Monday, June 12, 2017

Racing - 2017 Nutmeg State Games, June 4, 2017, M50+

Where to begin... Last year I was looking after my dad. It was the first season in 34 seasons where I didn't race a weekend race. Frankly I had more important things to do, and I wouldn't have traded it for the world. My dad passed in October, and my life, temporarily so set in its priorities, suddenly changed.

Like last year, this year has been a non-cycling year for sure. I started a job that I love, working at a Firestone, but the standard 12 hour days have been tough on my non-work life. I miss Junior's bed time a few nights a week, sometimes missing something like 5 nights in a row. It's precious little time that the Missus and I talk, usually me telling stories about work, sometimes her telling me stuff about her work. Other than eating and a little bit of the stuff that parents talk about (I always wondered what my parents were mumbling as I drifted off to sleep), my work days have very little to them.

When I do have some time off I have a lot of things I'd rather do that don't involve riding my bike.

That's bike riding.

Then there's bike racing.

To clarify a point, I love racing.

Love it.

I generally ride my bike only because I want to race it. I can't race it at all if I don't ride a minimum amount of training, because no fitness means getting shelled a lap into a race.

That's no fun, no matter how much I like to race.

My training, therefore, is geared to getting me fit enough to race. Doing long rides, sprints, whatever, all that is me trying to get fit enough to finish a flatter/easier race. Yes, there's an element of pleasure/meditation/etc when I'm doing some of those rides, especially the ones out in SoCal, but in general not so much.

To emphasize the not-cycling-so-much thing, I even took one Tuesday off to go karting with a coworker, his friend, and a bike racer (who karts) and his friend. It was a ton of fun.

My bike racer friend also races karts for real, so for him this was like doing a group ride vs doing a race. Any time we both drove similar karts he did better - inevitably I'd make a mistake, slow too much, and have to let him by. Karts are about not making mistakes as much as it is to drive properly, and in my newbie status I kept making mistakes.

My coworker and his friend are car nuts but even newer than me to karting. I tried to teach them how to do certain things because karts do not respond like cars. Their goal was to qualify for pro-karts, which requires dropping below a minimum lap time at least twice (in separate heats). I told them they could do it and I went not only to drive but also to give them on-site tips to help them hit their target lap times. I even downgraded to the regular karts for a number of heats so they could follow me through some of the corners.

I gave them some major tips, akin, I hope, to some of the bike racing tips I've shared on this blog. I'm pleased to say that both friends qualified for pro-karts, driving just 5 or 6 heats.

And me?

I got, until a superb driver showed up for the last couple heats, best time of the day, 9th best for the week, and 22nd for the month. Since it was May 30th it meant that most of the month had gone by, which lends more weight to my lap times. I dropped one spot in all of the above after that one driver showed up. Nevertheless I was pleasantly surprised with how quickly I learned the new layout, my experimentation with new lines, and, of course, my lap times.

That night I had some problems with my glasses falling forward, leaving me essentially blind for several laps (and most of the last heat). I might describe it as driving in the rain without using your wipers, or, maybe riding in the rain with water on your lenses. It was enough to cause me to miss turn ins, apexes, and even making mistakes that slammed myself into the wall a few times. Although I could still manage 34.x second times without seeing really well, for next time I'll have to figure out the glasses thing better. I was even thinking contacts would be better.

So... you can see how I have some distractions tugging at my limited free time.

As far as cycling goes, I started racing my bike in May, at my favorite CCAP Tuesday Night Race. Unfortunately I lasted just a few laps in the first couple races. At that point I had about 35 hours on my legs for the year. Apparently that wasn't enough to last very long in a race, even for me.

In the Friday night CCAP Kermis it was even worse. I was pretty unfit, okay, but to add to it I adjusted my too-tight front brake frantically after the first hairpin, not realizing that I was tightening the brake (my black bike brakes work opposite from my red bike brakes). I managed to push my way through the second hairpin with my brakes basically locking my front wheel, loosened the brake on the following straight, but I was done and off the back. I don't have a working powermeter (it's sitting in a box next to the computer right now) but I'm curious what I was pushing with the brakes dragging. I'm guessing it was in the 500-800w range, if not more - it was a 100% seated effort for me.

I managed to finish the third Tuesday Night race I entered, a rare night with zero wind. I felt like I'd turned a corner in my fitness, getting over the minimum required to hang onto a field in a flat race. My powermeters, both of them, are dead from lack of maintenance, so I don't have power numbers, but I'm guessing that I wasn't averaging more than about 160w in each race. For sure on Zwift I have problems maintaining 200w for any length of time, and 250w, my old VO2 max interval number, was incredibly hard.

Now that's not so bad because other things have been going well in my life.

Junior has been making strides. He surprised the heck out of me by reading words on his own the other week. He's been more independent, and, to be honest, a bit more dependent also. He misses me when I'm at work, I probably miss him more. Tonight he kept holding my hand while he was falling asleep, pulling my arm over him, and then snuggling up to me.

I treasure the time I have with him.

Work is great also. As we rolled into June I had some great days at work. We managed to help a couple people who were super grateful we were there for them. I was psyched we could do that, went home all happy, got on the bike, and basically fell flat on my face. In terms of doing a good job I think I'm doing it. I got a random fist bump from a customer in a supermarket so that was nice, and I even had a picture drawn of me by a good customer's kid (who I'd met just once at that point).

The red "F" thing is the Firestone sticker I gave him.
My hand is blocking his last name.

With things going well everywhere else, I hoped that the race at New Britain would go okay at least. This would be, get this, the first Sunday race for me since August 2015, so almost two years.

The first Sunday race in almost two years!

The M50+ race (I'll be 50 this year!) wouldn't be as manageable as a windless Tuesday Night Bs so I had low expectations. I figured I'd make it a few laps, get shelled, we'd go home, and as a family we'd hang out.

Sounds like a plan, right?

Well, as the saying goes, best laid plans...

We arrived at the race with a lot of time, enough time for me to roll around a bit, adjust my very finicky rear derailleur (something is bent and I haven't bothered fixing it), finally getting the bike so that I could shift up in a sprint without the chain skipping and throwing me over the bars.

Because shifting any time else really didn't matter, even with my non-legs.

A crash delay meant that I started getting a bit bonky before the start, as I was already stretching my eating schedule to make the race. As it was I'd woken up not feeling hungry and a lump in my throat, didn't each much for breakfast, and I was a bit worried I'd bonk. The Missus had some banana bread stuff that was great, I chowed down, and I went to the start feeling a bit better.

The start.
I'm about halfway back in the field I think.

We started out casually enough, to my relief. I think the big guns were all at Nationals, the NY ringers were at White Plains, and so it was a bit more of a CT representation instead of a few CT racers lost in a sea of area racers. Incredibly the race started even tamer than a pace lap on a Tuesday Night B race.

Talk about an ideal race for me.

I had some problems following wheels though. When a few riders noodled off the front, I couldn't go. I had to leave it to my good friend David to close the gap, which he did with some vigor. I felt bad for making him close the gap but he happened to be next to me when my legs folded.

Letting a big gap go. That's a big gap.
David is just about to pass me.

After that gap fiasco I tried to stay out of the way of the racers actually racing the race. I sat mainly in the back, uninvolved. There was just one exception - I'd move up when it got easy to get some "drift back" room. This way I'd have some cushion if someone launched an attack - it might be a solid 15 or 20 seconds as the field filtered by me, enough time for me to get going.

More than a few riders commented on my "attack" near the end of the race. I remembered the move because it was a perfect storm of doing nothing and everyone else just slowing. I wanted to illustrate how even the most conservative riding can result in an "attack".

Strung out. Note that I'm not on the wheel, due to being under extreme pressure.
Sitting behind "red bike with a Generic Jersey".
He was part of a 2 man break that won the M60 race so I'm guessing he was a bit tired.

Just before my "move" a few riders had just made some efforts. The field was strung out going into the wooded area. I was struggling to hold wheels and hoped that they'd sit up soon; if they'd kept it up for a lap I'd have been off the back.

Bunching up, I moved to the left of Generic Jersey.

Luckily for me they did sit up at the front. Seeing as I was in so much trouble trying to stay on the wheel, I decided to pedal a few extra revolutions and try and move up, to buy myself some drift back room. I moved left because it was open; I'd overlapped a bit to the left of Generic Jersey.

The path is now visible.
I'm coasting/soft pedaling but going much faster than everyone in the picture.

When I got there I realized there was a "Moses and the Red Sea" path to the front, that chasm visible in the picture above. I was coasting and soft pedaling and still going faster than the field so I let my bike meander into the gap.

And guess who attacks?

As I got through the gap I figured I'd just sit up, but then someone attacked. It was Generic Jersey. He'd gone right, I'd gone left, and we both passed the group. I did about 2 or 3 pedal strokes to follow him, declined pulling through, and we were back in the fold at the top of the hill. My non-attack and non-work meant that by the top of the hill I was fully recovered from the surge, just behind the front, and ready to go again.

So that was my non-attack.

Bell Lap

My races always come down to the bell lap, because, you know, Sprinter Della Casa.

Bell Lap.
Note that you can't see the rear wheel in front of me - that means I'm on the wheel.

As the laps counted down I started thinking that I could actually do this. No one was racing hard - the attacks were short, into the wind (not into the cross/tailwind), and therefore ineffective. The field was stacked with "sprinters" so they all jumped on moves as soon as possible, and the historically strong time trialers were either not here, not ultra fit, or fatigued from doing the race just before the M50+.

So as we hit the bell I started daring to hope for a good result.

Backstretch, bell lap.
Note again, rear wheel not visible.

I had three possible sprint scenarios. I visited all of them numerous times during the race, probably cycling through them a dozen times in the last couple laps. The wind was hitting us from the left on the sprint straight, making the right side a bit more desirable than the left.

Plan A

The first plan was to move up after the top of the hill, hit the turn near the front, jump right on the main straight if possible (sheltered from the wind), and go pretty early if I was jumping first. Ideally I'd be first through the last turn, I'd jump hard on the right curb, there'd be zero shelter on my wheel, and if I could do a 15 second sprint I'd win the sprint.

Let's rate the potential of the move using these parameters:
1. Risk level, meaning how risky would it be from a tactical point of view. How easily could I get boxed in? Lower is better.
2. Minimum strength to do well, meaning how much gas would I need to make the move work well. The more I needed the higher minimum strength I'd need. Lower is better.
3. Possible top 3, meaning what would be my chances of getting a top 3 placing? The higher the chance of a top 3 the better.

So for Plan A this was my analysis:
Risk level: Low - no one in front to box me in
Minimum strength to do well: High
Possible top 3: Low

This was a low risk tactic but relied heavily on me doing a good sprint - a good jump followed by a very solid, high output sprint. If I blew then I'd get swarmed and not place at all. In my condition this wasn't a great choice.

(Sam won his race basically doing this. As a very fit rider with a very good jump, this validated my tactical theory.)

Plan B
An alternative was hoping that the sprinters would go left (because the leadout rider would naturally hug the right curb to deny everyone shelter), there'd be a gap to the right because they'd give the right side rider some room, and I could slip through the right side gap in the sprint.

Risk level: High (of getting boxed in)
Minimum strength to do well: Low
Possible top 3: Very high or very low.

That was a high risk move since virtually every sprint up the right side at New Britain gets shut down. On the other hand sprinting on the sheltered side would make winning the sprint much more likely. This was an all or nothing move. The odds worked against me and I'd only choose this option in very specific situations. I kept this option in mind if things unrolled in a specific way, but unless there was a massive move up the left side of the road, this option is almost always off the table.

Plan C

The third and most likely alternative was to be sheltered going into the sprint then jump super hard on the windy left side. A strong jump can gain a lot of distance, especially in a slower, wind-swept sprint. Starting from further back I'd have to make up a lot of ground. However, having been sheltered more, I'd have spent less energy up to that point and therefore I'd have the most jump left in my legs.

Risk level: Low
Minimum strength do do well: Medium
Possible top 3: Low/Medium

This was the highest probability tactic, meaning I'd consistently get a higher placing. However it would be very, very difficult to win the sprint. It was the safe move but pretty much put me off the podium due to the extra work I'd have to do in the sprint. I might be able to salvage a top 3, meaning 3rd, but realistically not much better than that.

Being risk averse as I am, I chose the third option, the safe move.

Top of hill, bell lap.
Marty is just to the right of the back of the sign.

At the top of the hill I wasn't in major trouble. Through the winter I'd managed to keep my weight somewhat sane, in the 170 lbs range, which is just about where I was in the latter half of my stronger 2015 season. At 180-190 lbs I'd have been struggling, but at 170 I was okay over the hill. If I was 160 I'd be flying. For example, in 2010 I was under 160 and upgraded to 2.

It helped, of course, that no one really made a move. Marty, a former teammate from my collegiate days, went early, but with an immediate surge in pace in the field it didn't look good for him.

Last turn, bell lap.
Marty is leading through the turn.

I moved up on the slight downhill between the top of the hill and the last turn. I didn't realize it but Stephen, another former collegiate teammate of sorts (he was a 2, I was a 3, so we never actually raced the same events), had launched an attack on the left side. A danger man, others responded immediately. I was focused on following John M, a friendly rival that I battled for decades at Bethel. He's a rider a lot like me in that he sits and sprints. I thought he'd be a safe, solid wheel to sit on.

Problem was that the last little surge before the last turn caused some gaps to open up. John wasn't himself as he told me after, and he was also caught off guard by Stephen's move. The gap opened uncontrollably through the turn, as it's difficult to jump while going through it. As we exited the turn I looked around him and was surprised at the size of the gap in front of him. In reviewing the video it's clear that the riders in front had much higher entry speed into the turn and he simply got caught out by the surge just before the turn.

With the gap already there I had to jump immediately.
Note I'm going to the sheltered right; low risk, high benefit move at this point.

This meant that I had to jump just to get across the gap, and then try to do another jump/sprint for the line. I had room to go on the sheltered right side of John so I did, jumping to his right. I quickly closed the gap to Dave the Horst rider and started debating, right or left.

At this point Marty was toward the right side blowing up, Stephen went way left, and everyone followed Stephen. If I'd been good I'd have blazed into that huge gap on the right and risked going up the sheltered right side.

Getting to first group in the sprint, going a few mph faster than everyone else.
Left or right? I went left, and I realistically should have gone right.

Instead, to play the odds of placing well (safest odds) vs getting boxed in (and either winning or potentially not placing at all), I went into the wind, to the left.

It was the safe, sane choice.

I'm pretty sure it was the wrong choice.

I jumped hard to the left, trying to get around everyone so I could move more right before the line. We still had a solid 8 or 9 seconds of sprinting left and I thought I could get around everyone before the right bend. Although I went the long way I actually wanted to shorten my line as much as possible. I did a similar move in 2014 but I jumped much earlier that year. The reality was that, in 2017, with my lack of training, I lacked the punch to repeat that 2014 move.

This year I'd have to stay left all the way to the line.

I go left to pass.
David in orange, Stephen in black, Marty in green/black.
Dave's hand is visible.

As I went left I could feel the wind hit me. On the camera it's much more obvious, the wind noise is significant. My legs felt okay but I knew that the fuse was lit and I was going to blow, I just didn't know when; I figured I'd get to the line but I'd lose some speed approaching it.

Moving to the right became a pipe dream.

I kept going.

My legs still had some power. I had about 40 meters to go and I thought things were going really well. This morning I'd never have put myself in this position, where I might win the state title. Yet here I was, what looked like a pretty straightforward final 40 meters, a few pedal strokes and bang, done.

40 meters to go, give or take.
Speed starting to drop but still good.
Finish line is just before the red tent.

"Bang, done," indeed.

As I readied myself for my last push to the line, my legs went. I simply had nothing. I sat down in disbelief, looking around to see what was going on.

Just before the line.

I could see my friend David sprinting hard. I'd drawn even with him but couldn't finish it off, and he pulled away from me. Way over to the right I could see the orange Horst jersey of Dave, a wicked fast sprinter, but it seemed that he wouldn't make it by me before the line. I didn't see the dark jersey of Stephen.

I was dispirited enough that I didn't even throw the bike at the line. With all my looking around I knew the places wouldn't change even without the foot or so I'd gain with a bike throw.

At the line, photo courtesy David.
Note no bike throw. I was beyond that by this point.

I did some quick calculations. David would be the first CT finisher, putting me in second. Dave would be third.

When all the dust settled I learned that there was someone that soloed off the front. I think we just barely missed catching him in the sprint. He wasn't a CT rider so my calculations held. David would be the gold medalist. I'd be silver. And Dave would be bronze.

After

I convinced Stephen to hang around after the race as David went and did the M30/M40 race. Jeff, one of the folks putting a lot of time/energy into the local cycling scene, took this picture of me. If Junior is in my arms it means he's tired, but he cheered up quickly for the camera.

Jeff got this great picture of me holding Junior.
Sam is in the pink/blue, the same colors my first team used.

As a bonus Sam Rosenholtz is rolling by behind me, sporting the pink and blue. In 2010 he was a grinning, cheerful Cat 5 at the Bethel Spring Series. I've always been a fan of his, even as he killed us Cat 3s in 2010. Now he's a pro for CCB and had just returned from a racing trip to both Holland and Poland. He placed in 7th out there in Europe somewhere in some insane looking narrow road sprint.

The race behind me? He won it outright.

After David finished the race we all gathered and took a few podium pictures.

2017 M50+ CT Crit Championship Podium.
Picture courtesy David.

On the way home I fell fast asleep in the car. Then I fell asleep reading to Junior. I dragged myself to work, I was wearing my jacket and shivering in 75 or 80 degree temperatures, tried to gut it out, gave up and came back home. I basically slept for the next 36 hours. I didn't realize it but whatever it was was just hitting me as I did the race. I'm fortunate it didn't hit 6 hours earlier.

Epilogue

A few days later the Missus was scrolling through some pictures on my Facebook feed.

"You got the silver in 2015 also."
"I did?"
"Look, you're in the same position on the podium."

Junior was 3 years old.

Huh.

It all came back. No clip because I was told to remove my helmet cam at the start line. There were two guys off the front and for sure I thought I could catch them in the sprint. But my sprint lacked sizzle and the two break riders did an incredible sprint, not allowing me to close much at all in the sprint. I'm pretty sure I never got closer than about 50 feet to the break. I hoped that the two in front weren't from CT but no such luck, one guy Michael was up there and had taken the gold.

What's interesting is that Junior refers to this race as "the race with the podiums" because they're fun to climb around, and, well, he gets to be in the pictures sometimes. With him around I earned the privilege in 2014 (bronze), 2015, and 2017. With his incredible memory (in 2015 he remembered the podiums from 2014) I am now under the gun to podium in 2018.

And along those lines, I think this is the course that gives me the best chance to earn my first summer victory - I've never won a race during the summer. Writing this post made me realize just how safe I play the end of races.

Maybe in 2018 I'll go right.

But first we'll see what life throws at me.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Promoting - Being "The Guy"

A nice post that starts and ends with yours truly, one that is at least indirectly about promoting.


Thanks for that.

FYI I've started a few posts but haven't completed any. My dream job (and I love it) typically sees me at work 8-8 so it's tough getting anything done before or after. I'll follow up with an actual post one of these days. Oh, and if you need any car services, let me know :)

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Life - The Wheels Keep Turning

So recently there have been a lot of changes. I just started a new job, I have a new (to me) car, I've been getting stuff done around the house, and we're going to be changing our home schedule a bit to accommodate my job. I've also decided to stop promoting races and, in a related thing, I'll be backing of on the bike racing as well.

Dad

I guess the big thing is that I am no longer taking care of my dad. As much as it was the right thing to do, it affected the rest of my life by limiting what I could do, when I could do it. There are a lot of ways to describe the limitations, both negative and positive.

Negative words I think of right away are "shackled" or "trapped". This is because I really couldn't do much because I needed to take my dad with me. As he declined it was possible to sneak out while he was sleeping, which made things a bit easier. Toward the very this reversed itself and I stayed close by to keep an eye on him.

However, when I think of how I was able to care for him, other words come to mind. "Privileged" and "fortunate" come to mind right away. I was very, very lucky to be able to care for my dad. Even with all the tough stuff that happened, the stress and the like, I wouldn't have traded the experience for anything.

Work

In the end, though, when my dad passed, it allowed me to think of myself once again. First there was sort of this numb, decompression period, maybe a week, maybe more, where I felt just pulled along by all the things that happens when your dad dies. Then there were a couple frantic weeks of doing estate stuff, with one of my siblings handling much of it.

Then, after the dust settled for me (my sibling still doing estate stuff so not totally settled), maybe a month later, my situation became pretty clear to me. I needed to find a job that paid enough, and, if possible, a job I'd enjoy.

The latter was a bit tough. I wanted to be customer facing, I wanted to work with something that interested me (bikes, cars, not sure what else), and I had to find a position that didn't require too much specialized knowledge while offering me both a reasonable starting salary as well as opportunites for growth. Bonus would be substantially subsidized health care benefits.

Of course I've been thinking of this stuff for almost ten years now so this wasn't an idle thought. I enjoyed my time at the hardware store but the reality is that the position simply didn't offer much growth. It couldn't, much like working in a bike shop has difficulty offering growth.

After about four weeks of lots of searching on Careerbuilder and the like, I realized I was coming back to a particular position over and over. It was basically a sales position (management trainee) at various Firestone Complete Auto Care centers, all of which are (I think) wholly owned by the parent company Bridgestone.

As I pointed out in my previous post, I ended up with the position. I started a few weeks ago and it's been a steep learning curve. I am relearning stuff that I learned in my previous work lives - the car dealer, the hardware store, IT, and the shop. In the process I'm feeling like, okay, I'm starting to get it.

The thing I want to do at some point in the future is build my own team. To me that'd be the ultimate, to build and maintain a cohesive, cooperative, positive group of people into a nicely honed machine. When things go smoothly it's like a big leadout going well, all sorts of diverse elements working together toward a common goal. Just at this job this kind of stuff happens all the time. I caught a glimpse of this the other day (meaning as something based on what I initiated and did, not what others did) and I have to admit that it's extremely enticing. I'm looking forward to the day where I can make such things happen all the time.

What Else?

So what else is happening?

Our Cars

Well, for one thing, we've gotten our VW TDI "dieselgate" offers from Volkswagen. In case you don't know about it, VW cheated on emission tests with their diesel cars, to the point that some senior executives are being indicted for various crimes with senior executives told not to travel to the US. VW agreed to buy back almost half a million cars and pay some fines for a record $14 billion or so. That kind of dollar amount is a bit "otherworldly" to me because I can't think of that kind of money.

The Golf in the registration tent.

However, I can think about $10,000 or $20,000, and for us, as VW diesel owners, those are real numbers. VW not only is buying back the diesels but they're paying an additional $5-10,000 for each car as punishment. To give an idea of what our cars are worth in terms of trade in, I'd priced both cars in August 2015, just before Dieselgate hit in September 2015. I wanted to trade in one or both cars to get a more versatile tow vehicle. The dealer offered $9,000 for our Jetta Sportswagen ("JSW") and $12,000 for the Golf, a total of $21,000 for both cars.

$21,000 for both cars.

In contrast, because of Dieselgate, VW paid us $21,600 for the Golf.

Just the Golf.

Golf turned in. Tag on mirror says the car is not for sale.

They will pay us about $17,000 for the JSW.

So as far as we're concerned VW has done right by us.

I used less than half the Golf money to buy a replacement, the Sentra. We've ordered a Civic sedan for the Missus. So we'll have two completely different cars in the garage by March.

House

There's a lot of stuff going on with the house. We live in a single family home located in a condo complex. Therefore we get to have our own house but we don't deal much with outside maintenance. In the next year the condo association will be clearing our area of dead and dying trees (pretty much every large tree near the house, I'm guessing 15 or so large trees and a slew of supporting smaller trees), they'll be re-roofing our house, fixing the wood siding, and painting. It's a lot of work for sure and we're looking forward to the renewed yard/outside in the fall of 2017.

With the roof work we're looking into any roof modification so that we can sort of piggyback the work already scheduled. We'll be adding a sky tube (it's sort of like a skylight that ends in a light fixture lens in the ceiling) to brighten up a dark section of hallway. We're also contemplating having a chimney installed for a pellet stove. With some of the recent single digit temperatures a helper heating source would be a welcome addition to the home heating environment.

There are a lot of projects for inside the house as well. I've had a number of them planned or thought out and finally got around to doing them. Inertia/momentum works in two ways. When things are static it's hard to get going. However when things are in motion it's hard to stop. And now, with things in motion, I've found myself doing little things here and there all the time.

Family - The Missus and Junior

I put this down a bit lower because it's something we handle every day. It's not something like the car where we don't think about it for a bit, or it's a once in a while thing like a new roof on the house. For sure Junior occupies virtually all my free time outside of work. The Missus and I both schedule life around Junior, meaning we tend to work around his schedule. With work that's an added variable, making the intersection between the three schedules even more rare and special.

Things are going great with the Missus and her work so that's not a huge stressor, at least to me. I think for her there are both good and bad days, with seemingly very few of the latter. As a former small business owner I can relate to some things common to owning a small business, although hers is successful and mine was less so.

Once tax season is over her schedule lightens up which means my job will be the limiting factor to our family time.

Junior is doing well too. I'm constantly amazed by the things he does. He remembers stuff so well he's been keeping me on my toes. He's great around people, inquisitive, talkative, energetic, and will even admit defeat if he's tired and go upstairs for nap or bedtime.

Junior enjoys unscrewing the quick release skewer from the wheel.
August 2016.
Note lower profile front wheel, the Stinger 4. It must have been windy that day.

We had to pull Junior out of Pre-K because of my job. He's returned to what is officially a daycare center. The reality is that it's a super effective educational place based on how well prepared he was for Pre-K. A lot of it is him, of course, he learned a lot of stuff sort of on his own, and it's not like we sit down and do vocabulary drills or whatnot. He seems to pick stuff up on his own, with the help of some YouTube clips, Einstein DVDs, Cat in the Hat, and some other educational entertainment. Lately he's gotten into Star Wars stuff so of course he's learning and memorizing all sorts of stuff that doesn't necessarily translate to "education".

Part of our play at Pre-K pick up.
Here we're taking shelter in the doorway to a different part of the school.

Running the Yellow Line.
I told him to stay on the line so he wouldn't veer toward the curb.

Saying hi to the daycare bus driver (a teacher also) and telling her all about his day.

My job will mean a few late nights a week so I'll miss his bedtimes regularly. I think, honestly, that this will be harder for me than him. I knew underneath that eventually it would happen at some point. It's just that it's happening now.

Other Things

One thing I've wanted to do since late 2015 is to get back in some gasoline powered karts. Connecticut has two locations which run gas karts on tracks which suit gas engine characteristics. Gas karts have very little low end torque, requiring a bit of time to build power. Such karts reward smooth driving, good lines, and longer "full throttle" sections of track. On Track Karting (OTK) has two locations with well laid out courses for gas karts.

Back in 2015 I went to each track one time, Wallingford in November, Brookfield in December.

I was hooked.

I bought a helmet (it was a $100 Bell helmet) and an inexpensive action camera. Then life intruded and I could only dream about karting. I watched clips people made of their OTK outings, watching the better drivers over and over again. I memorized the layouts, I knew when to get on the gas, when to ease, leaving just a few areas of doubt ("do I brake here or just coast?" or "how does he initiate turn in here?"). I'd have to get to the track to figure that out.

Recently I went back to Brookfield. I wanted to catch a full evening of driving ("all you can drive from 6 pm until 11 pm"). I got there a bit late but drove for about 4 hours straight, missing only a few heats during that time. Significantly for me I qualified for Pro Karts, based on dropping below a certain minimum lap time for multiple heats. This was my holy grail goal and I managed to hit my marks in the first four or so heats.

43.062 seconds.
I needed to break 43.75 seconds I think.

On seeing my reports on karting a (bike) racing friend reached out to me and offered me a ride in his karts. I have yet to take him up on it (it was 1 deg F outside the next morning) but I hope that I'll be able to experience karts outside later in 2017. Indoors I don't think we go much faster than 30-35 mph in the 6.5 hp regular karts, but outside he says his slow kart (similar to an indoor 9 hp Pro Kart) will hit 50+ mph. His fast kart will apparently hit the 70+ mph range.

After my solo outing to Brookfield I got in touch with my friend that first introduced me to OTK with a bunch of car nuts. We made plans for a repeat night out at the Wallingford track. It was sort of like a "group kart" experience, versus a group ride, with a 7 of us meeting up to kart. Five of us were Pro Kart qualified so for two heats we blitzed the course in the fast karts. It was my first time in them and it was eye opening. They were so much faster in certain sections that I had to relearn how to approach them.

2nd heat in the Pro Karts, top of the leaderboard.
"Frank", a regular, said that "mid-37s are respectable".
The best time in December at that time was in the 35.xxx range. That's fast!

I look forward to doing Brookfield in the Pro Karts. I hope one day to do the actual racing. It won't happen soon I think but there are some pretty long races. In a 10 minute heat I got in 15 laps at Wallingford. I did 16 minutes in Brookfield, two 8 minute heats back to back, and that was a bit fatiguing. In contrast the long kart races are 100 laps long!

Cycling

One conspicuous absence in all of this is anything bike related. The reason for this blog is cycling, of course, and my main interest for 35 years has been cycling. With an almost off year in 2016, with just several Tuesday Night races checked off, 2017 doesn't seem to offer much more. For me, as a promoter, racing has always had two sides: promoting and racing. There's a third bit, maintenance, and I'll kick off with that.

Maintenance

For the last two years I put literally zero dollars into my bike. I rewrapped the same tape around my bars a few times. I think I glued one tire on, a tire I had "in stock". I still have maybe 10 or 12 new tubular tires, ready to be mounted. I even have a few rolls of tape but I was jealously hoarding them for when I really needed new tape.

With the new job (as well as an economical car purchase) I've gotten to the point where I can think about spending some money on the bike. I need to overhaul my two SRMs, both of which are not working. I want to get a second stem so the black bike can be fitted like my red bike. I bought two new training clinchers for if I start training outside again. It's maybe six or seven hundred dollars but that's more than I felt comfortable spending in the last two years. Now, though, I feel like I can do it. Not just yet, but in the near future.

As a last bit I may try and get a second set of new-style 10 speed levers, Centaur I think, so the cockpits on both bikes match.

I did go and get one new cassette and a slew of used ones, from a good friend of mine. I hope that this gets me through the next year or three in terms of drivetrain maintenance.

Promoting or Lack Thereof

A big bike thing for me is promoting. With my new job I need to work Sundays from February through mid-April.

This means no Spring Series.

That's 100%. No giving it a shot, no trying, for me I'm done.

I've been on the fence about ending my promotion work, promising myself not to promote "next year". I've thought about my exit strategy, if you will. There are two significant investments in Carpe Diem Racing that I have - the trailer (legally it's Carpe Diem Racing property) and the tow vehicle (legally just a personal vehicle), both of which I wouldn't own except that I promoted races. Selling the trailer first, then the Expedition tow vehicle second, would seal the "no more promoting" decision. Even though I promoted races before I had them, if I sold them then mentally I'd be done.

I was telling someone about this stuff the other day and the one thing I'd want to get is a pick up, van, or minivan large enough to haul around a snowblower or a couch or something. With just two compact cars we can't carry much of anything if we didn't have the Expedition or the trailer.

Trailer at the 2016 Aetna Silk City Cross race.
To be clear I didn't promote the race, I only helped with registration.
Credit for the race goes to Jon, David, and the rest of the Expo crew.

So... If you're a promoter looking for a trailer and tow vehicle, let me know. Heh.

(For reference I spent $23k to buy them and I'd sell them for significantly less. Emphasis on the word "significantly". Trailer is a 8.5'x20' car hauler, 3500 lbs axles so 7000 lbs gross weight, about 3600 lbs load capacity as it's about 3400 lbs empty. Expedition is rated at 8900 lbs towing, give or take. I was thinking the trailer could act as a portable garage if it came down to it. Or a portable, heatable, miniature garage where I could work on my car. Waitaminute. Hm.)

Racing

For the actual racing bit I don't foresee much improvement in my schedule from 2016. I hope I'll make some races, but with my work schedule in flux typically week by week, I have absolutely no idea if I can race a week in the future, even a Tuesday night (there are some nights I'm at work until 8 or 9 PM or even later). This makes planning on doing any races sort of pointless. Pre-reg is no longer a thought. Targeting a peak or "A Race" is simply impossible. I'm okay with that, although with no real goals in mind it's hard to motivate to get on the bike.

June 2016.
Bike as I have it set up now.

I did make a "racer gambit" at the beginning of my current job. When they asked me pants size I gave them my 160 lbs waist size. I was already pushing about 168 lbs, and now I'm over 170 lbs. I literally cannot gain much more weight else I won't fit my pants.

Since they've given me eleven pairs of pants I'm sort of committed to that waist size. This means losing some weight and keeping it off. I managed to get down a few pounds in the last three weeks. If nothing else this will help with my racing.

So that's what's going on so far. Hopefully I'll have more updates a bit quicker in the future.