I've got enough gas to get to Ghetto Joe's -- it's mostly downhill.
3) I do make it, only to discover that gangbanging dope boys also sometimes get stuck with the early shift, and four of them begin to take issue with the straps of my bib overalls hanging out the back of my baggy shorts. But like a cat that gets bored with a mouse, they decide to drop it.
4) By now it's an hour and 15 minutes until the start of the race, which is about an hour away, and the question of whether I should even bother becomes more pronounced.
5) My bowels ask for a respite at Brunswick. I hope there is indoor plumbing there. And I'm delighted to see a Burger King. Surprisingly, there are no corn squeezin's or hominy on the menu. But there is coffee!
Fast forward to Medina.
I arrived without making up my mind which race to do, and was totally confounded.
The citizens' race, 45-49 age group, had almost 30 guys signed up, which at first struck me as good.
I knew that a good number of those would look like Dom Deluise or John McCain. Mirrored helmets. Tri-bars, maybe. Flat-bar bikes. Cotton T-shirts and/or Wheaties jerseys that stretch over enlarged bellies. Black Nashbar tops that look like a cut-in-half inner tube with Rosie O'Donnell stuffed inside. F--in' panniers, for chrissakes. But with 30 or more, maybe I'd get lucky and get a good race from half of them.
But last year was not that long ago, and even at my age, I can remember one year back. I did the 40-44 race last year. There were only a handful of quasi-racers like me -- some fellow Cat 5s and out-of-shape Cat 4s. The race blew to bits, with five or six of us together and the rest spread out over many miles like a camel train. I won -- with an average HR of 144.
My teammates were unimpressed. They called me a sandbagger. Said I shouldn't have done the citizens race in the first place.
Now, I'm 20 pounds too close to rotund, and haven't won jack this year. I've barely even finished any races. So sandbagging didn't sound so bad.
But I kept thinking that a re-run of last year's race seemed kind of un-sporting, like hunting chinchillas in an empty swimming pool, with a 12-gauge.
So I aimed to do the elite masters -- a race that promised to include real racers, but supposedly wouldn't be as tough as a typical masters race.
Lots of the studs don't bother with this little race (and don't want to risk injury for no money, no points, not even merchandise -- just a faux-bronze medal with a sticker on it). And, according to my buddy/teammate Dave S., the big guns who do race -- the Cat 1-2-3s who race A's at Westlake -- would all probably race with the under-35 elites, regardless of age. The Sizzler being what it is, it seems rules are optional, and those guys want to be where the action is, Dave said. He went so far as to say Dick B. called the elite masters race boringly slow.
Yet when I was six miles out of town and running pretty damn late, Dave called to warn me that the elite masters field was looking awful strong -- some of the guns were not racing down (in age) after all.
I got to registration and the start was about 25 minutes away. I hemmed. Then I hawed. Then I think I hawed a second time, but it could've been a hem.
Oh well, I thought: Better to get a hard workout and get dropped than to do a 25-mile tempo ride with one sprint at the end. (I would quickly begin to doubt the wisdom of that.) I'd do the masters rather than age group, I decided. So I paid and pinned on number 730-something -- the 35+ elites were wearing the 700s. No going back now.
I rolled up to see a bunch of 2s and 3s -- teammate Tom K., plus Zak D. and Chris R. from Lake Effect, Polo from RGF and bunches from Spin and Orrville -- in the same bunch with this overweight Cat 4 prime-hunter. Good thing I got my 5-minute warmup. Looked like I'd need it. And some EPO and a testosterone patch, and a tow rope.
We rolled out easily, sitting at 20-22 mph for the first couple-few miles, before a couple Orrvilles and a couple Spins decided to stomp on it. I was 4th wheel, so I chased on. I took my turn on the front and then pulled off. No one came through. Break over.
Then Bang! -- a replay. Again, I ran it down (pulling a couple other guys up) and it died. I almost died, too. We were four miles in and I was gasping, wondering if I should just quit.
But I found a nice draft near the back and recovered for awhile. I rode Riccardi's wheel until he went with another attack that wasn't really going anywhere. Then I latched on behind some other guys.
By the time we got to Ballash Road, the "much faster" U-35 elites were within sight, merely a few hundred yards up the road despite their 3- or 4-minute head start. We turned onto Kennard, about 10 miles into the race, and were eating up their cast-offs.
Then came the Hills of Kennard. They're short. They're not very steep. They're not all that noticeable at sub-race pace, if no one is attacking. But they're back to back -- up, brief false flat and up again. Dave S. insisted this would split the field.
It did. Not terribly selective, but most of the other 4s and a couple 3s got spit off. I got caught trying to ride the wheel of the wrong rider, a seemingly nice chap in a Brecksville Velo kit, to the top. I just about got dropped before I came around him on the 2nd rise.
He blew, and my teammate JV blew. I found myself dangling 25 yards off the back of the main group, with no one close enough behind to work with. As hard as I tried, I couldn't close the gap, and I was killing myself for what seemed like half an hour but was probably only 3-4 minutes. I knew I was only halfway through the race and the riding would be easier up there in a pack than here in No Man's Land. So when the road took a small dip, I hammered downhill right as the group ahead caught a couple breakaway riders and everyone kinda sat up.
Here I was with the hammers. I'd made the split. (So did a couple other suspect riders, I must admit -- guys who do, or should, be racing in the B field at Westlake. But there were some strong guys there, too -- guys who win Cat 3 races and masters races with very strong fields.)
Now the riding was pretty flat -- just some rollers -- and the attacks were pretty unconvincing. With only 10-11 miles left, I felt comfortable sitting on, chatting with Chris S., a beast from the East. I figured even if I didn't make the sprint at the end, I'd probably finish with or very near the main bunch. That alone would be a moral victory. And I had two SBR mates -- Rick A. and Tom -- in the front with me; who knows? Maybe I could actually help.
Then came what I should've known was inevitable: Psst-psst-psst-psst-psst!
"Flat," said an Orrville guy next to me said.
"ME?" I replied in horror
"Yup," he said.
Now, I've heard so many flats in races this year that you'd think I'd know that sound intimately. But this flat was a ventriloquist: It didn't sound like it was coming from my bike. And it wasn't that steady hiss of deflation. Sounded more like a leaf or something was stuck on someone's wheel and rubbing a seat stay.
We were bunched tightly together, so I could manage only a quick glance down. Didn't look flat -- not al the way. But then we rode into bright sunlight for a second and I could see it was halfway gone.
I glanced back. No Mavic neutral support. No SRAM wagon. No Snake Bite team car. No helicopters or network TV guys or Gummi Bears trucks.
My race was over. My computer showed an average speed of 25.3 -- one of the fastest races I've ever been in.
I bowed out with just enough air to make it to the marshal at the next intersection. He called a SAG for me and then explained the difference between amateur radio and CBs while I waited. It was very exciting.
About 10 minutes later, I heard, my "slow, old masters" field caught the "young elite" field near town -- ran down the big Cat 1s from RGF and Lake Effect etc. They had themselves a convoy. They crashed the gate doing 38 and said let them bikers roll. 10-4.
I woulda/coulda been there, in which case I would have never let Dave S. and Gary hear the end of it.
I heard it turned into a cluster-foof ending -- chaos and pandemonium and guys panicking and dropping out before the sprint and other such fun. Our Gary took 3rd.
Or so I heard. I was in a pickup truck at the time. Sucks a little.
But I hung on with the hammers. And I flatted. One surprise, offset by something that should surprise no one.

- JN

P.S. To Death Ray: Is this one long enough to make up for the drought???


Ray Huang said...

"That'll do Nic, that'll do"

cyclonecross said...

I guess when it rains it pours. I'm wondering how much longer your post would have been had your tire held out and taken you through the last 10 miles when the race really got interesting. Like you said, I'd have never heard the end of it! ;)

BTW - I have a Wheaties jersey and panniers on my bike. I'm breaking them both out for the next SBR group ride just for you.

And to really make your day, I'm tagging you! You need to post 6 random things about yourself, tag 6 othber bloggers, and then post a comment back on my blog when complete. You can thank me later.


ueberdiebruecke said...

"nice chap in Brecksville Velo kit": Joe Lombardo aka J Peterman.

In several editions of the Sizzler, I've seen the field led off course, the break stopped by a train (I made it through as the barriers were coming down), wacky crashes. It's always interesting. Oh, and there's always a bunch of hot chicks milling around after the running race.

Rick said...

nice write up, now I don't have to do mine. :-)